Sunday, August 16, 2009

I Will Remember You

Though I typically disparage "proof texting," the truth is that we all have verses of scripture that we emphasize more than others and make more central to our value systems. For me, one of these verses that I take very seriously is Jesus' command in the Sermon on the Mount/Plain to "give to all who ask of you." (Matthew 5:42/Luke 6:30).

I don't apply this so literally as to donate to every cause that calls me during dinnertime, but I do always try to give what I can to homeless persons on the streets of Nashville. There was one man I remember seeing many times. His name was John, and he had a tattoo of blue teardrops falling from one eye. He was pretty old--though probably not as old as he looked, given the hardships of life on the street. I would always give him some money, and (in some ways more importantly) some eye contact and and a handshake, trying to offer some semblance of the dignity and humanity the homeless are often denied. John had a diseased thumb and forefinger on one of his hands. Those digits were swollen to a disgusting proportion, and the last time I saw him, he told me he would be getting them amputated soon. I never saw John again after he was to have the surgery on his hand.

One day, I was stopped at an intersection where homeless men often stand with cardboard signs, asking for money and help. There was an old man there, and as I rolled toward the red light, I thought it might be John. When the car came to a stop right near the man, I saw that it was not him. Even if I didn't remember John's face perfectly, I noticed the man did not have John's signature teadrop tattoo. I rolled down the window, pressed a bill into his hand, and held his hand for a moment.

He looked me straight in the eye and said, "I will remember you."

I was struck, and as the light turned green and I drove away, words from Scripture rang in my head.

"...Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." (Matthew 25:40)

"Then [the first criminal] said, 'Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.'
Jesus answered him, 'I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.'" (Luke 23:42-43)

I saw God that day, in the eyes of a homeless man begging for change. And I will always remember him too.

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