When you do it to the least of these . . .

semper-fi-arm-usmc-marine-corps-tatto_largeMatthew 25:35-45

35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home.

36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

37 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink?

38 Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing?

39When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

40 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’

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Yesterday was a good day with my boys; great breakfast at Georgie’s Diner  followed by a trip to Orange Park Mall (nearest Tilly’s) for a long morning of tax-free shopping. Besides a ‘lively’ discussion with my 15yo on why an $89 watch does not constitute a back-to-school purchase, the time spent was fun and peaceful. But shopping is, in the end, just shopping and as we neared St. Augustine all I could think of was getting home, pouring a glass of iced-tea, collecting my current read and my chair, and strolling to the beach.

As we crossed the small bridge over the San Sebastian River, home almost in sight, Nathan said, “Mom, that man has blood pouring off of his hand.” The traffic was slow enough that I, too, could see that the man walking on the side of the road did indeed appear to be bleeding profusely. He appeared a bit disheveled, had a walking stick, and was stopping every few feet to look at his hand.

“Mom, we need to go back and help him.”

There are many things we’ve not done well as parents, but one thing we hope we’ve gotten right is raising our sons to know that “when you do it to the least of these” is an intentional act, not just a sweet sentiment. The words spoken by Jesus in Matthew 25 are not suggestions; they are specific examples of ways to serve others. And sometimes serving others, well, it’s just not convenient.

“Mom, really. He’s still bleeding.”

By this time we’d reached the CVS on the corner and I could see by the time I turned into the parking lot the bleeding stranger would only be a few minutes behind. But I could think of so many reasons not to stop and help this man. We had no idea who he was; he could be an escaped mass murderer or just a really weird homeless guy.  There were so many other people driving by; surely someone else would stop. He was bleeding and I had no bandages or medical supplies in the car. What if he had a disease? It was hot, as in “it-feels-like-110’” hot. And there was a glass of iced tea with my name on it just a few miles down the road.

For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.”

True confession: I did not want to stop. If it had not been for Nathan and Jack being in the car, I probably would have blown by the parking lot without a second thought. But Nathan and Jack were in the car and I could think of no reason good enough to justify ignoring this person in apparent need. So I turned the car around.

I pulled into a spot as the man neared the sidewalk, close enough to hear us.

“Sir, are you okay? Do you need help?” Nathan shouted as he approached the man.

I could now see his hand up close and it was obvious that the wound was serious. The man walked through the hedge and sat on the curb.

“Well, I’m feeling kind of weak but think I should walk to the hospital.”

Even in the heat the man’s skin appeared pale. More wounds on his feet and arms were apparent.

“I was resting by the rocks on the bridge when my walking stick fell out of my hand. When I bent down to pick it up I fell onto the sharp rocks. Damn stupid of me.”

While Nathan walked to the CVS to buy a bottle of cold water, a young woman in scrubs approached, carrying a medical bag. A nurse from Flagler, she was on her way home and had stopped at CVS to buy a few things. Speaking to the man with respect and gentleness, she told him her name and asked him his.  Donning surgical gloves she got straight to work, cleaning his wounds in order to assess their seriousness.

“You’re going to need several stitches and antibiotics. This is a severe gash.”

By this time we’d discovered that “Jonathan” was making his way back to his home in Alabama. His Semper Fidelis tattoo, now visible since the blood had been wiped away, seemed to support his story that he was a vet experiencing hard times. He never asked for money, but did ask if we would be willing to call 911, which the nurse confirmed was the right thing to do. Between the heat, the lack of water and the blood loss, he wasn’t in any shape to keep walking.

Nathan got him more water and a snack. He asked questions and listened with genuine interest as Jonathan answered. I placed the 911 call and the ambulance came momentarily.  Jack sat taking it all in then leaned over to me and said, “I don’t know how good I’ve got it.” The EMTs took over and we knew our part was done.

Jonathan said quietly, “Thanks for stoppin’. I was feelin’ pretty weak. Means the world that y’all took the time.”

As we drove home Jack spoke of the nurse.

“She was really nice to that man; she didn’t have to stop and help him. She talked to him like he was a normal guy.”

Nathan simply said, “That hardly took any time at all, did it?”

Me? I said nothing. If I had followed my desire I would have never stopped but headed straight home to that glass of iced tea.

Thankfully my sons have bigger hearts than me; their insistence prevailed and that paid off. Nathan and Jack were able to relate to “a normal guy” who was going through hard times. We watched a nurse use her skills to care for another. We saw mercy in action and were reminded once again that love does stuff. And, in the end, a good day turned out even better. I even got to drink my iced-tea.

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P.S. – Please note: We have had the safety talk with the boys and they know there are situations when one should not stop.

9 Comments

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9 Responses to When you do it to the least of these . . .

  1. Meredith Strickland

    Beautiful and moving story. Your boys learned compassion from you and I’ll bet you would have stopped had they not been in the car.

  2. Nancy Little

    I don’t know Jack but we do know Nathan, so this does not surprise me. I could visualize this whole experience. Thank you for sharing-this will stay in my heart. If I ever have the choice to act or not, I know your actions will come to my mind and I will make that right choice!

  3. Patricia Kizer

    Good job, cousins! Proves if you ask for more opportunities, they will arise in surprising ways!

  4. Julie Perez

    Bravo to all involved. Your boys have learned their empathy from the examples you and Devan have given them their entire lives. What a beautiful example of it in action. This is something they will remember and pass on to their own children. Love it. Love you, Love them.

  5. Bethany Groves

    An absolutely beautiful story…. I love that you are willing to be vulnerable and open. I love the reminder of how powerful the example we set before our children can be. Love does do stuff…. God demonstrated his own love to us. My own dad used to say that sometimes by showing kindness to strangers, we very well may be entertaining angels unaware. I just say we are simply called to love and serve and our deepest joys come from doing just that.

  6. Mary Beth Martin

    A moving moment, Sheila. Appreciating your reflections!

  7. Susie

    Sheila,
    Now I am crying! Precious sweet boys you have — but I know you also have a heart of gold! Love you and appreciate that you take the time to help others, teach your sons to do the same (they learned from watching you and Devan), and to share these experiences with all of us! Susie

  8. Patty

    Beautifully honest. Thank you for writing this down as a needed, loving reminder.

  9. hazel chivers

    Thanks, Sheila
    A good lesson for all.
    Glad you’re back

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