"Language, as well as the faculty of speech, was the immediate gift of God." ~ Noah Webster

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Down On Their Luck

I finished reading the article with tears in my eyes. I wiped them away with a quick brush of my hand.  I didn’t need to brush the tears away; I was alone on this early Sunday morning, so there was no one to see them anyway.  But that’s what you do with tears.  You wipe them away.

I hope you will click on the link above to read the story in our local paper. It’s a simple experience of a news reporter (David Cole) on his way home from a trip east.  He encountered a self-avowed “hobo” on the train ride back. And as the reporter informs us in his article, though the hobo wasn’t in a box-car as a true hobo would have been, the man certainly looked the part. He also had no money for food; this fact was obvious when during the trip, two meal times had come and passed and the old hobo ate nothing.

The reporter in true, Christian kindness – though I have no knowledge if Mr. Cole is a Christian or not – tapped the man on the shoulder and asked if he might buy him a meal.
Yes, that is what we should do as Christians – it’s also the American way – if we are able.  Obviously, in this day and age we have to take safety into consideration, but in this type of environment – when others are around – it is the perfect situation to help someone that is in obvious need of help.

Mr. Cole tells a heart-warming story, of his conversation, (and lack of it) with this man.  I don’t want to give the story away for those that want to read it, so that is as much as I will say about the article; but it brought some fond memories back to me this morning as I read.

My maternal grandparents lived near an important and busy rail-line when my mom was growing up.  This was during and after the Great Depression, and there were many times, when a “hobo” or “bum” would come knocking on my grandparents door asking for a meal.  When Grandpa wasn’t home, Grandma would never turn them away, but rather, she would make them chop wood in the wood-shed until Grandpa returned home for lunch and she could feed them in safety.  Yes, even back then they had to be cautious and wise. Furthermore, this action of asking them to work for the meal made the men feel better about “bumming” a meal.

“They’re not bums, Del.” Grandpa would say. “They’re just men down on their luck.”

That statement is engraved in my memory, and I can hear my grandpa’s tone, and see the sincere expression on his face as he would have stated it.

I loved hearing the stories about Grandma and Grandpa and all the help they gave to those less fortunate. It was their way of life, and they did it on so many levels - to caring for an elderly neighbor to going out in the middle of the night to repair someone's car.

I’m proud of the lesson-by-example my Grandpa and Grandma taught my mom.  I’m also thankful my folks passed that lesson on to me and my siblings. I don’t want to be the one that turns my back on someone in need, when I could have helped.  I don’t ever want to see my son laughing or making fun of someone hurting or “not quite normal”, when he could have been the one to offer a helping hand.

I remember many years ago, while making a road trip alone, I had the radio on listening to a sermon by a pastor on one of the Christian radio stations.  He was talking about the Scripture passage that speaks of “entertaining angels unaware” – Hebrews 13: 2
“Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”
Now, I am not going to get into the discussion of whether this is something that still happens today. I believe the Scripture teaches that some have entertained angels. Abraham and Gideon are two examples.  I will just briefly say, I don’t believe this passage is so much about teaching us that we could miss an opportunity to serve angels, as it is an encouragement to love others and offer hospitality to those in need when we are able.

With that said though, I’m sure the pastor gave a good teaching on this subject; I really don’t remember it.  What I do remember is a soft voice in my heart that said, “Yes, this is all so true – some have entertained angels unaware; but more importantly, what if it wasn’t an angel?”

I never forgot it.  I took it as a lesson for my life. Angels are a whole other realm, but what’s more important than that? A human being is more important! What if we are turning away a person in need? What if we are turning away the lost, when we have a chance to minister?  What if we are turning away a brother or sister in Christ in trouble? What if we have a chance to wipe away tears and we don’t?  What if he or she isn’t an angel?  Then we have missed the chance to do what that passage of Scripture is really teaching us, and my Grandpa taught as well – a chance to help those “down on their luck”.

By the way, my mom told me recently that the “hobos” that had visited her childhood home put a mark on the fence to let other hobos know - this house would help…

I want a mark.

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