The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Even the poorest no strangers to God

 

October 13, 2017



I have had a reader request I write about the following experience again.

It has been 35 years ago but I can still recall the man who used to roam the streets of Clovis. Our children named him the “strange guy.”

The first time we noticed him was on one of our usual trips to the grocery store. He was so peculiar, so eccentric. He held his chin high, holding his trousers up with one hand and all the while talking to himself.

His outfit of mismatched clothes made quite an impression on us. His rhythmic gait made the bulky black plastic bag he carried at his side sway back and forth. Unaware that he was a spectacle to us, the man soon moved into our lives as a major fascination for our children.

When we drove to town, the children had a challenge among them — who could see the strange guy first. From dumpster to dumpster, this man meandered, examining trash and salvaging others’ throwaways. The man was always headed somewhere, sauntering through the alleys and crisscrossing parking lots.

But the awareness of this strange man was exposed in a different light years ago one Sunday during lunch with friends after church and our children were little. We ordered our food and then passed the time waiting for our order.

In Sunday School, the children had made flour dough bread and fish and had brought them into the restaurant. They had studied Jesus feeding the 5,000 on the hillside.

The children discussed this story as they pretended to eat their make- believe meal. We adults listened to their conversation.

“Yeah and they didn’t even have cake back then,” said Buffy.

“And they didn’t have ice cream,” said Annie.

“Yeah, and I bet the strange guy would even eat this. He never has anything to eat,” said John Scott. “He has to look in the garbage”

With that they all laughed because everyone knew about the strange guy.

Then the realization came to me: this person was needy. ... We were entertained by his odd behavior and talked about him as if he were something circus-like to observe.

What were our children learning from our fascination with this man: to watch and laugh or to see him as an individual loved by God?

God told the Israelites: “There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be open handed to your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.” (Deuteronomy 15:11)

My thoughts: It is easier and much more convenient to just give money in the offering plate at church or to send money somewhere rather than to feed someone face to face. But the message I heard in my heart was undeniable.

The New Testament writer wrote: “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity for him, how can the love of God be in him?” (1 John 3:17).

I felt that we had to do more than talk spiritual principles — we had to put them in action. We decided that we would reach out to the strange guy. So one day, the children and I packed him a lunch. We headed for town to look for the strange guy and soon spotted him in a parking lot behind a bank. I rolled the window down.

“Excuse me sir,” I said. “My children and I would like for you to have this lunch.”

Up close he looked very different from what we imagined. He was not weird or necessarily strange. He took the lunch.

“I appreciate it ma’am.” And with that he turned and walked away.

That was the beginning of several trips to town to find this man to take him food. Each encounter was simple and brief. We never knew anymore about him.

But after that, our conversation about him changed. We didn’t view him as a “side attraction” anymore but felt him more valuable than just the strange guy who searched dumpsters. He became “the man downtown.” We prayed for him.

Time has passed. The man died several years ago. The priceless lesson learned was our earlier view of this man was not the perspective God had wanted us to have.

We are commanded to reach out to the poor in our land. He was not a nameless, faceless strange guy to God and he shouldn’t have been to us either.

Judy Brandon writes about faith for The Eastern New Mexico News. Contact her at: cbrandon@plateautel.net

 

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