I Never Knew You
by J.J. Bukowski
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Not For Sale
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Everyday I passed him beneath the bridge. In his wheelchair he sat, with torn newspaper and bundles of cloth stored in his cart beside him. I felt guilty for joining the heard of cars that drove by without a second glance or even a first. I wasn’t doing anything wrong; this man probably lost his money in the casinos or to alcohol. The wheelchair might have been an act, a stand upon which he could prey on the consciences of those in the luxury of their vehicles.
One day I returned from my job where I prepared food for guests. I saw him. He sat there, covered by a long grey beard and a tattered green coat. I focused on the road. I stubbornly refused to feel guilty.
I entered my home trying to force that poor man from memory. I tossed my keys onto the table. Thunk! They landed on my Bible. I paused. I looked at it. Then I walked over and sat in my recliner adjacent the fireplace. I arrogantly lifted the Bible from the table. The keys dropped to the floor rattling. I let the pages fall open, as though I could find some kind of assurance that I was right in ignoring that man beneath the bridge. “By chance a certain priest was going down that way. When he saw him, he passed by on the other side.” (Luke 10:31 WEB). I knew the story of the good Samaritan! Angrily, I flipped pages. “Many will tell me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, in your name cast out demons, and in your name do many mighty works?’ Then I will tell them, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you who work iniquity.’” (Matthew 7:22-23 WEB) My heart jumped. Those words, “I never knew you,” rang in my ears. I frantically began to turn the pages! None of them gave me the answer I sought, all shouted one word, love! Every word glared at me without remorse. I slammed the book closed and attempted to catch my breath. God had spoken. I came to realize my evil. I was a chef! Could I not prepare one meal for a man in need? I made up my mind. The next day when I drove to work, a nice hot plate of freshly baked food would accompany me.
I approached the bridge, unable to see beneath it. My speedometer told me I was driving the limit, but I certainly didn’t believe it. I felt as though I was barely moving. Finally, I approached the bend. Slowly, the underside of the bridge appeared in my view. Something was wrong. The man was no longer there. Quickly, I pulled over to the side of the road, stepped out, carrying the food I had cooked and began looking for him. I found him. He was beside the crossroad. He had fallen from his chair. He laid there not moving. I began to run toward him. I did not know if he still lived. How could this happen? Perhaps if I had brought him something to eat the other times, this could have been prevented! I reached him. I bent beside him. “Are you okay?” I asked, praying for a response. I couldn’t bear the thought of this man’s passing. At last, he stirred!
“I’m fine.” He replied. I was overjoyed.
“I brought you something to eat.” I handed him the plate. He was in awe. “Oh, let me help you into your chair first.” When the man heard this, he could hardly breath. He rested into his seat again and I held the food out to him again.
“No one has ever done so much for me before.” I smiled. “Why do you do this for me?”
“Have you ever heard the story of the good Samaritan?”
“No.” Again I smiled.
In the days that followed I continued to cook for the man. Each day he was surprised by the new entree. We became friends during these brief meetings. I shared with him all that I knew about the Lord. I was not afraid of Judgment Day now. I could stand before God at the end of time and hear those beautiful and loving words, “...‘Most assuredly I tell you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” (Matthew 25:40 WEB)
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