As a pastor, because people come to me so frequently seeking advice and counsel, it would be easy to believe that I know more than I do. I determined years ago when I first entered the ministry, that I would stay teachable, that is, open to consider the wisdom of others no matter who they might be. And over the years I have found that wisdom can come from unlikely sources, even children, and even my dog, Madison.
Madison is our English mastiff. She’s light tan in color with a ferocious bark that sounds like she’s going to swallow you whole. But that’s just show. Madi is really 150 pounds of slobbering affection. When I can, I try to take Madi out for some exercise, which is usually a walk. Not a power walk mind you. Madi and I prefer to saunter leisurely.
A few weeks ago, Madi and I were making the rounds in our neighborhood and came upon a homeless man sitting in the shade of a tree. We were a block away when I spotted him, and I’m ashamed to say I started to cross the street to proceed down the other side, simply to avoid an encounter. But I was too late. Madison also spotted him, and began panting in anticipation, pulling on the leash. You see, Madison loves to meet and greet people. It’s hard to resist 150 pounds incessantly pulling on your arm, so I gave in and continued down the sidewalk.
I mumbled, “Hello,” as we approached, but Madison lunged forward planting several huge slobbery dog kisses on his face. I was going to apologize for Madison’s behavior, when the man began petting her and laughing out loud.
“That’s a great dog you got there,” he said. “What kind of dog is it? I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a dog that huge!” We spent the next few minutes mostly talking about dogs. I explained how mastiffs are ancient watchdogs, but very loyal and affectionate. He told me about dogs he had owned, mostly shepherd collie mixes. We laughed together as we each exchanged a few humorous stories about our dogs
I suddenly felt very self-conscious, realizing I was talking to a homeless person and I had nothing to offer him. “Hey, I’m really sorry, but I don’t have any money on me right now,” I mumbled apologetically. The man immediately replied, “That’s okay.” Then he looked up at me with the most sincere blue eyes, and with a soft voice said, “Thanks for the conversation man. I really appreciate it.”
I continued walking with Madi down the sidewalk, but I realized I had just learned a valuable lesson. I only saw the man’s poverty and his need for money. Madison saw a human being, someone to greet and give affection to, just like anyone else. All I did was talk with that man, but he appreciated so much the simple act of being seen and interacted with like a regular person.
My wife and I support relief programs around the world, and I travel for our own Harvest International Ministry (HIM), feeding and clothing orphans in a number of countries. But that day I realized that I don’t always “see” the poor. I see their needs, but I don’t encounter them as unique individuals with something to offer me.
All of us are aware that these are hard economic times and many people are experiencing lack. Instead of feeling overwhelmed, I want to encourage you to do something! It doesn’t have to be complicated, or time-consuming. It can be as simple as really seeing the poor person in front of you, and giving a smile and a few words of genuine interaction. God considers our care for the poor a personal loan. “He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and the Lord will reward him for what he has done.” (Proverbs 19:17)
Come join us this Sunday at 9:00 AM or 11:00 AM. We will be discussing, “Being Christlike by Giving to the Poor.”