When I was a child I was often made fun of for being too sensitive. When I was eight, I lived in Brindisi, Italy. There were breads and cheeses and fruits at the marketplace. There were beggars too, in extremely great need. I wanted money to give to the beggars, and was told we couldn’t help them all. Couldn’t we help just one? I wanted to put some lire in the cup held by the dirty woman propped up against the stone wall. I knew her life couldn’t be easy; for she had only one leg. She was a mama with a baby on her lap, and a toddler hovering nearby. From what I understood, we were not to look at them, or engage with them; we were to pretend that they were not there.
But I stole a look behind me anyway, wondering how her family would eat and drink, and how she would take care of her children if she couldn’t even walk! All I could offer to the beggars as a child, was a smile to their toothless smiles, and it was hard to do that when my heart felt like a damn about to burst from holding back all my tears.
The mocking of my sensitive soul continued as I got older. Even as an adult, I was again made fun of, for my concern over whether someone who had entered a restaurant in Washington DC, was hungry and in need of a meal. I was gauging the situation by watching a disheveled woman’s behavior, trying to discern whether my asking if she wanted a meal would be offensive to her, or accepted with relief. People who should have been guiding me all my life, laughed at me instead, joking by claiming that the woman actually worked in the restaurant; all while stuffing their faces with the overly expensive food. I was no longer hungry.
Another time, I was greatly distressed to find that the homeless, in a city in North Carolina, were being forced to wear orange vests if they wanted to ask for money or work, while standing at medians in busy intersections. While understanding that the fluorescent orange color could protect them from getting hit by cars, I remarked on the cruelty of these people having to make themselves even more visible, as if was not already humiliating enough to beg for work, money, and food. I didn’t care if they had their own camp over yonder and had “chosen” this way of life. I was angry about their plight, and disgusted with the city of Durham for being willing to pay for orange vests, when that cash could instead be used towards sheltering cold homeless people, putting warm coats on cold bodies, or filling hungry bellies with delicious comfort food.
I was mocked and laughed at for speaking my caring thoughts aloud. Unkind words were said about the homeless. It hurt my ears. When, I objected, I was told it was all “just joking.” Then why wasn’t I laughing too? I sat sullenly in the back seat, not caring two cents about being the party pooper. Didn’t anyone else care about the poor? This wasn’t funny. At. All. And I knew by then how to think for myself. I had already been helping those less fortunate than me. I had a heart for helping the poor; it was a part of me, and I was glad. “Those who mock the poor insult their Maker; those who rejoice at the misfortune of others will be punished” (Proverbs 17:5 New International Version).
Several years later, I found myself joyfully fixing food and serving a community meal at a local church. The poor came, and the homeless. They were hungry; in need of clothing, toys, supplies, and most of all… Jesus. My favorite part was after the meal had been served, when I could take a seat across from, or next to these broken people and listen to their heartbreaking stories. I got to know their names, pray for them, and hug them. It got to the point where I would recognize them on the street if I passed through town. One even came to the library to read books one day while I was there with my children. I was able to introduce my daughter to Miss Carol, who seemed to find great comfort in reading children’s books, so we talked about our favorites.
If these kinds of people and situations were supposed to be ignored, dismissed, mocked, and joked about; why did my heart swell with such tenderness when I had the opportunity to meet these people’s needs? Why did I feel such joy at being allowed the privilege of giving a little part of myself to hopeless, hurting people? It wasn’t the kind of happiness that comes from a perfect day, like your birthday when you eat your favorite foods, with your favorite people, and go to your favorite places. It was Holy Spirit Love for others, which fills your heart with joy and peace, because you’re fulfilling God’s beautiful, divine purpose. For Jesus came to bring life to the lost, and hope to those in despair. He lives within me, and nothing compares to being the hands and feet of Jesus Christ, and loving others the way he does!
And who is to say that my life couldn’t have been like their lives? What if I was the one in their circumstances? How would my life turn out? Yet, I realize now that though I never lacked for food or clothing or shelter, I was truly poor in spirit, for I lacked the nurturing, care, encouragement, support, and unconditional love; that a child needs to become a whole, happy, healthy adult. The silver lining is God knows exactly what we need. He will provide it through other people, resources, the Holy Bible, churches, or if needed… a miracle. And best of all, is God’s promise, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:13).
God commands us to take care of the poor, minister to orphans and widows, and to uplift and encourage the broken-hearted. It’s because God values everyone as part of His Miraculous Creation. You can’t be a Christian without caring for those less fortunate, for the Bible says, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (Jas. 1:27)
When we become part of the family of God, we become part of God’s greater plan. I can’t help but think that if everyone obeyed God and gave a part of themselves to those in need, that no one would be poor at all, and then we wouldn’t have all these problems in the first place! But we are dealing with the fall, and sin, and broken people. Nothing will be perfect ever until we reach Heaven. But in the meantime, can’t we give a little, or a lot, of our resources to help our brothers and sisters in Christ, and to help those who need to know Jesus to find him?
Someone’s greatest need may financial, physical, educational, or spiritual. A person may need food, shelter, Christian counsel, friendship, a bible to read, or a ride to church. We can use our gifts from God to minister to the poor. And if we don’t have much; we surely have our prayers to offer, which bring great results and rewards. Surely, we would not want others to make fun of us during our greatest time of need. We all want our basic and greater needs met. Isn’t God a good God to notice when we aren’t being treated right, when we are made fun of for being poor, or mocked for caring about poor people? It’s insulting and unacceptable to God!
So, do not heed the lies, all you compassionate and brothers and sisters in Christ; keep on caring, giving, sharing, encouraging, and loving others! Be beautifully sensitive! These are gifts from God to share with others! For we are ALL made in His image! God will bless both the giver and receiver, and everything will be used for His glory!
“And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased” (Hebrews 13:16).