It was Wednesday, late afternoon. We headed out the door, down the block and around the corner to our car (darn construction in our block), with a bag of tortilla chips and a container of hummus in hand for the potluck that would following the evening worship service. We weren't late, but with rush hour traffic, you never know how long it takes for the drive to church.
As I unlocked the car door, a boy, maybe 11 or 12, stopped on the sidewalk next to the car. "Sir...," he started. That took me off guard. I don't remember the last time a preteen addressed me so formally. I assumed that he was going to ask for directions or if I had seen his lost dog. Instead, he asked for a couple of dollars so he could buy a soda and a bag of chips.
That's not an uncommon request from strangers in our small city and usually I am prepared with one of my regular thought-out responses. This time, my mind froze. I reached for my wallet and mumbled something about not usually giving out cash as I handed him two dollars. He thanked me and continued down the sidewalk. We got in the car and drove off. As the encounter replayed in my mind, my mind mixed questions and a compilation of possible, more appropriate responses.
Some days, I specifically ask God to bring me people who need something that I can give (and to bring me people who have what I need, as I'm learning about the two-way street of generosity). Most days, I have opportunities to interact with multiple people.
The request from the boy reminded me that I need to be ready for the people who come my way. Ready, not in the sense of having prepackaged responses to dish out, but a readiness to see people and situations in an unrushed way. I need to learn to take time to listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and respond appropriately. Just as Jesus interacted uniquely with each person He met (from smearing mud on a blind man's eyes to initially refusing to heal a foreigner's daughter), so may I stop, see, listen, and give to each person who God sends my way.
Maybe the couple of dollars was what the boy needed most on Wednesday afternoon. Maybe what I needed most was a polite preteen to remind me to be ready for the next person who asks me for something I can give.
“This is the fast I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice, to set the oppressed free, to share your food with the hungry, to provide the poor man shelter, and when you see the naked man to clothe him. Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your righteousness will go before you. You will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.” - Isaiah 58:6-9
"With holy fasting, no work may be more fruitfully associated than almsgiving which, under the one name of ‘mercy,’ embraces many good works. The field of works of mercy is immense. Their very variety brings this advantage to those who are true Christians, that in the matter of almsgiving not only the rich and affluent but also those of average means and the poor are able to play their part. Those who are unequal in their capacity to give can be equal in the love within their hearts." - St. Leo the Great
"At the Last Judgement you and I will not be asked how strictly we fasted, how many prostrations we made in our prayers, how many books we wrote, how many speeches we made at international conferences. We shall be asked: Did you feed the hungry? Did you give drink to the thirsty? Did you take the stranger into your home? Did you clothe the naked? Did you care for the sick and the prisoners? That is all we shall be asked. Love for Christ is shown through love for other people, and there is no other way. Notice how, concerning everyone who is in need and distress, Christ says "I": "I was hungry, I was thirsty, I was a stranger, sick, naked and a prisoner." Christ is looking at us through the eyes of all who suffer. Is that not frightening?" - Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew
"When you fast and are nourished with abstinence, do not store the leftovers for tomorrow, but, as the Lord became poor and enriched us, feed someone who does not want to be hungry, you who hungers willingly. Then your fast will be like the dove who brings and joyfully proclaims salvation to your soul from the flood." - St. Gregory Palamas