I met him in a nursing home where friends and I conducted chapel services. Angry and hurting, he railed against the world—and at me. The job loss, the swollen discs in his spine, the Uh-oh at the hospital when the steroid injections went bad. They delivered him to the nursing home late at night, placed him in a bed and closed the door. Despite his calling out in the dark and during the next day and night, no one opened that door until 10 a.m. the second morning. They brought him a bowl of oatmeal, some orange juice and a cup of applesauce. “Eat, come down to the front desk, and pay your bill for your first two days.”
We seem bred by society to disregard the down-and-out—as though all the mishaps and afflictions of their lives were planned and engineered by themselves. For every person mentally ill or ensnared by drugs and alcohol, there are dozens more who have lost homes and livelihoods due to illness, job loss, or just plain bad luck.
“You can’t save everyone,” people tell me, “so don’t stress yourself over this one.”
No, I can’t save everyone! But I believed God wants us to do what we can to relieve the suffering of others. No one wanted this man when he was down. His friends, so ready to share in his fortunes when things were well, fell quickly away.
The Bible says that we will have the poor with us always, but never does it say to ignore them or treat them as though they don’t exist. “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world,” (James 1:27).
I glimpsed the man in Christ’s story of the Jericho road in the young stranger who has since brought much joy to our lives as we witness his discovery of Jesus and continue to watch him grow not only in physical strength but spiritual strength and health. What if I, too, had just turned my head and walked away because I didn’t have the ability to fix everything?
Jericho Road/Anywhere Street
I saw you—
lying there, tossed aside like rubbish;
Everything you had was gone
except your life—just hanging on.
Others passed— I saw their hurried footprints
to the other side—away from you.
A man shorn of his possessions—
What if you’d ask for some of theirs?
You asked for water or a morsel of their food?
They dared not risk the time,
the stigma, the means to help—
They did not dare to care.
I looked at you and saw myself—
Saw my father, my brother, my child.
You were some mother’s treasure—
Some other father’s son.
I understood the risk,
I knew the cost was great,
yet before you even saw me
I had named you—