I was about a third of the way though an article I was struggling with when a small, thin, woman opened the office door. It just so happened I was sitting with my eyes closed, trying to figure out which way the article should go, and hoping no one would bother me. But there she was. And of course, she had a story. Was it true? Sometimes I can tell better than others. This time it seemed true, even though it had all the same earmarks of others I’d heard. Those earmarks do not make the story untrue, they are just the similar plight of the poor and the needy.
She was out of work, not well, about to be divorced by a man she’d “carried” for years and had a hearing coming up to be approved for disability. She needed food and money for gas and the things that go with food that pantries like ours can’t stock. So I (we) helped her with both food and money.
The day before a man came in saying he was about out of gas and would be fine by Friday, but he was working in Martinsville.
This endless line of needing people can wear on you, especially when you have been conned in the past. You begin to look at them as irritants and as dishonest. And to tell the truth, most of them are. I don’t mean they are out and out liars. I mean they shade and tell their problems in such a way that never puts any of the blame on them. But then, that beam is in our eye as well, isn’t it?
There are times when I’ve even thought of parking in the handicapped area and walking to the annex, just so I won’t be so visible to those who drive around looking for evidence that someone is at a church. That would mean I’d have to go back in my office and close the door, rather than sitting at what used to be the secretary’s desk out front. I’m not going to do that. Neither am I going to try to hide from those I’d rather not see or be bothered with, no matter how tempting.
You see, I struggle with the hardest teaching Jesus gave us; that doing to the least of these human beings is doing it to him. How far do I have to go with that? How can I know when the need is real, and that I’m not being conned? I’ve been told that even checks written to Kroger, or some other food store, can be sold at half price for cash and then used to buy drugs or alcohol. It would be so easy just to say no to every request. There are other churches that do.
Beyond those I see at the door are those whose faces are in the news. Those who steal, beat, kill and otherwise harm others. Are these “the least of these”? Are they the “enemy” I am to love? Dare I say part of that answer is yes and no? At some point it has to become personal. To say Iran is an enemy of America is one thing. To say every Iranian is an enemy is another. So those I meet and interact with are the ones who are the “least” and the “enemy”, not the ones I don’t know or with whom I have no contact. But neither can I harbor hatred and prejudice against those I don’t know.
You may remember the film, Dead Man Walking, a true story about a nun named Helen Prejean who visited a condemned rapist and murderer named Matthew Poncelet. In the course of their relationship she learned to care for him as a person. For her, Matthew became one of the “least of these”.
The dilemma in all this is that on one hand we have the love and compassion of Jesus, and on the other we have what looks to us like the reality of life; that there are humans who are worse than animals.
I’m not saying I have it worse than anyone else. Each of us may daily come in contact with those we would rather not. The issue is if we see them as worthy of our compassion and care. I suppose that’s what Jesus was talking about when he told the story of the rich man and Lazarus. The rich man saw, but did not want to see the beggar at his gate. He refused to see beyond the irritant of having him there. He refused to hear his story, to get to know him.
Jesus never said we had to like recognizing that caring about the “least of these” was caring for him. He just said we would never love without doing it.
CONCERNS: Philip Pierce’s mother is receiving after surgery cancer treatment. Sheila Robertson’s mother is now under the care of hospice. Sheila will be going to and from California during this time. Ruby Stahl, the mother of Alan Beach’s sister-in-law is being treated for cancer. Regan is a ten year old boy with brain cancer. His aunt works with Erma Williams. Jenni Cullum is back in her apartment at Pheasant Ridge after hip surgery. Others dealing with cancer are Deanna McRoy, Leena Bolin’s brother, Nick, Jim Hunter, Joni Beach’s mother and Sharon and Billy, friends of Del Bolin. Seeking work are Melissa and Sam. Remember Marta Foy’s parents, Ray Reiss, Alma Martin, Betty Billings, Keith’s sister, Ron Matney and Tim Elder.
OUR DAILY BREAD: FEB. 4-9
Monday: Matthew 7:7-11
Tuesday: Romans 3:21-31
Wednesday: James 2:14-26
Thursday: Mark 2:1-12
Friday: I Peter 1:3-12
Saturday: psalm 105:1-45
OUR DAILY BREAD: FEB. 11-16
Monday: Acts 17:16-34
Tuesday: Colossians 3:1-17
Wednesday: John 11:17-44
Thursday: Romans 4:1-8; 5:1-11
Friday: I Thessalonians 5:12-28
Saturday: Psalm 118:1-29
We have received a card from Shirley Wagner, thanking us for the flowers sent to Keith’s brother, Doc’s funeral. It is on the downstairs bulletin board.
RELAY FOR LIFE
Over the years several of you have run in the local Relay For Life. The “kick off” was January 29. The actual race will be announced later. If you are interested in forming a team go to roanokerelay.org
If you were not here when the 2013 budget was presented, there are copies available in the foyer.
RONALD MCDONALD HOUSE
This Wednesday, February 6, the teenagers, aided by a few adults, will be preparing the evening meal at the Ronald McDonald House. Also: don’t forget to save the pull tops from all aluminum cans. They can be placed in the boxes in the basement.
NEW WEDNESDAY EVENING CLASS
Wayne Phlegar will begin a new study on forgiveness on Wednesday evening. The material is by Max Lacado.
Wayne was supposed to start last week but the severe weather that was to arrive at the time we meet, caused the class to be canceled.
NOTES FROM ABC
The notes from the two children we support at the Health Talents ABC program in Guatemala will be read today. There is also an annual report available concerning the work of Health Talents at the Ezell Clinic.
SOMETHING TO DO IN THE FUTURE
There is the need for more room in the handicap parking area. We need to take a look at how that area can be expanded so those needing it do not have to park on the street, especially since the street is somewhat steep.