Help Just One

“Let brotherly love continue.  Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” [Hebrews 13:1-2].

It wasn’t that long ago that American families, gathered for a bountiful Thanksgiving dinner, would leave an empty seat at the dinner table in order to be able to welcome and accommodate an unanticipated guest.  These days, the seat is often empty because a guest has abandoned his or her place at the table to head for the early Black Friday sales at the mall!

Thanksgiving is certainly a time to count our blessings and, with minimal reflection, the litany is extensive.  Should it not then also be a time to share our blessings from the abundant treasuries of our lives into which Almighty God has made significant deposits?

As we go about our daily lives, so hectic and overloaded, we need to make an intentional effort to rediscover the inestimable, spiritually therapeutic value of keeping the commandment to love our neighbors.  But when we consider things like ponderous social problems, world hunger, fighting disease, disaster recovery, etc, we’re tempted to think, “I’ve already got so much on my plate; how much of a difference can I really make?”

A common reason for procrastination is seeing a challenge before us as overwhelming and deciding we can do nothing meaningful to address it.  The reality is we all have the opportunities and ability to help create positive change in the lives of others by simply loving them.

Remember the now classic story of the young boy walking along a beach after a terrible storm had littered it with starfish.  He was observed throwing the starfish back into the water.  When a passerby told the boy that with tens of thousands of starfish on the beach, his efforts wouldn’t make much of a difference.  The boy knelt down, picked up yet another starfish, threw it as far as he could into the ocean and said: “It makes a difference to THAT one!”

Jesus Christ once spoke a sobering parable of a wealthy man who enjoyed sumptuous meals while a beggar named Lazarus sat at his doorstep, waiting for crumbs to fall from the rich man’s table (Luke 16:19ff.).  At his death, the rich man’s apathy and indifference toward the beggar landed him in Hades.  Listen to what the fourth century preacher, Saint John Chrysostom, had to say of Lazarus in his commentary on this parable: “Even if he is only one, he is a human being, for whom the heaven was stretched out, the sun appears, the moon changes, the air was poured out, the springs gush forth, the sea was spread out, the prophets were sent, the law was given—and why should I mention all these?—for whom the only-begotten Son of God became man.  My Master was slain and poured out His blood for this man.  Shall I despise him?  What pardon would I have?”

Whether a starfish on the beach, a beggar on the doorstep, or an unanticipated guest, may not only the feast of Thanksgiving, but thanksgiving as a condition of a grateful heart, move and inspire each of us to help just one.  This can begin to make a world of difference!