the least of them…

Another wonderful story that crossed my desk. There have been a lot of them; but I figure that if they touched my heart, maybe they will touch yours too

He had come to Miami years ago from a nearby town. When he was diagnosed with HIV, his family told him not to come home. Over time his condition had developed into AIDS.

A few days earlier, he said, his family had called. For some reason they had a change of heart. They invited him home for Christmas. He couldnt tell them, he said, that he was broke. He needed money for bus fare. Ten dollars would get him home for Christmas.

Im in a Wednesday morning Bible study class at Myers Park Baptist Church. Not long before my Miami trip we had discussed the passage in Matthew where Jesus speaks to those who are to inherit the kingdom and reminds them of how they had helped him when he was down and out.

They ask, when did we do this? He responds, in the compelling language of the King James Version, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

Theres a problem with knowing these Bible stories: They keep calling you to account. This one is particularly troubling for prosperous people who usually manage to ignore the poverty around us.

People like me.

In my pocket I had a $20 bill that I intended to spend on a shirt. I didnt know whether to believe him. It didnt matter. He obviously needed the money more than I did.

I handed him the twenty.

Here, I said. Merry Christmas.

He was surprised. Apparently he hadnt expected it to be so easy.

He took the money and looked straight into my eyes.

Thank you, he said, and it was as heartfelt a thanks as I have ever received. Then he put the money in his pocket and walked away.

A shared epiphany

Just before he melded into the crowd, he turned and raised his hand in a farewell salute. And he said, I think you are Jesus.

I was stunned. Before I could respond, he vanished into the crowd of shoppers.

What I would have said to him was this: I thought you were Jesus.

Merry Christmas.Ed Williams

The Observer – letter to the editor Dec 21, 1997

And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

Matthew 25:40