Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to Me.
I meet Jerry for lunch on Friday, bring him buttermilk fried chicken, roasted lemon asparagus, a watermelon salad with feta and mint, triple fudge brownies with unsweetened cream and a sprinkle of lavender, a jar of fresh rhubarb jam for him to take home.
He's working as a lawyer this summer, at least that's how I've chosen to understand his internship, and my instinct, as if often the case, is to make sure that in the in-between of all his busy that he's being fed. In every way.
It's a carefully planned meal: an hour spent dreaming up the combinations, the hour to the market, the half-hour spent the evening before in prep, the handful of hours finishing that morning. This is my offering to him, this chance to give tangible grace. I love through giving, when and how I can.
We sit outside of a Starbucks, tins of beautiful food on display, the people who pass watch us eat. We talk about work, about girls, about entitlement. I click away with my Nikon, excited to at last be like all the shiny, happy people with blogs who take beautiful photos.
I catch a glimpse of a man, out of the corner of my eye, as he lingers his gaze on our food.
I ready myself on old habit, because you never know who is hungry, who is beggar, who is homeless. Clothes don't tell you much these days and who's to say how and when we entertain angels unaware? The man approaches the table and lingers still. I ready to offer up my plate.
"Looks good," he remarks, "Where'd you get it?"
"I made it," I say simply, hand moving forward, about to lift the plate of chicken to offer some to him.
"You're a damn good cook."
He walks away.
An hour later.
I sit at the intersection for the highway. I know this street corner, I know the old man who leans against the lamppost with a sign that says God bless and who won't take anything you offer him unless it's cash. No gift cards to restaurants, not the paper sack of food I always try to keep in my car.
But there is no man today. There is a boy, burnt faced, perhaps twelve, holding a simple sign: 25¢. I can't recall the last time I saw a cent sign. I have no money but a debit card. I have no food but scraps and juices from lunch I was going to throw away. My paper bag of food had already been given the day before.
Where is the old man? What's happened to him?
I'm reminded of a passage in Lauren Winner's Still. She writes about a friend who always offers people who come to her door a cup of coffee, a place at her table, because she's never certain that they are not Jesus, come for a visit.
"Are you Jesus?" I whisper against the window glass, with my iPhone, and Nikon, and scraps---nothing to give. An hour before, my careful meal, what I thought was grace, and here a child might starve. Here, Jesus might starve.
What's to be done in this world, when there is good in making friends delicious meals but there is the hungry still on our streets?
And who am I, trying to raise money for a book, making such a meal? There's no sense in it, I suppose.
Or was it Jerry who was Jesus? Was the food I offered him, was this done unto the least of these in my own life in a moment of grace? Or was it the old man, was he Jesus, looking for food?
The boy has no shoes. On another corner, I see two others, older, and I realize that they are in this, this whatever this is, together. This haphazard trinity have a community among them. They have a sense of togetherness.
I have no quarter. I have no cash. I have scraps, which would be an offense instead of a gift. I have things, but they were things gifted to me, not bought by my own hand, and I cannot simply give them away.
Do I have nothing to give? Nothing to give this one that might be Christ?
I see from my rearview mirror the car behind me rolls down a window, sticks a hand out, and the boy approaches. Something---a quarter, perhaps more?---is placed into his hand. He says nothing. He walks away.
The light turns green.
I'm thinking about the guilt offering in the Old Testament, the offering given on behalf of offenses committed but not realized. Offenses that were consequence of a fallen world, not personal awareness.
I'm thinking about the car behind me, that whatever was put into that boy's hand, a guilt offering had been made for all the times I've passed by my Lord and not stopped to asked, "Are you Jesus?"
I had given that day what I had to the one I had been given charge to care for, to the best of what I had to offer. My scraps and I could go on, because when I had nothing to given when perhaps I should have, someone else was able to give instead.
And perhaps, someday, without knowing it, I shall do the same for them.
All is grace.
And this, friends, is simply a bit of imperfect prose.