"Never get tired of doing little things for others. Sometimes, those little things occupy the biggest part of their hearts."
Unknown

"The best way to find yourself, is to lose yourself in the service of others."
Mahatma Gandhi

"I’ve seen and met angels wearing the disguise of ordinary people living ordinary lives."
Tracy Chapman

"It is the greatest of all mistakes to do nothing because you can only do little – do what you can."
Sydney Smith

"Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth."
Muhammad Ali

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Dear Reader

Today I wish to share with you a short piece that I’ve written years ago – perhaps in 2011. When I re-read it again recently, I realized that if I had to write it again today, I would probably not change much. So, let me share that with you, for what it might be worth. Here goes then...

A while ago I read a story about an old lady - be it real or a parable - that struck a chord in me. Parts of this story are as I remember it; parts are as I wish to recall it. In any case, the story roughly goes like this:

An old lady was walking the streets of a city during daytime to beg for money and food to stay alive for another day since she was without family or anyone else who cared enough to take her in and look after her wellbeing. She was lucky to have a home to go to at night, though. Close to the end of one of these long days of survival, the old lady was unexpectedly handed a fresh loaf of bread by a kind passerby. She thanked God for His mercy and was about to return home to sit down for a meal when a homeless man walked up to her and asked her give him the bread since he was hungry and without shelter. Without a word, the old lady handed him the bread and he took off. A little while later the man returned with the loaf of bread, uneaten, and gave it back to her. "Take this back," he said. "Since I left you, I have decided I don`t need the bread any longer." "Why so?" she asked. "Because there is something else I want from you," he responded. "And what can that be," she asked in bewilderment. "I'd rather want you to hand me a piece of what you have inside you which moved you to give me the bread," he said.

Apart from the obvious moral lesson in this story, I was also thinking the following:

God sometimes provides us with our daily bread not for us to eat and be satisfied ourselves, but in order for us to have something to give to someone else who are hungry. God sometimes provides us with our daily bread as a temporary loan and demands it back to test and strenghten our willingness and ability to have empathy and compassion on those who have not received their daily bread.
Bread, mercy, forgiveness, a kind word, a gentle touch, an understanding remark, an encouraging nod, a warm hug, a sincere smile of approval, a gesture devoid of selfish reasons... All are bread from the soul. Not money from a purse.

Aren`t we all beggars at times in our own lives? When we beg for all of the above and more. And at the right time and in the right place most of us do receive without merit. Question is - what we are willing to do when we receive. What is our response? Do we share from a heart laced with thankful gratitude for what we received, or do we cling to our God given sustenance with selfish possessiveness?

Sometimes life forces us into the shoes of the beggar so that we can learn to give away that which we have received by the grace of God alone. And sometimes life makes us the homeless man who is blinded at first by a selfish interest in survival and ready to grab from whoever we can. But hopefully the homeless man in all of us do receive the grace of God most of the time to reflect and to become wise and to learn that life's real “bread and shelter” is to be found far beyond the satisfaction of our immediate selfish needs, notwithstanding the harsh reality of our own needs. It is to be found in our willingness to want to acquire a piece of that something which will move us to part with a loaf of bread from our soul - bread that will provide a meal to someone else who is in need and happened to cross our path in life. Someone once wrote these wonderfully true words:

Happy moments: Praise God
Difficult moments: Seek God
Quiet moments: Worship God
Painful moments: Trust God
Every moment: Thank God

Dear Reader, I wish to conclude today’s post with a poem that I’ve written two or three years ago. It was inspired by an old beggar who usually sat near one of the coffee shops that I frequented. In other words, it is based on a true story to a large extent, if you wish. Reading it again now after a long time, I do believe that if I were to re-write this poem today, I would probably not change much – as is the case with the piece above. I believe we should always be mindful of the beggars that do show up at at our doorstep from time to time – and also the “beggar” that lives inside our very own Soul. We should care of both. For such is Life, I guess - such it is to be human…

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The old beggar on the sidewalk of my life

On a cold and wintry Sunday afternoon
I walked past the old beggar sitting cross-legged on the sidewalk
His head bowed in submissive humility
Covered in a battered woolen cap to protect against the winter freeze
Eyes downcast, holding a small tin can to collect alms from passersby
And I stopped
And I turned around and looked at him more closely
And he slowly lifted his head and stared back at me

And I saw his blue eyes
And memories of yesteryear flooded my mind
And recognition dawned on me then
And I saw myself mirrored in those wounded eyes
And I remembered the harsh realities of my life
When it was me
Who was the beggar on the sidewalk of my own life...

When I was the one who begged for mercy and forgiveness 
Pleading for undeserved care and kindness
Holding out a trembling hand in the bitter cold of a loveless life
Praying fervently to God in humble surrender
Praying to be released from the prison of addictive hell
Asking without any real expectation
To be accepted as a mortal and fallible human being with the glimmer of a Soul
Hoping against all odds to be treated with respect someday again
Yearning in anguish to recover a morsel of lost dignity
Longing to bask again in the warm glow of a place called Home
Screaming to the heavens in helpless agitation
Feeling the pain and licking the wounds inflicted by loveless indifference
Begging
Again
And again...

And as I looked intently at the old beggar on the sidewalk
I suddenly realized with absolute clarity
That so very often 
It was me who was the passerby
It was me who did not hear the begging for mercy and forgiveness 
It was me who did not heed the pleading for care and kindness
It was me who did not see the broken body
It was me who did not care about the prayers
It was me who did the rejection
It was me who crushed the hope
It was me who denied the yearning for dignity
It was me who nullified the longing for a Home
It was me who muffled the screams for help
It was me who inflicted the pain and the wounds
It was me who walked past the begging Souls on the sidewalk of my life...

And the old man on the sidewalk started to smile
A knowing smile
A kind smile
A smile of acceptance
A smile of love
And he carefully mouthed the words with chapped lips
And I understood when he said
"You are forgiven son…" 
"Go now,” he said 
“But never, ever forget…"

And then the warmth of a soothing peace enfolded my Soul
And I realized then that I was gracefully given a sacred moment in time
A moment in time to look into the very Eyes
Of an all-seeing 
and all-loving 
and ever-forgiving God

That day when I encountered
the old beggar
on the sidewalk of my life..

 

Published by Lukie Pieterse