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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Hospitality (02/07/05)

TITLE: You Never Know


You Never Can Tell

The old man drug himself up the street with no particular place to go. The 180lb. frame of his youth had long ago dwindled away and the tattered clothes that hung from the once lithe body smelled of cigarette smoke and beer.

The cold December wind cut deeply into his weary bones and he longed for a treasure he hadn’t experienced in many years. His mind replayed a scene from better years...the steam filled his nostrils as his eyes saw the condensing water waft toward the ceiling. The mirror, already fogged, hid the handsome face that passed by it with only one purpose in mind—feeling that scalding water on his skin.

Every muscle in his back tensed as the first ripple of the fiery liquid lapped at his legs, but just as quickly relief cascaded over his body with immersion completed. The tension of the day escaped into the heated molecules surrounding him. The fragrant foam from the soap soothed his every thought as well as cleansed his overworked body.

Relaxation turned to drowsiness and the dark brown eyes began to glaze over with impending sleep. Soon the bronze eyelids eased their way down, gently covering the blind eyes. The water became tepid as he languished in another place and time removed from this world and transported to one made of apple pie dreams.

The howling wind replaced the tepid bath water and brought the old man back to reality. The huge picture window in the house caught his eye as a warm, inviting light flowed out onto the bone cold sidewalk. He could see the family sitting in front of the television laughing. Maybe, just maybe…

He knocked on the oak door, tentatively at first. Then urgency overtook him and he knocked louder. He watched as the man glanced away from the program and then rose to answer the door. A scowl formed on his brow at being disturbed. The woman placed her hand on his arm and stood to take his place. She approached the door and the destitute man’s hopes soared.

She gazed on the filthy beggar who stood on her doorstep, “Can I help you with something?”

Her sweet melodic voice soothed his fear and emboldened him to ask, “Would you have a spare wash cloth and a bar of soap?”

“I can do better than that, wait here.” She firmly closed the door. In a matter of minutes she returned with a small satchel. “Here take these things. I’m sure the hot coffee in the thermos will help against the wind. There is a shelter about two blocks from here and I’m sure you’ll be welcome to take a shower and get cleaned up there.”

The aged face brightened as he grasped the cloth bag, “Thank you for your kindness and may God bless you and your family.” He turned and went down the steps as the woman closed the door. He trudged up the sidewalk in the direction of the shelter fading from sight with each passing step.

The woman burst from the house waving a towel in the air. She looked up and down the street for the bent figure that had just been at her door. She hugged the towel to her breast as she wondered where he could have gone so quickly.

A shiver ran up her spine as the winter wind began to pick up, but within that wind a warm gentle breeze swirled around her as she stepped back onto her porch. A verse she’d learned in Sunday school a long time ago entered her mind. “Don't neglect to show hospitality, for by doing this some have welcomed angels as guests without knowing it.” Hebrews 13:2 Holman Christian Standard Bible

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