Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Hospitality (02/07/05)
TITLE: Underneath the Grapefruit Tree
By Bob Zoellner
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There he was, sitting in the shade, peeling and eating one of the choicest offerings of a grapefruit tree. It was obvious that he was very hungry, but just as obvious that something wasn't totally quite right.
I could tell that Rocky was either high or drunk, quite possibly both. It was also obvious that the tree was the means of keeping him in an upright position.
Fortunately, we were able to have a rudimentary conversation, long enough for me to introduce myself and find out his name. I felt sorry for Rocky, but I wasn't sure of what I could do for him. Especially at that moment, since I was working as a handyman for the gentleman in whose yard that tree was growing, and had other responsibilities calling for my attention.
It didn't take long, though, for me to stop worrying about what I could do for him, since my boss had called the police to have his problem removed. I found out what would happen to Rocky as the dispatched officer explained that he would have the chance to dry out, sober up, and probably be released later that night.
After returning home in the early evening, I explained everything to my wife. We were just going to relax for the weekend and spend time together since we were technically still newlyweds. With me going to school and us both working, we didn't get a lot of alone time.
It didn't take long, though, for our conversation to turn to Rocky and speculate as to his life circumstances. After much discussion, we decided to head down to the police station around the time Rocky was to be released, just to make contact and see what we could do to help.
Rocky was genuinely surprised to see someone there for him, but even though he was in a fog earlier in the day, he did remember me. We had taken some burgers along, knowing how hungry he was while sitting under the tree. He readily accepted our offer of food and company, and ultimately, our offer of a place to stay for the weekend.
It's not something we flippantly decided, but discussed and prayed about before inviting Rocky to stay with us in our rented trailer. He didn't appear to have anywhere else to go, and the homeless shelters in Lakeland, Florida could be a rough and tumble place.
He made himself right at home, taking over the couch and quickly feeling comfortable in the kitchen. I vividly remember offering him some peeled oranges, which he promptly began eating with a spoon - right out of the bowl!
By Sunday, Rocky seemed to be doing all right, and we were able to find out that his mother lived on the north side of town. We tracked her down, and reunited mother and son by late afternoon. She was grateful for our concern and care, and the hospitality we had shown to Rocky.
At first, she didn't want to take him back. She had continued to love and support him, but he kept taking advantage of her generosity. She had reached her limit, but decided to take one more chance. Rocky promised us he was going to get his life squared away and start going to church again with his mom.
Sometimes I wonder if Rocky did more for us than we did for him. While I don't recommend just taking people off the street and into your home unless you strongly feel it's of the Lord, we did learn to be compassionate to someone in need.
Hebrews 13:2 (NIV) says: "Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it." Rocky certainly didn't look like an angel. He didn't smell like one, either. At least not what I would think an angel might smell like. He didn't act like an angel, but we showed him God's love nonetheless, trusting the Lord to take our small act of kindness and use it as part of His plan to get through to Rocky.
Eventually, we lost contact with our new friend. We did what we could, but he had to do his part, too. Every now and then my wife and I think of that man I first met underneath the grapefruit tree, and wonder what's become of him. We hope that there are times Rocky remembers us, too.
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