An Experience of Bobbie Pidot-Guffey
As I hastened toward the supermarket I noticed an elderly man pushing a shopping cart with one hand, while clutching the waistband of his over-sized trousers with the other hand. His trouser cuffs were deftly rolled so he wouldn't trip over them. A belt or safety pin to secure his pants was the least of his concerns.
His homeless-ness was evident by the partially filled garbage bag in the cart.......a portable storage unit for his meager belongings.
We simultaneously passed the trash bin. I accelerated my pace, assuming he wanted to scan the bin for items to recycle. His downcast eyes avoided mine. There was something about his quiet demeanor that reached out to me. I scolded myself for not greeting him with a smile or simple hello.
I was puzzled as he strolled past the trash bin and lingered by the newsstand instead. I felt a gnawing in my tummy as I fought a sudden urge to buy him lunch.
Our paths crossed again in the supermarket's meat department. I suspected he was in- dulging himself with recreational browsing. I, too, could relate to "dream-shopping" for things I knew were beyond my means. Once again I neglected to greet him.
I watched him exit the store while I paid for my items at the check-out counter. His cart was void of groceries.
A sense of "heaviness" enveloped me as I pushed my cartful of groceries out the store. I noticed him sitting on a bench with his head bowed and hands folded across his lap. Others hurried past him. No one acknowledged his presence.
My heart went out to him, but I sprinted in the opposite direction, convincing myself that someone else would be by to take care of him. The gnawing in my tummy progressed to my heart.
I toyed with my dinner that evening. I couldn't delete his image from my mind. I felt like a hypocrite as I remembered the words of my recently published commentary that challenged everyone to: "Choose to perform random acts of kindness. It would be a tragedy to choose otherwise."
Tony listened with amusement as I verbally chastised myself for refusing to assist the homeless stranger. Suddenly, I realized what triggered that gnawing anxiety. I had denied my intuitive feelings by refusing to listen to my hear(t). I followed the voice of my ego instead.
I recalled that someone else was denied at least three times, too. But that was 2,000 years ago! ''Have we learned ANYthing?'' I asked outloud.
''No...........let's rephrase your question. What have YOU learned from YOUR experience today?'' Tony inquired.
I pondered quietly for the rest of the evening, forgiving myself but not forgetting that I would choose differently the next time. I willed for another opportunity.
Six days later that opportunity presented itself. I was driving through the supermarket parking lot and stopped at a crosswalk. Lo and behold! My elderly orphan suddenly appeared, still pushing his shopping cart with one hand and grasping his over-sized trousers with the other hand.
''I'll give him all the $1 bills I have,'' I thought. Only minutes earlier I had received four singles from the cashier at the grocery store. I tucked them in my wallet beside the other bills and coins.
I quickly parked the car while not losing sight of him. I opened my wallet and to my dismay.........no $1 bills OR coins. Only a $20 bill. How did it get there? I had LESS than $20 when I left the store! I was only yards away from the drugstore and thought of running in to get change but didn't want to risk the probability of not seeing him again.
I chased after him and softly tapped him on the shoulder. He turned with his head humbly bowed. I smiled as I placed the $20 in his calloused hand and said a heartfelt: ''God bless you.'' I was not prepared for what transpired next.
He lifted his head, smiled, and gazed into my eyes. His eyes were opaque white shields. No pupils! From the center of each eye beamed the purest blue light I had ever seen. I felt myself immersed in an over-all sense of well-being and a peace that passeth all understanding.
In a barely audible but oh, so gentle and caring voice he said: ''Thank you. God bless you, too.''
And then I remembered what was written centuries ago: "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 ill and you looked after me. I was in prison and you visited me. I tell you the truth, whatever you do for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you do for me."
I have never seen him again. The gift he presented me is priceless. He left his Light with me and placed it where my heart is. It shines on all who come into my presence and thoughts....... Joy to the world and goodwill toward all!
You, too, are now a reflection of his Light and our world is at least one spark brighter! May the Spirit of Christmas and All That Is Good be with you always and in All ways.