What is he doing here? I thought there were shelters for people like him. Swallowing with distaste, I contemplated the elderly figure standing on the street corner. The man, dressed in tatters, looked like refuse on the roadside. I clicked the power door lock. No telling what someone like that might do. Avoiding his gaze, I feigned interest in the white sign standing next to him. In bold red letters it read, “Matthew 22:37.” Oh great, another Bible freak trying to spread his version of the “good news.” Hasn’t he bothered to watch the news lately? There isn’t any. Tossing my hair and laughing, I glanced in the rear view mirror. Something about the poor soul seemed vaguely familiar.
Startled out of my daydream by an anxious Ford Festiva, I gripped the steering wheel and joined the flow of traffic. I hope he isn’t here tomorrow.
The next morning dawned with fingers of frost glistening on the pavement. Approaching the intersection, I recognized the same gnarled man standing on the corner. Oh no, you’ve got to be kidding. Why doesn’t someone do something? With only a shabby overcoat between him and the weather, he blew the rising steam from his coffee cup. I turned up the radio and looked the other way.
By the next day, sleet and snow gripped the city. With the weather slowing traffic to a crawl, I scanned the icy streets. Surely he wouldn’t be out in this weather. My heart dropped when I glimpsed the old man standing next to his sign. Why does he tug at my heart? I wonder if he has a family. Lifting his right hand, he gestured in a half-hearted wave. Was he waving at me? No, I must be imagining things.
Images of the forlorn figure standing by the road plagued me for the rest of the day. What is so important about Matthew 22:37? I found the answer in a box of old college textbooks. My confirmation Bible, packed away and forgotten, waited with the truth. I opened the inside cover. Written in my mother’s shaky hand was the inscription, “To Carolyn, Easter Sunday 1978, Love, Mom and Dad.” I haven’t seen the folks since Memorial Day. I need to give them a call. Gingerly turning the pages, I flipped to the book of Matthew and read, “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” I bowed my head in shame. The man, poor in the ways of this world, was rich beyond measure. He knew the love of Jesus.
Waking early the next morning, I hurried downtown to meet the street corner missionary. What would I say to him? Would he ever forgive me? My doubt disappeared when I looked into his grizzled face. In an instant, I recognized the mischievous glint sparkling in his eyes.
With a smile as bright as the rising sun, he opened his arms in an eager embrace. The tender forgiveness of his tears cleansed my weary soul.
“What are you doing out in this weather? You should be at home.”
“No, Carolyn, I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. If just one person reads God’s word, my mission has been a success. Seeing you pass every day, I hoped it might be you. God created the world in six days. I got you in four. Not bad for your old Pop, huh?”
Shaking my head and laughing, I patted his shoulder. “Oh Dad! Let’s go get some coffee.”
Stuck in the middle of the intersection, sat a woman staring in our direction. I motioned for her to join us. With a look of disgust, she accelerated and drove away.
“No, I think I’ll wait for her.”
Matthew 22:37 KJV
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