Fair-skinned brunette, five foot six, fifty year-old grandma . . . bundled up and homeless on the city boulevard. She gently grasped well-doodled sign with beautiful handwriting that read, “Homeless. Anything helps. God Bless.”
I’m ashamed to admit that I’m usually hopeful that the light is green for me in that type of situation. But it was red. As I hit my brakes, my mind was invaded by what Pope Francis said at the beginning of Lent about giving to the homeless without judgment about how “our” money will be spent. According to the Catholic News Service, Pope Francis stated that people who don’t give money to the homeless because they think it will be spent on alcohol and not food should ask themselves what guilty pleasures they are secretly spending money on. (Carol Glatz, “Don’t worry how it’s spent, always give homeless a handout, pope says,” Catholicnews.com). We encounter the image of likeness of God through the other.
It’s so easy to be self-absorbed and think of our own comfort, our self-perceived needs. But the Gospel really calls us to look at the “other,” the stranger, the person most unlike us and find God in them. We are called to love them without judgment. Jesus said, “Let he who has not sinned cast the first stone.” If you’ve never had an unnecessary glass of wine, a dessert (Lord knows, you didn’t need it), taken up more space than you need, thrown away a plastic bag, then I guess you can go ahead and judge someone for how you assume they will spend your money. I know I have done all these things and much worse.
I frantically dug in my pocket, rolled down my window. Her warm eyes met mine and we smiled at each other. I handed her some money and she smiled at me and said, “My name is Cheryl. If you want, pray for me; I’ve been sober for almost two weeks.”
Stop with me today. Be thankful for the stop lights in your life, as I am thankful for the stop lights in mine. Jesus said that “Whatever you do unto the least of my people, that you do unto me.” And the truth is, the gift Cheryl gave me was so much greater than the gift I gave her. I gave her some spare change from my pocket, some leisure money. But she let me meet my God through my encounter with her. Pray for Cheryl. Thank you.