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It is always interesting to get gifts at the church or at our benevolence ministry from folks to be “given the poor”.  Most often, people will bring new things from the store or good clothes that were just outgrown before they were anywhere near worn out.  However, there are always a few that are emptying closets and throwing old things away.  So, the feeling is, “take that down to the church and tell them to give that to the poor folks”.

So, benevolence ministries will have to sort through things donated and do what the owner failed to do….throw away that which is “junk” and salvage only that which is useable.  Wonder what would happen if the folks that were readily eager to give junk were to be the recipients of that level of gifts from friends in the community?  Would people ever think about wrapping up tattered shirts and pants, shoes with holes in the soles, or coats that were grease stained and threadbare at the wrists and giving those as Christmas gifts to their closest friends?  I don’t think so.

Some time ago, Jenine and I had stopped in a burger place in another city to get a quick bite to eat before traveling home.  It was pouring down rain in a thunderstorm that appeared to be long term. When we had taken our seats, a disheveled and dirty-looking man was standing where I could see him. He was going to tables where food had been left and not thrown into the trash.  He would get a bite of burger and a few cold fries at one table and put them into a bag.  He would get a bit of a cold drink left in the cup at another.  He was trying to be inconspicuous as he gathered the food, but he was not successful.

I got to my feet and told him to come with me and I was going to buy him something to eat. He said that he was not getting food for himself but for his girlfriend that was outside.  Sure enough, he pointed to a girl and a dog across the street, sitting on a curb with a plastic bag over her to try to stay dry.  I bought him burgers, fries, drinks, and fried pies.  I offered to take them out for him, but he insisted he could make it and that I had been more than kind.  He said they had a shelter to cover them from the rain a couple of blocks away, but were just hungry.  He thanked me for caring and for feeding them.  I watched as he left with his food, his girl, and his dog to walk to his shelter from the storm.

I found myself torn in spirit.  Although I was more than willing to buy food for this couple and their dog, I knew that they would be hungry again tomorrow and very wet tonight.  What I had done was momentary help.  What they needed was a job, a home, a car, and the like, I was not in position to “truly” help them with that.  I left glad to have shared what I could (including a prayer for them and a tract about Jesus’ love) but broken in that moment that that was all that I could do.

I just kept thinking of the words of Jesus…..35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:35-26; 40).