“Freely you have received; freely give.” (Matthew 10:8b NIV)
I was 16 years old and on a week long trip to visit a Seminary college in Iowa. On the way our group had stopped in Chicago for a few days. We were staying in a building owned by the church on the south side of the city and had been warned not to go out alone. It wasn’t long, though, before I was feeling cooped up and decided to sneak out for a short walk. I was going down a street when I saw other people making a wide berth around someone sitting on the sidewalk. His clothes were worn, torn, and threadbare. His skin was dirty and I could smell him from several feet away. I stopped in my tracks. I had never seen a homeless person before.
Then my mind flashed back and I realized I had seen a homeless person once before: Me. It was a Summer night in my 11th year when the home I grew up in caught fire in the middle of the night. I can still remember all of us standing outside while the fire destroyed everything we owned. My Dad was cursing. My Nana and Mom were crying. And my brothers and I were standing in shocked, scared, silence. Thankfully, friends took us in that night. Our small town community rallied around us. They showered us with love and care. They fed us, brought us clothes, and within a few days helped our Dad to rent a temporary house. A few months later our church helped us to finance a new home. I could remember feeling loved and blessed even after losing so much. The homeless man sitting in front of me, however, had no one to love and help him. I could see the sadness and despair in his eyes. I only had a few dollars left in my wallet but I didn’t hesitate. I bent down and handed it to this fellow Child of God, talked with him, touched his hand, and wished him well before I left.
I have often wondered what happened to him over the years. Did he make it off the streets? Did he die there? I don’t know. I do know that I was no better than he was, only more fortunate. We are all equal in the eyes of Heaven. It doesn’t matter the color of our skin, our gender, our education, or whether we live in a mansion or a card board box.
We are all Children of God. We need to give our love freely then to everyone everywhere. We need to see all people as our brothers and sisters. We need to live as one family, in one world, and make our Heavenly Father smile.
Joseph J. Mazzella