Live your faith
I would like to share this story with you:
The old man comes shuffling down the road, all hunched over, his crumpled hat clutched tightly in his hand. His face is wrinkled deeply, his eyes a faded blue. His clothes hang like bags on his thin frame, his shoes have seen better days. Three strands of dirty hair snake over his sunburnt forehead.
“Son! Son!” he calls after me.
After one glimpse I look the other way. Just another homeless person, just another beggar.
“Son! Son!” he calls again.
I turn my back on him and unlock my car.
“Son, Son! Wait, I want to talk to you.” His voice is hoarse.
“Must be all the alcohol,” I think, as I get into the car and lock the doors.
He stumbles off the sidewalk, and shuffles closer, hunched over, old and neglected. I switch on the car, put it into reverse and leave him behind, all alone.
The thoughts run through my mind: “Get a job. Do what I do, you’ll earn some money, and then you can drink until you fall down.” I switch to first gear, step om the petrol, and leave him in a cloud of dust. In the rear-view mirror I see him gesticulating, hands in the air.
“Yes, yours too,” I say out loud. “This is just what your sort is like – if you don’t get what you want, it’s my fault.”
At home, I describe the blustering beggar I saw to my wife.
Her caring side kicks in immediately: “Where will the poor man sleep tonight? It looks like rain.”
“Don’t worry about him; his kind always makes a plan. As long as he has a papsak and a blanket, he will be all right, drowning whatever comes. He should’ve been a car guard; that would’ve given him more money for drink.”
“John, you’re a hard man. What does his drinking matter? He is a human being, just like you,” scolds my wife.
“What, a man like me? If he was a man, he would’ve found a way to earn some money for his addiction. Now he wants to beg money from me. I work hard for my money, very hard … No! Let’s forget about this; I wish I’d never told you about him.”
Silently my wife walks back to the kitchen, while I go and sit outside on the stoep, a cold beer in my hand.
“Should’ve kept quiet,” I mumble.
My dog lies down underneath my chair and I sneak him a piece of biltong. Gratefully, he licks my hand.
Suddenly my wife appears at the door.
“I’ve packed some food for the man; we’re taking it to him right now. And that old blanket of one of the children, let’s take that too.”
I know that that tone of voice – she will not take no for an answer.
“Are you mad? He will be long gone. Let’s go eat, I’m hungry,” I try to divert her.
“Joooohn … if you don’t drive … I will,” she insists.
I know it won’t help to refuse. If I want to survive until tomorrow, I’d better get in the car. I get up and grab the car keys. Snidely, I say to her: “Well, let’s go. If you want to feed him, do it yourself.” We drive in silence, the only sound the sound of the tires on the road. She’s holding tightly onto the package on her lap. I come to a stop in the same place in front of the cooperation. In the glare of the car lights, I see him sitting on the sidewalk, his head on his knees, his hands hanging down beside him.
“What did I tell you? Drunk already.”
My wife ignores me and gets out of the car. She touches the old man’s shoulder. Slowly he looks up. Tears are streaming down his face.
“Crying from drinking too much,” I think.
“Sir, I brought you something to eat,” she says softly and takes his hands in hers.
The old man’s body starts shaking. The tears are running down his face, flooding the deep wrinkles. “Girlie, it’s not for me. My wife is at home. She fell in the bath and can’t get up. Our phone has been broken for two weeks already. I’ve got asthma, I can’t anymore. I tried to stop someone, but he drove away as fast as he could. All I could do was to start praying. And now God has sent me an angel. Please, please go and help my wife … please go and help her.”
I have a lump in my throat, tears are threatening; the sadness is deep and sharp. My feelings are broken, my spirit rebelling. Where and when will we ever realise that: “I’m my brother’s keeper”? Where and when will we realise that respect and kindness cost nothing?
9I’m sure that won’t happen to you, friends. I have better things in mind for you—salvation things! Let’s go and do what John’s wife did.
Can people see you are saved?
Do you live your faith?
What must you do differently?
Lord, I often do what John did. Really! And I don’t want to. Please help me! Amen.