Matthew 25:40† ďTruly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.Ē
It was my usual mile walk up from South Station to my office on Beacon Hill.† I walk pretty fast and came up behind an older man just ambling along.† His gray hair was long and scraggly.† He wore a plaid, flannel shirt over his T-shirt and ratty jeans on this 90-degree summer day.† He carried no bags but clutched four or five cigarettes in his left hand.† He walked alone.
She rounded the corner from the Boston Common, twenty-something, dressed to the nines with her bling blanging, and balanced perfectly on stiletto heels. (How you walk around Boston in those things Iíll never know.)† Her hair was pulled back, her makeup perfect.† She walked past the man, yelling loudly and with disdain as she passed, ďTake a shower, Sir!Ē
I was stunned.† I wanted to yell out, ďSo is that an invitation for him to shower at your house, since he probably has none?† Can he wash his clothes while heís there?† Or would you rather he bathed beside the swan boats in the public garden?Ē† But as amazed as I was at the womanís cruel insensitivity to a stranger, I was more amazed at the man, who simply continued to amble on his way.† He didnít so much as lift his head to look at her.† For all you could tell, nothing had been said and no one else was even in the world.† He just went on.
I suspect he has learned to tune it out.† Iím sure that I didnít witness the first time that he was the target of the baser side of human emotions.† Perhaps rude words are a relief when story after story tells of the homeless being robbed, beaten, even murdered.† Not that those who are homeless never cause problems themselves.† Those who work closely with social programs know the difficulties of dealing with people who include those just down on their luck, those who are mentally unstable, those who have criminal records, those addicted to all sorts of substances, and those with combinations of such issues.† The number of panhandlers I pass who are vets is striking.
I thought of another man I often see who obviously has a number of problems.† Usually he is standing in the middle of the street (which in his usual location is where the busy traffic turns to just a pedestrian way) with his arms stretched out to either side and turning in circles, much like Maria in the opening scene of The Sound of Music.† In an odd and strained voice he calls out, ďSpare change!† Anybody have any spare change?Ē with the words taking three times as long to come out as a normal personís speech might allow, his head cocked at an odd angle, looking to the sky.† Every now and again he wanders out and does that in the middle of traffic.† I saw him doing that up on the little side street beside the State House a couple of months ago.† He was quickly whisked away.
I donít know what the particular issues are for the man in the plaid shirt.† I donít even know for sure that heís homeless.† But whatever the issues, whatever his background, Jesus indicates in Matthew 25 that he is a member of his family.† And Iím pretty sure that the doors of the Kingdom will open for that man well before they open for the woman who invited him to shower.
Forgive me, God, when I fail to care for members of your family. †Amen.
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