We are putting in an orchard in the upper field. We pull together, JB and I, as one, as a team, each one doing their part. My part was to get lumber to build trellises and arbors for some of the fruit to grow.
JB hooked the trailer to our White Ford Excursion, otherwise known and the “white mammoth”, and with list in hand I drive to Lowes for supplies. JB stay behind to continue grinding stumps to clear the land.
With trailer in tow, I enter the parking lot and see him. He is frequently there at the edge of this parking lot, in his wheel chair, wearing a tattered hat dark blue hat with United States Navy written around the emblem. A hat, which was worn and looked as if it had many stories from years gone by. A small United States flag is draped across a metal basket on the front of his wheelchair. Beside him most Saturdays is a bucket of hot boiled peanuts to sale.
I pull up near him, ignoring traffic trying to enter to shop for important accessories to enhance or repair their homes. I pulled five dollars from my wallet to purchase a dollar bag of peanuts, and plan to give him all of the change.
His wheelchair is low to the ground requiring me to step out from this great white mammoth to be eye level with him; and to hand him the money for the peanuts. He is what many consider a “less than” – less than skilled, less than intelligent, less than social, less than safe…Less Than.
He sees that someone has noticed him and with no hesitation what-so-ever, he races his wheelchair over to me. I’m able in that second or two to get a look at him.
His clothes are dirty and torn, and what few teeth his has in his mouth are stained and decayed. His brown skin has deep lines of stress and time cascading down his face. In the first few words from his lips, peeling and scabbed, and you realize that his mental health is not well, – and there are not any bags of peanuts with him.
Before I can tell him how many bags I would like to buy, he snatches the money from my hand and rolls back to the place he claims as his own for the day.
“Thank ya, thank ya – ya hear? That’s a big ole car for a little lady like you! Have a good day!” he yells over his shoulder.
I get back in my “big ole car” and look for a parking place so that I do not have to embarrass myself trying to back up a trailer in public. The whole time fuming that I did not get any peanuts for five dollars!
That is when I hear it–The voice of the one who dwells among the ones we consider “less than.”
“When you do it unto the least of these, you do it unto me.”
And I am embarrassed before God that I was not able to just give five dollars to one whose life has been reduced to begging. It’s just five dollars, for crying out loud!
I begin to think back on the last few minutes. In the leathery, lined face of a man who served our country and came home broken, I realized that I have seen the image of Christ.
He dwells among those we frequently consider, “less than”; those whose lives have been so difficult that the mind bends and distorts with the pain.
“If your heart is broken, you’ll find God right there;
if you’re kicked in the gut, he’ll help you catch your breath.” (Psalms 34:18 MSG)
Who is to say that given the same circumstances in life any one of us would not be in the wheelchair begging alms?
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:31 NIV)
Thank you to all of the men and women who have served our United States of America. I am so very thankful for your sacrifice.
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