I failed …
I saw God and I failed to acknowledge him.
She was standing on the sidewalk outside of Martins Grocery Store. Pregnant, heavy with child, she held a sign that said, “homeless, please help” and I drove right by her.
I drove right by her!
Because any money I would have given her wasn’t easily handy, I made the excuse that she was working a scam … and I drove right by her … even after she waved at me!
Talk about guilt …
I drove my grocery laden van home, quickly unloaded my bags, and headed back out with cash ready in hand, praying the whole time, “please let her be there, please let her be there.” A thunderstorm had been brewing and was in the midst of erupting as I drove, so I did not know what I would find when I arrived a short ten minutes later … “please let her be there.”
God was still standing there, though not a pregnant woman this time, but a rangy, scruffy homeless man. I did a U-turn in the parking lot, rolled down the window on the passenger side, waved at him and gave him the money in my hand.
Through a semi-toothless and gentle smile, he said, “God bless you, ma’am.”
What a humbling experience!
I felt—and still do feel—like Jesus washed my feet.
He’s blessing me?! A woman—with all of her adult teeth–driving a recent year mini-van, who lives in a modest three-bedroom home with her father and dog, with a nice yard, a closet full of clothes and a pantry full of food, and more ‘nice things’ than I care to count … and he is blessing me?
And yet all of my ‘stuff’—as wonderful and of sentimental value as much of it is—means very little in light of his blessing. My heart feels deeply touched, warmed, and moved–burning in fact.
On the way home, I wondered if I had really seen a pregnant woman at all. Did anyone else see her? Was the bedraggled fellow really standing there? Was my mind playing tricks on me? Both beings and their energy seemed very real and vibrant to me.
Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it. Hebrews 13:2
As I meditated on the above Bible verse that came to mind afterward, the word that struck me was hospitality, “the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.” (Oxford Languages) Somehow, though, that did not quite feel like the whole of what I was seeking in my heart, which led me to search for synonyms for hospitality such as friendliness, kindness and helpfulness.
All good replacements, but still lacking insight.
How about hospitable? … “friendly and welcoming to strangers or guests.” (Oxford Languages)
That’s not it either–not really much different from hospitality.
Then I saw it … hospital-ity. As I scrolled down further in my Google search results, I found the following Wikipedia entry:
Why is it called a hospital? The word “hospital” comes from the Latin hospes, signifying a stranger or foreigner, hence a guest. Another noun derived from this, hospitium came to signify hospitality, that is the relation between guest and shelterer, hospitality, friendliness, and hospitable reception.
In the movie “The Green Mile,” Tom Hanks’ character, Paul Edgecomb, is explaining to an employee the importance of remaining calm in the death-row facility of the Cold Mountain Penitentiary where they worked as prison guards. He quietly explains, “Men under strain can snap; hurt themselves, hurt others. That’s why our job is talking, not yelling. You’ll do better to think of this place like an intensive care ward in a hospital.”
“You’ll do better to think of this place like an intensive care ward in a hospital.”
I love that line because that’s it! Isn’t it?
Here and now, in this form and in this space, we are all literally and figuratively living in a hospital. You could say our planet is in the intensive care unit and all of its inhabitants are in one ward or another due to the tremendous strain and pressures of the current times we are living through. We are hurting ourselves and others because of it. Additionally, we are all merely visitors here; this is not by any means our permanent home. We are just passing through and at times we take the role of guest or we take the role of shelterer.
The suffix -ity is defined as: “quality: state: degree.” (Merriam-Webster)
How well we inhabit guest or shelterer depends upon how mindful we are that God is in and among us.
This is an important consideration to bear in mind especially now that Christianity has been hijacked by ultra-theocrats like MAGA Evangelicals and men like Trump, Carlson, Orban, etc. who would have us endorse exclusion, hate, judgment, power, greed, and control.
By heeding the Spirit within us and each other, we can live in and act out of trust, forgiveness, love, compassion, mercy and generosity.
To that end, whatever your spiritual inclination may be, I conclude with the following prayer by Richard Rohr.
Lover of All
Lord, lover of life, lover of these lives,
Lord, lover of our souls, lover of our bodies, lover of all that exists . . .
In fact, it is your love that keeps it all alive . . .
May we live in this love.
May we never doubt this love.
May we know that we are love,
That we were created for love,
That we are a reflection of you,
That you love yourself in us and therefore we are perfectly lovable.
May we never doubt this deep and abiding and perfect goodness
That we are because you are. Amen
… this deep and abiding and perfect goodness that we are because you are.