Strangers to each other, but not to God

Judy Brandon: CNJ columnist

I can still recall the man who used to roam the streets of Clovis. Our children named him the “strange guy.”

The first time we noticed him was on one of our usual trips to the grocery store. He was peculiar, we thought, as he held his chin high, holding his trousers up with one hand and talking to himself.

His outfit of mismatched clothes did not fit. Rips in his trouser legs were adorned with tangled strings. He carried a big black bag at his side filled with his trash treasures.

Unaware that he was a spectacle to us, the man soon moved into our lives as a major fascination for our children.

From dumpster to dumpster he meandered, examining trash from the alley containers. He sauntered through the alleys and crisscrossed parking lots. Occasionally, he might walk into the grocery store where we were shopping and, at the sight of him, my children hurried closer to be by me.

But the awareness of this strange man was exposed in a different light years ago one Sunday during lunch with friends after church. Our children were still in grade school. While we waited on our order, the children began to talk about how hungry they were. In Sunday school they had made flourdough bread and fish and had brought them into the restaurant.

They had studied Jesus feeding the 5,000 on the hillside.
The children discussed this story as they examined and pretended to eat their make-believe meal while waiting on their real dinner. We adults listened to their conversation.
“Yeah and they didn’t even have cake back then!” said Buffy.
“Bet they didn’t have pizza either!” said Ben.

“And they didn’t have ice cream!” said Annie.

“Yeah, and I bet the strange guy would even eat this! He never has anything to eat!” said John Scott. “He has to look in the garbage!”

With that they all roared with laughter.

Out of the mouths of babes? A realization came to me: This person was needy and we were doing nothing about it. We were entertained by his odd behavior and talked about him. What were our children learning from our fascination with this man?

I had to do more than talk spiritual principles — we had to put them in action. So one day we packed him a lunch and headed for town. After awhile, we spotted him in a parking lot behind a bank. We wheeled up beside him and rolled the window down.

“Excuse me sir, “ I said. ”We have some lunch here. My children and I would like for you to have it.” I handed him the lunch. And he took it.

“Thank you very much,” he said. “I appreciate it ma’m.” And with that he turned and walked away.

But after that our view of the man changed. We didn’t view him as a “side attraction” and felt him more valuable than just the strange guy who searched dumpsters. The children even mentioned him in their prayers.

A priceless lesson was learned and has remained indelible upon our hearts: Our earlier view of this man was not the perspective God had wanted us to have. There are poor in the land and we are commanded to reach out to them. We learned something: He was not a nameless, faceless strange guy to God and shouldn’t be to us either.

Judy Brandon is an instructor at Clovis Community College. Contact her at:
cbrandon@plateautel.net