“The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.” ~Ann Landers
When I was a kid, my Aunt Fairy and Uncle Merle would babysit for me and my sister. Yes, I had an Aunt named Fairy! They were actually my Great Aunt and Great Uncle so they were the age of grandparents. They were retired and had the time and gentle spirits it took to babysit for two pre-school aged children while our parents worked. And I loved it.
Uncle Merle played baseball with me in the backyard, running and throwing. I’m sure he was 70 at the time. Aunt Fairy cooked our favorite foods and taught us to sing. And in the afternoons we’d go to the Paoli Senior Citizens Center, which was a fascinating place for a five year old, like me. The upstairs was full of loving people who doted over us kids, giving us snacks, hugs and encouragement. We sang with the old piano upstairs as the ladies took turns playing. Then I’d make my way down the dark, tight staircase into the basement to which the men had retired to play pool. They’d sometimes set me up in the middle of the pool table and let me roll the balls into pockets.
To their credit, all those people always made me feel like I belonged there at the Senior Citizens Center even those I was young and unrelated to most of them. Their welcoming acceptance of me into their lives created some of my fondest memories of my pre-school years.
I read a story this week that made me think of all those people at the Senior Citizen Center in Paoli; all those people who are long dead now. It was a story of a homeless man who was wandering and wondering when he came upon a Senior Citizens Center where he was made to feel welcome. His name was Richard and the people there accepted him and, to their credit, allowed him to belong.
Richard started coming in off the street to the Catholic Senior Center about 13 years ago and was befriended by one lady in particular. Her name was Rita and she was an RN that helped care for people at the Center. Rita reached out to Richard and they become friends. Rita found Richard to be an interesting friend who, despite being homeless, seemed to know much about current events, the economy and even the stock market. Richard was also an atheist and Rita, a follower of Jesus, had never had an atheist as a friend before.
Years passed and finally Richard passed on; he passed on from this life but he also passed on something else. Richard passed on $400,000 to Rita, which is shocking since he was homeless. More shocking is that Rita received only about 1/10 of Richard’s estate. Other recipients, including NPR and the Senior Center plus other non-profit organizations, shared Richard’s $4 million!!
A homeless guy with 4 million dollars…hmmm. (click here to read the story)
But to their credit, the people, like Rita, at the Senior Center took Richard in with the assumption he wasn’t worth a dime. The accepted him when he was of no monetary value to them. Richard didn’t even believe in God but they allowed him to belong just because he was human; just because he was created in the image of the God that he denied. And it is to their credit.
Loving, accepting, allowing people to belong…I hope these things describe me and you also. I pray that people feel welcomed and invited into our presence and into our lives even if they seem to be of no earthly value to us, even if they don’t share our belief in God because they don’t cease to be made in His image when the cease to believe in Him.
I hope it’s to your credit that you take people in. Take them into your life and faith and allow them to live there, to hide there, to shelter there from the problems and people of this world that are so often hurtful and harmful.
May it be to your credit and may it be to mine. And ultimately, may it be to the credit and glory of our God whose image we all bear.
“What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his own garden; and it grew and became a tree, and the wild birds found shelter there and nested in its branches.” ~Jesus, from Luke 13: 18, 19