35For 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, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37″Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40″The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’
(Matthew 25: 35-40)
On Fridays I usually treat myself to lunch if I am disciplined enough to bring my lunch every other day of the week. This was one of the special times so I decided to head down to one of my favorite delis which has an incredible hot bar. In this incredible hot bar they have the most awesome salmon I have ever had—from a deli that is. I was pretty excited about the opportunity to get Omega-3s via this wonderful salmon so I rushed down the street at about 1:00 and hurried inside only to find that the salmon had been picked clean. The alternate fish was picked clean as well. The plantains didn’t look ripe enough and I wasn’t interested in vegetable Lo Mein. I walked around the deli aimlessly and finally decided to give up.
I walked out of the deli disoriented and confused about what I would have for lunch so I started to walk up the street to another deli with a decent hot bar. I changed my mind before I ever started the journey and ended up walking back toward my office. While I was crossing the street parallel to my office I noticed a man walking across in the opposite direction. He was a black man with a grizzly beard, short unkempt ‘locks and a mild hunchback. He didn’t have a jacket on, barely a long sleeve shirt and his lower body was being covered by a blanket. As if this wasn’t bad enough he didn’t have any shoes on and not that there is any acceptable day in New York City to walk around barefoot, but the city was recovering from a blizzard so the streets were fill of dirty slushy snow and he was walking in it all. Barefoot. He had a sign around his neck and a cup with change in it that he jingled as he walked. As he crossed the street people gawked and did double-takes. I was taken aback as well but there was something inside of me that couldn’t just let him go.
So I decided to turn around and slowly walk back across the street. I walked slow because I had no idea what I would do or say to this man that would make a difference. I began to have a dialogue with God asking him what should I do. I trailed the man for nearly a block and finally sidled up to him and asked him if he needed anything to eat or drink. He said “Why yes, I’d like some orange juice.” As strange as his request was, I asked and I could do nothing but oblige him. I looked around for somewhere to purchase the juice and realized it could be quickly done at the Duane Reade that we were standing across from. I told him I would go get him some juice and he told me that he’d wait on the corner for me to come back. While I was in the store, I continued to think of what else I could do. I wanted to buy him some shoes but somehow my mind was quickly changed thinking that maybe the garbage bag he was carrying contained a pair that he just didn’t feel like wearing. At the register I decided to give him some money so that he could buy himself something to eat along with his juice.
When I left the store he was standing outside waiting for me. There was a part of me that felt weird and also scared that he might take the money and buy drugs, but I pushed those thoughts to the back of mind hoping that God would honor my offering and that the man would do what is right because he needs it. I gave him the orange juice and I was about to walk away with the money in hand, but I turned around, gave him the money and told him to buy food with it. I repeated it again and he said “Thank You.”
On my walk back to the office I was still a little weirded out mostly because I’d never run up on a homeless person like that and offered myself to them. Many times when I see homeless people or beggars on the trains and the streets I don’t give them anything because I am caught up in thinking about what they’ll do with my hard-earned money. But it didn’t matter to me. The same money I was going to use to buy salmon and vegetables went to a man who didn’t have nearly as many choices as I did. And beyond that, I thought about Jesus’ words in Matthew that said “…whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ And with that I knew that what I did for him with good intentions is what I did for Jesus. What an amazing moment.