In my job as a traveling nanny, I am often the recipient of hospitality. But it's easy to give to me, I'm seen as a middle class responsbile person.
I was trying to get from Ct to NJ by train, bus and automobile one cold night. I had made it to Grand Central Station on a train that had no heat; went to get a taxi only to find the line long and taxis few. I struggled with my two suitcases and back bag to the subway escalator. A sweet couple helped stabilize one of my bags so I didn't tumble down the moving stairs.
By the time I got to the turnstil, up the ramp and 7 steps to the Shuttle, I was exhausted and sweating. I managed to get on the train and plopped down for a moment's rest.
Slowly other passengers got seated. I noticed one young woman standing with 3 books in her hands. She was poorly dressed but clean and her face had that fresh scrubbed look. Softly, she started to speak.
"Im sorry to intrude upon you, but husband and small son and me are living in a shelter right now. As you know, shelters do not provide any food. I have here some books that I would give in exchange for any left over food you might have or change."
I watched as she spoke and there seemed to be a peace about her. My fellow passengers did what most New Yorkers do bombarded by the homeless every day--they looked away.
I love books so I asked her what did she have?
I could feel the others watching me and some were shaking their heads. I'm sure my suitcases shouted "not a resident--sucker!" I just ignored them and looked at her books.
She pointed to one and said, "that one looks like it might be good".
I settled for one on the Civil War and asked her if by any chance she had any change. I didn't think I had anything but a $20 bill and I needed it for the bus ticket.
I found tucked away another 4 dollars and as I counted up the quarters she said, "I have $3.55, will that help?"
I guess she was hoping I had a $5. I said, "that's all right, I have $4, will that do?"
She gave me a sad smile and said, "that's a lot more than most would give".
She took my money and got off the train.
Thing is, I'm pretty hip and I know that many of the beggars are using drugs or booze with the money.
I wanted to yell to her to come back so I could tell her I didn't know what she really planned on doing with the money, but that it didn't matter to me. I just felt she needed a blessing today.
I could feel Jesus telling the followers, "when you give unto the least of these, you give to me".
She was looking for a little hospitality in a hostile world. We are hardened now days to hearing the real voices in need. We look the other way without first listening to our hearts.
I have the philosophy that I can walk past anyone unless I suddenly get the urge to give. Then I don't think about it, look closely at the person, I just do it.
I gave up a long time ago in trying to decide who needed help and who were users. I can't look at them with my eyes, I have to look at them with God's eyes. I figure God knows the people that need a blessing. How they use it, well that's up to them.
I have no regret about giving that night even though it left me pretty cashless. No, my only regret was not touching her for a few moments and letting her know that no matter what her need was, for that brief moment, I cared.
When you come right down to it, that's the truest form of hospitality.
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