Icy fingers of gusting wind and rain advanced through the open car door making me shudder visibly as he climbed into the front passenger seat of my much-traveled van. Little Ethan didn't stir from his sleep in his soft car seat behind me; at ten months old he had grown accustomed to the noise level of a busy household. Caroline, on the other hand, never took her eyes from the unclean Ishmael who was struggling to place the I will work for food sign at his feet.
“It's alright, Caroline. We're going to buy this gentleman some lunch.” I glanced at her in the rear view mirror giving her my mommy-knows-best smile.
“McDonald's okay? The children can't go there often enough.” I was already moving into the turning lane to exit at the restaurant.
“Sure. Thank you, Miss.” He labored with yellowed fingers to button the tattered camouflage-colored jacket and to push back strands of salt-and-pepper hair under the red baseball cap.
“My name's Misty and these are my children Caroline and Ethan. It's pretty cold to be out on the street. The weather's forecast to get bitter cold tonight with sleet and snow.” I pulled into a parking space near the door and proceeded to unload Ethan and Caroline. He got out without saying a word. By the time I had the children safely in tow, he had gone, fading into the distance down the back alleyway.
I had all but forgotten about him until later that evening when Robert went to pull the car into the garage to keep the snow and ice from burying it.
“What's this? Misty, I hope you have better sense than to...” Robert was shaking his head and holding the weathered I will work for food sign. Before I could explain, Caroline was giving him her six-year-old version.
“What were you thinking, allowing a stranger into the car? And the children there to boot! Seriously, Misty. People go missing every day, killed by serial killers who prey on trusting souls. You were being reckless! Tell me you'll never do it again. I mean it, Misty.” Robert's voice trembled.
“You're over-reacting, Robert. We were perfectly safe. There were people around everywhere. My goodness, we were at McDonald's. I wasn't out on a lonely road somewhere. It was cold and raining and the least I could do is offer food. He didn't want it anyway, he left.”
“Misty, those people are drunkards and dope addicts looking for any way to get a fix.”
“ Those people are God's creation, Robert. We're not special, but for the grace of God, it could be us. Didn't you preach last Sunday from Matthew 15 ? Seems I remember the woman of Canaan was no better. But, she said, even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master's table . True, she wasn't a Jew, one of God's chosen people who boasted of Abraham, miracles, prophets, the Virgin Mary. She was driven to Jesus through a need, a mother's need. A proud person wouldn't have done it.
But, because of her faith and humility she received mercy. Well, all I want to do is show mercy. How can you fault me for that?”
“So, you do listen to my sermons?” Robert quickly brushed away the tears as he gave her the smile, the one that says you're right.
“It's true, Misty. Sometimes, it's easy to forget we Gentiles are the wild olive branch grafted into the olive tree. Jesus came to His own and they didn't accept Him. The Canaanite woman didn't approach Jesus with pride as the Jews did. She manifest humility, acknowledged she was unworthy and received God's grace. She knew He was sent to the lost sheep of Israel and by comparison, she was a dog, a poor despised creature by comparison. Such is the church, we're the wild branch grafted in. Not by merit, but by God's mercy.”
“So, go easy on me, Robert, okay? I promise to be careful. But, don't fault me when I offer a little potluck to one who needs it. Jesus offered it to us, unworthy dogs as we are. We may not have the Jews provision, but we can be satisfied with the leftovers. The crumbs of The Bread of Life are precious. And there's plenty to share.”
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