You know the Bible verse that talks about being hospitable to strangers, “for in doing so some have entertained angels”?
Well, each week as I go to and from my writing group I pass a young Eastern European man selling a “The Big Issue” (a magazine sold by homeless people.) I usually buy a magazine from him and I always pay more than the cover price. We never talked much but I noticed that he always ended our little exchanges with the words, “God bless you!”
Now God HAS blessed me. I don’t have a car or a fancy house. I don’t make a lot of money. But I also wouldn’t know where to begin or end when it came to counting my blessing. I don’t have to stand outside all day trying to get uninterested people to buy my magazine so I might someday get enough money to find a place to live. That’s a big blessing.
But, blessings are meant to be shared, so, this afternoon I bought a mag and stopped to ask how his day was going. He didn’t understand. I tried again. He thought I was talking about the weather and confessed he was frozen through. I asked him where he came from, meaning where in Europe. He replied “Barlanark.” That’s about fifty miles away. It involves a bus journey and a train journey, all to stand in a cold, wet shopping precinct.
So, I gathered my courage and asked him what he would like for Christmas.
Three attempts later the light of understanding appeared. “Ahhh! Ohhh .” He thought for a moment. “A home . For my family. Them to be happy . And warm.”
Happy and warm. Ouch!
“You have a family?” I asked. He explained he had a wife and a four year old daughter. “Larissa.” When my daughters were four they all had a warm home to spend Christmas in.
“What about you?” I asked. “What would you like?” He didn’t seem to know.
He lifted a magazine and looked at it. “Maybe Christmas be good . Sell lots of Big Issue . Get money . Be good for family.”
What did I expect him to ask for? A woolly sweater? A CD?
So, I said I’d see him again and wished him all the best. He must have wondered what on earth it had all been about.
Once around the corner I nipped into a card shop, then I went to the ATM. I took out as much money as I could afford . Then I took out more. What I was doing I was doing in God’s name, as a thank you for all He had given me.
So, I couldn’t scrimp. I wrote, “God loves you,” in the card, put in the cash and sealed the envelope.
The little voices in my head that might have told me I was being stupid, or irresponsible, or asked me what on earth I was doing were surprisingly silent on the walk back. I meant this.
I handed him the envelope and wished him a Merry Christmas. He said, “Thank you! God bless you!” I patted his arm and turned away, not wanting to be there when he opened the card.
On an impulse I turned back. “Oh! What’s your name?” He grinned like he was delighted to be asked. “Gabriel,” he said.
David McLaughlan firstname.lastname@example.org