…somewhere behind each “chance” meeting with another person, and especially when that person is in some kind of need, somewhere on the margins of “normal” society, there is something bigger, something Divine.
As I was sitting and reading at home the other day, there was a knock at the door, and a young man was standing there, having backed down off of the step, keeping a respectful distance as I opened the door. He introduced himself—I’ll call him “Dave”—and he asked me if I had any work that he could do for me, to earn some money, because everything he owned had been stolen the previous night. As he explained further, I surmised that he was most likely experiencing homelessness, probably sleeping outdoors somewhere, and that while he was sleeping or away from his camping spot, someone helped themselves to what few possessions he had.
Although in the past I’ve occasionally hired people who stopped by looking for work—to clean the gutters or do some yard work, for example—I truly didn’t have any work for Dave that day. And he seemed to be fine with that, but he lingered, and began what turned into a lengthy talk about the state of the world, about how the coronavirus was invented by the government to control us, and about his philosophy of life, and his abiding faith in spite of it all. (There was a lot there that I couldn’t really follow.) Dave had many trains of thought, and the tracks were intertwined in complicated ways. His monologue bounced around from complaints about the cruelty of people, to declarations of faith in a benevolent, but nameless, Higher Power, to a variety of philosophical tenets that I frankly couldn’t decipher. I wondered if perhaps Dave was experiencing some mental illness, or had a substance abuse issue. It may have been that what Dave needed most in that moment was someone to listen to him for a while, and I did.
I’ve met a lot of people like Dave over the years in church ministry, and I always come away from such an experience wondering What was that about? This is partly because my brain is wired to look for the connectedness of things, and I tend to assume that things happen for a reason, whether I understand it at the time or not.
I know I might be wrong about that. I have to concede that such encounters may be completely random, but I can’t help thinking there could be something more going on—that somewhere behind each “chance” meeting with another person, and especially when that person is in some kind of need, somewhere on the margins of “normal” society, there is something bigger, something…divine. After my interaction with Dave, my thoughts went to a passage in the gospel of Matthew, where Jesus looks ahead to a final judgment, when people are judged according to how they treated those who were hungry or thirsty, strangers, people who needed clothing, people who were sick or incarcerated: “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40). I’m sitting with that thought for a while.
As the pandemic seems to be subsiding, we are planning for (and looking forward to) having the LINK dining hall filled with a wide variety of people from all kinds of backgrounds and situations, sitting down to share a hot, nutritious meal together—a diverse community of some of the most interesting people you will ever meet. Most of the time our encounters with our guests are brief, but what a privilege it is to serve them, the brothers and sisters of Jesus himself.
Won’t you come and serve with us?
Rev. Doug Heacock, LINK board member