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Thursday, November 3, 2011

To the fatherless

Today was a “less than typical” day. I was driving to work and I saw a young man and woman sitting on the side on the interstate.  I was struck by the appearance of the girl. At first glance, I thought she was a child. As I was about to drive past them,  a phrase resonated in my mind….
“whatever you did for the least of these, you did for me.”
I felt drawn to them. I felt as if I needed to stop. I can’t say that I recommend stopping for strangers. I know that we should use discretion. There is always the chance that we could encounter dangerous people with dangerous motives. But I also know that fear is heavily marketed in our society.
I traveled in Europe for a short while during my early twenties. Hitchhiking was as natural as breathing over there.  Once, my friend Elia and I went for a trip to the Humber Bridge in Hull, England. We took the bus to get there. An elderly couple offered us a ride back.  we gratefully accepted, and we are both alive to tell about it.
Our society is different because the majority of people in America own cars. We need cars to get around.  Whereas, in Europe, many cities are walker-friendly and more accomodating to those who don’t own vehicles.
I digress,
I offered the young man and lady a ride. They had two dogs with them. It was a little awkward trying to find a place for the dogs and their backpacks, but we made room.
I introduced myself to them and tried to make them feel welcome in my car. The girls name was Emily. She is from Vermont.  I can’t remember the man’s name, but I will never forget his face. I think he said that he was from New Hampshire.  One of their dogs was named Trooper. I can’t remember the name of the other.
I know that my family must be pulling their hair out, knowing that I picked up two strangers. Once again, I am not promoting the act…I would feel horrible if anything ever did happen to anyone that picked up a hitchhiker.  I do think that maybe the danger is, to some extent, elevated in our minds, however. 
They told me that they had found one of the dogs on the side of the interstate.  I noticed that the dog had a cast on his leg. They said that his leg was broken when they found him, but they decided to take him under their wing and care for him.
I was curious about their life so I began to ask them questions.  The young man said that they were headed to L.A.  They said they wanted to “anywhere but here.” …… Here, being…on the side of the interstate in Sulphur, Louisiana.
I asked the young man if he needed to make a phone call. He indicated that Emily had a phone that her mother gave her…He offhandedly mentioned that he had never owned a cellphone.
He asked me how my day was. And then asked what kind of work I do.  I told him that I worked shift work at a chemical plant in Texas.  He told me that he liked factory work, and proceeded to tell me how he had worked for IBM, but was laid off.
I asked him how he ended up on the side of the interstate in Sulphur, LA.  He didn’t give me many details but told me that he has been on the road for the past six months. I asked him what that was like. He said, “Being on the road, makes you grateful..even for the smallest things.” “You learn to appreciate the small stuff”, he said.
I asked him if he was hungry and I told him that I would give them some money to get themselves a couple of meals. His eyes brightened. “O, wow, that would be amazing. We spent our last little bit of money fixing up the dog.”
That statement really struck me. It’s one of those statements that speaks volumes about the hearts and characters of people. To him, it was perfectly natural to spend his last few bucks helping a lost, stray dog that he found on the side of the road.
Have you ever been in a church service where someone stands up and declares that they need help financially and would like the church to pray that their needs or the needs of a close family member are met?  Chances are, these people, who humbly ask for help, have tried everything in their power to make ends meet, but just can’t seem to find that little extra.
My sister and I talked about this last week. As churches, in the wealthiest country in the entire world, we shouldn’t be praying for the financial need of others to be met. We, as Christians, should be meeting them. We should be reaching out to those who are in dire straights and need help. It is our duty…… “whatever you did for the least of them, you did for me.  We should share more. Give more. Think less about the toys and luxuries we want, and meet the needs of those around us.
So, as this very poor man was telling me that he gave his last few dollars to help a dog on the side of the road, I couldn’t help but see the very face of Jesus in that act alone.
Humility. The full concept of the term formed in my mind at the sacrifce. A poor man’s  sacrifice for a helpless dog.  And then, I saw Jesus walking to Golgatha, with a cross tied to His back and blood running down his face..for us, the helpless "dogs" on the side of the road.
Today, I learned a valuable lesson. Sometimes, the poor emulate Christ more than the “Christians” do.
It’s easy to proclaim Christ from our lips, but it is so much harder to live the life He lived.
How many of us, would give our last dime to help someone in dire need?
How many of us are greatful, even for the simplest and smallest things?
Would we have to lose everything we have, to come to place where we can see beauty in the small things?   Instead, we curse and point our fingers silently at God when a little wind blows our way and our day doesn’t go as planned.
As we were driving, I began to speak about my children. I told them how I was taking my boy to a cubscout campout this weekend. The young man told me that he had been in cubscouts but it wasn’t really his thing.
I told him that I wanted Cade in cubscouts because he needed more positive male role models in his life. “He has his grandfather  ( me paw) and some wonderful male family members,” I told the young man, but he grew up without a dad in his life.”
I could see that this statement struck a chord with the young man. He told me how his father was in prison and he mumbled something about a stepfather.  I could sense a deep hurt  as he mentioned his father and stepfather. 
It was as if I could see deep into this man’s life and see a life of pain.   I remembered the scripture in the Word  that relates to the fatherless. “ But you, O God, do see trouble and grief; you consider it to take it in hand. The victim commits himself to you; you are the helper of the fatherless.”     Psalms 10:14

There is a scripture that also urges us to take care of the fatherless. We are to take them under our wing and teach them and show them what it means to be loved.

But, as a nation, it seems that too often we are too busy to concern ourselves with fatherless children.  We often wonder why crime is so prevalent…We wonder why the world is such a chaotic mess….
Often, the answer is simple. We didn’t take the time to show love to those who needed it most, when they needed it the most.

We turned a blind eye and looked the other way. We saw the wounded, suffering “dog” on the side of the road, but we chose not to help it. We chose to drive on by, content to let it suffer.

I can’t help but think of the book of James, where we learn that faith without works is dead.  We learn that it simply isn’t enough to see a hungry person and wish him well. Wishing him well won’t feed him. Telling him about our faith or our God won’t feed him. We are called to feed him. To reach out our hand of love and let him see the hand of Jesus holding the bread to his very lips.

I parted with the Emily, the young man at  a gas station on my way to work. I gave them some money for food and I gave them a book of Bible verses.
I wanted them to see that all that was good in me, came from Him.

I was glad that I had learned their story. Or even at least a small bit of it. It’s sad but I know that not many would have taken the time to listen.

How often do we flitter past one another without knowing the people around us? How often do we let life flitter by without learning someone’s beautiful story?

How often do we judge the “lowly” or people that don’t look like we do or believe like we do?

In passing everyone up, we miss out on grand pieces of life…we miss out on learning. We miss out on teaching. We miss out on representing the One whom we proclaim to know.

Today was a day of adventure.  When I think of the events of today, I think of the disciples. I can parallel today’s event with their lives.

They carried their few belongings with them on their back because they sought something greater than themselves. They lived humbly, like Jesus, giving so that others could have more. They spread the truth at all costs. They were inconvenienced and faced trials and persecution, and yet they were greatful. Even for the simplest things. If they saw someone on the side of the road, they picked them up, showed them love, and took care of them.
We are called to be disciples.

Today, please pray for the fatherless. We live in a fatherless generation. We live in a world where fathers with no fathers became fathers to fatherless children.  And the vicous cycle is woven. and the hurt speads....
But even more than praying for the fatherless,

Do something about it. Leave a legacy of love. Be a part of a childs life that will leave no question in his/her mind that there is a Father and that He is good.
Please also remember Emily and the young man in your prayers.And the dog with the bandaged leg.

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