FEED the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter strangers, visit prisoners
Our church in downtown Houston attracts all kinds of people. Last year I felt the need to pray about being more welcoming — for example, not feeling impatient when certain visitors become disruptive. I was trying to break down the whole concept that some people are “undesirable.”
One night after a Wednesday night service, I was stopped at a red light in a dark, deserted area. A stranger approached the car to ask for money. Ordinarily, I’d feel trapped and anxious, but not this time…
He said he was hungry. When I offered to buy him dinner, he asked what his limit was, then spewed negative comments about there being no restaurants nearby and dismissed my suggestion. Searching for the nearest McDonalds, I prayed about the sense of limitation that we all seem to struggle with. When it turned out that the McDonalds didn’t take credit cards, I told them about the hungry man, and they gave me five burgers for the $2.50 I had in my pocket.
When I found the man again, he was absolutely floored that I’d come back with food. I felt inspired to say, “You’re only limited by your beliefs. Promise me you’ll start letting go of the ones that are hurting you.” He said, “I like that! I don’t have any negative thoughts!”
Then he said, “Actually, I do…”
“Let them go,” I said. His gratitude was boundless: “Have a wonderful evening!” and “God bless you man!”
Lest anyone think that this man was just grateful for the burgers, I found myself in a similar situation a few days later with a different man. This time, the man turned down my offer of food and asked for money again. After I insisted, he admitted wanting a beer. I thanked him for being honest and told him I couldn’t support a habit I had to overcome myself. He left with nothing, but the interaction felt just as satisfying. He thanked me for “being such a good man,” and we shook hands. It was a wonderful exchange.
Not only did these experiences give me greater ease at stop-lights; they helped me relate more easily to certain church visitors. And since then, an opportunity has come to fruition visiting a local prison to hold Christian Science services.
Feeding, clothing, sheltering someone — and especially breaking down the concept of an “undesirable” person altogether — are truly Radical Acts in our society. Let’s put them into practice…and share our stories!
Carlos Machado, June 2012
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Topics: Love, Social Problems