We never heard this homeless man beg or even ask for anything, but his poverty was clear. One day, my husband took the time to stop, give the man some food and learn his name was Charles. From then on whenever they crossed paths, my husband would leave Charles with a few leftover meals to fill his empty belly.Beyond a name, his story remained a mystery, but something about Charles touched our hearts.
ZEBULLON,NC (Catholic Online) - Long, stringy, unkept hair framed his down-turned face as he sat sleeping on the Walmart bench. His ragged, dirty clothes hung loosely so that his size was masked. A hand of fresh bananas laying beside him, someone had taken pity and left the small meal for his discovery whenever he awoke.
Sometimes he'd find refuge and a bit of charity in a local fast food joint or more often he could be found wandering the streets around town. A seemingly gentle soul, our family began to see him here and there on a fairly regular basis in our old hometown.
The local soup kitchen fed hungry residents and visitors throughout the week, but weekends saw their doors closed. At the time, my husband delivered food for a vending company and he often brought home stales (food that was still good, but passed the sell by date.)
We never heard this homeless man beg or even ask for anything, but his poverty was clear. One day, my husband took the time to stop, give the man some food and learn his name was Charles. From then on whenever they crossed paths, my husband would leave Charles with a few leftover meals to fill his empty belly.
Beyond a name, his story remained a mystery, but something about Charles touched our hearts.
I have to admit it wasn't an uncommon occurrence to have panhandlers knocking on our front door. Most times the story they told had been heard before. "My car ran out of gas around the block. My kids are inside. Can you give me money?" Cautiously, I learned to refuse the not infrequent requests.
And there was the time a glassy-eyed woman rang our bell during dinner. She was hungry and it was Saturday so the soup kitchen had no relief to dish out. Stirred by her polite plea, I filled a bag with food and placed it in her hands. She thanked me and descended my porch steps. I watched as she made her way down the block and then flung that bag full of food into someone's bushes and continued on her way.
Those kinds of dishonest cries are enough to cause us to tune out or turn away, but then we risk becoming like the rich man who failed to see Lazarus starving in his doorway. Sure, we need to enlist some level of caution because there can be real danger before us. But we can't excuse ourselves from helping altogether.
Christmas time rolled around and I happened to be shopping in a Catholic book store when Charles came to mind. While I had no way of knowing whether he believed in God or what, in any faith, he proclaimed, a little prayer book caught my attention. St. Joseph's pocket book of prayers seemed the perfect size for a man who spent much of his time on foot.
I bought that book, took it home and wrapped it in my best Christmas paper. Like a prayer, the details felt important as I folded each corner and turned over every edge before taping them together. It had to be beautiful.
Keeping that gift close at hand, we spied Charles walking somberly across an empty parking lot one evening at dusk. Rolling down the window, I called out his name to which he stopped and turned in my direction. Like a child excited to find presents under the tree, I rushed toward him and thrust that gift into his open hands.
Merry Christmas were the only words I uttered and then we parted ways. He headed for the tree line, me for our van, so I have no way of knowing where that gift ended up residing. Maybe it landed in a ditch like that bag of food or perhaps it rested often in the hands of Charles. Regardless it doesn't matter, I saw Christ in Charles and that gift was my attempt to be Christ to him. Beyond a meal to satisfy his physical hunger, I wanted him to feel cherished and important.
As a mother, I've purchased and distributed many gifts throughout the years. Each one represents a little offering of love, but no one ever meant so much as Charles'. In his poverty he had no way of repaying us. In fact we weren't even motivated by words of praise or thanks. Charles was simply like Lazarus in our doorway. We saw his need and his dignity and gave to him what we had out of love.
Tara K. E. Brelinsky is a home schooling mother of eight living children, with six more heavenly ones who intercede. Married to her childhood sweetheart, they make their home in North Carolina where they teach Natural Family Planning, grow a garden, raise two dogs, a cat, a fish, ducks, roosters and a flock of hens (in addition to all those wonderful kids). Tara studied journalism a lifetime ago in college, but now she writes simply for the the glory of God. You can read more of her musings and inspirations on her blog "Blessings In Brelinskyville" (www.http://brelinskyville.blogspot.com/).
By Atarah Haely (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
Archaeologists have discovered an ancient decorated mosaic floor of an ancient church, underneath its modern incarnation, during an excavation. The Christian mosaic is believed to be about 1,700-years-old and part of the old Byzantine church of the fourth century. ... continue reading
By Tony Magliano
While Pope Francis' new encyclical Laudato, Si' is enjoying wide publicity, few people are aware this year marks the 20th anniversary of another powerfully prophetic social justice and peace encyclical: Evangelium Vitae ("The Gospel of Life"). Trying to awaken the ... continue reading
By Linky C. (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
Former Auschwitz guard, Oscar Groening has asked for God's forgiveness after serving Austchwitz during his testimony in court, last Wednesday. The 94-year-old worked for Austchwitz when he was just 13 and later became the "Accountant of Auschwitz." MUNTINLUPA, ... continue reading
By Matt Hadro (CNA/EWTN News)
Looking forward to Pope Francis' September visit to the U.S., the nation's bishops were exuberant on Tuesday, as the itinerary for the apostolic voyage was released. Washington D.C. (CNA/EWTN News) - Fewer than three months before the scheduled visit, Archbishop ... continue reading
By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
Pope Francis' visit to both the United States and Cuba will be hectic. In addition to meeting with political officials in both countries, the Pontiff will meet with prisoners at the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility in Philadelphia and the homeless at the ... continue reading
By Deacon Keith Fournier
There are lessons that can only be learned under the broom tree. The lesson St Paul gave to the early Christians in Greece about the reality of being shipwrecked and experiencing daily struggles in life is critical in our age. God is searching for men and ... continue reading
By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
It is definitely going to happen -- but where and when has yet to be decided. The head of the Russian Orthodox Church and Pope Francis have agreed to meet in an attempt to repair the major rift between the Eastern and Western branches of Christianity. LOS ... continue reading
By CNA/EWTN News
The Pope focused on the virtue of faith during his Sunday Angelus address, saying the whole gospel is written in its light. VATICAN CITY (CNA/EWTN News) - "Faith is this: to touch Jesus and to draw from him the grace which saves," Pope Francis explained June 28 at ... continue reading
By CNA/EWTN News
During his Mass for the feast of Saints Peter and Paul on Monday, Pope Francis called on the Church's new archbishops to be courageous witnesses who are not ashamed of Christ, and who are convinced by what they themselves teach. VATICAN CITY (CNA/EWTN News) - ... continue reading
By CNA/EWTN News
Pope Francis formally approved on Saturday the decrees necessary for Blesseds Louis and Zelie Martin - known for being the parents of St. Therese of Lisieux - to be declared saints later this year. VATICAN CITY (CNA/EWTN News) - The two blesseds will be the first ... continue reading