Matthew 25:35-36,40 – For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in. I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. The King will reply, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." (NIV)
Some years ago I lived in Toronto, Ontario, and taught an early morning aqua fitness class. I used to get up in the black of morning at 5:45 a.m. and drive to the great downtown Toronto area, where I taught professional women at an exclusive women's club, from 6:30 – 7:15 a.m.
One morning, I got up as usual, donned my sweats, jacket, gloves, thick socks, running shoes, got in the car and drove myself downtown. I was running a bit late, so was hurrying to park and get out of the car, when I noticed an older woman walking along the sidewalk. Not so unusual; what struck me was that on this cold, cold December morning, she had no coat, not hat, no gloves. She was wearing a skirt, blouse and blazer, and seemed to be holding herself, and muttering quietly. I got out of the car to go into the club, and turned to look at her. With a shock I realized she was barefoot. I stood for a moment, torn between running after this woman, and meeting my commitment to my class. Fortunately for me, I was spared making the choice. Two ladies who were regulars to the class came down the stairs, and said, "Did you see that woman? We're going after her." Immediately I stepped out of my shoes, and said, "Take these to her."
I thought about this woman all through the class, and it wasn't until afterwards, when we'd all showered and were getting ready for our day's work, that the two women returned to the club. They took me aside, and told me that they had taken this lady to shelter. They told me when she put my shoes on, she said, "Oh, these feel just like walking on air!" and she cried.
So did I. I still weep. That moment affected me so powerfully, and continues to do so, especially at this time of the year, when so many have so little. It doesn't take much to give to someone else. I live in a community hit hard by economic events, and what I love the most about this community is its ability to pull together when times are tough. Even those who have little, give to those who have less.
I, who have much, gave so little. I gave a lonely, frightened stranger with tired, frozen feet my old, broken-down shoes, and in that instant it was I who was changed.
I never knew I could feel so proud of my shoes. I never knew it would break my heart.
Prayer: Loving God, thank you for the gifts you have given us. Help us to see you in situations where we don't normally look for you. Give us the ability to love others as you have loved us. Help us to treat others with compassion, tenderness, respect and love. Allow our hearts to be broken for someone else. Give us the strength to make a difference, and the openness to be changed through our interactions with others. Thank you for helping us share the joy, the love, and the deep, abiding hope of Christ this Christmas season. Amen.