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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Other Ebenezer

The Cafe welcomes Beth Pittman back!

"I wish to be left alone," said Scrooge. "Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. I don't make merry myself at Christmas and I can't afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned -- they cost enough; and those who are badly off must go there."

"Many can't go there; and many would rather die."

"If they would rather die," said Scrooge, "they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.” (Excerpt from “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens)

I wish I could tell you that I did some great service this past Saturday. I wish I could tell you that I felt proud of myself or that I had made a difference in someone’s life. I’m afraid that I can’t. Let me start at the beginning.

This past Saturday, Steve & I had a little Christmas shopping to do and before we got started, we went to one of our favorite places for lunch. We left with our stomachs full, ready for our afternoon of shopping. On the corner as we turned out of the parking lot, there was a woman sitting there underneath the stop sign holding her own sign which read, “Homeless. God bless.” Steve and I pulled up to the stop sign, looked at her and then looked at each other. It was cold outside and we felt sorry for this woman who had to resort for whatever reason to holding a sign. We decided to pull back around to ask her if she needed some food. We parked and Steve went over to where she was. When he asked her if she wanted some food, she immediately jumped up. Upon seeing this, I got out of the car and walked towards them. I don’t know how old this woman was but I’m sure she looked much older than she actually was. She had on a toboggan, old gloves, a beat up book bag tossed on her back and an old coat. Her wrinkled face looked both sun & wind burnt. She had several teeth missing and her hair, sticking out from beneath the toboggan, hadn’t been combed in days, if not weeks. We walked with her into the fast food restaurant where we had parked and went with her up to the counter to order her food. We told her to get anything she wanted. She ordered a baked potato, chili and a senior coffee. Steve paid the bill for her and took her tray to her table while I collected her plastic ware and napkins. Wasn’t that so wonderful of us?

Well, before you start patting me on the back, let me tell you the rest of the story. When we walked into the restaurant, I noticed several stares from those inside. The server at the cash register looked at the woman and then looked at us with a look of disgust. I stepped away from the woman – you know, just to put a little distance between me & her. I mean, people were staring for heaven’s sake and I didn’t really want them to associate me with this woman. To make matters worse, we had only been inside a few minutes, when I noticed a “barn” odor. I was standing over to the side but behind the woman and I looked down at her jeans. They were soaked with urine. I took another couple steps away. People continued to stare. I looked at them and smiled but inside I was wondering why we had stopped to offer our assistance in the first place. I couldn’t get her to a table, hand her the plastic ware and napkins and say “God bless you” fast enough. Then, Steve & I both were out of there - back to our world of comfort and joy.

Neither of us spoke about it the rest of the afternoon, but later God really convicted both of us about our treatment of this woman. Yes, I was willing to give her my money for food, but here are the things I wasn’t willing to do. I wasn’t willing to engage in conversation with her. I wasn’t willing to sit and be a friend to her. I wasn’t willing to spend my precious time with her. I wasn’t willing to have other people staring at me and whispering because of her and have them wondering why “those people” would bring someone like that into a restaurant. I wasn’t willing to tell her how much Jesus loves her. Oh, yes, I gave her food, but to tell you the truth, I might as well have been Ebenezer Scrooge because on that day there wasn’t any difference between his heart and mine. When will I learn that but by God’s grace, there goes me???

And by the way, you notice I keep referring to “this woman”? I wasn’t even willing to care enough to get her name.

Dear God, Forgive me for only giving this precious woman temporal items of comfort. Forgive me for not giving of my time, myself and most of all, for not giving her the hope she can find in you. During this Christmas season and always, help me to start seeing people as you do. You wouldn’t have been reluctant or embarrassed to engage with this woman. You would have loved her despite the way she looked or smelled and you know that I didn’t. Forgive me. And Lord, please be with her wherever she is today. Send someone to her who can do the job right. Amen.

Matthew 25:35-40 (New Living Translation)

“For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!”

Beth is a wife and mother of 3 grown children and has been married for 30 years to the same wonderful man. She has worked with the federal courts for over 24 years and is five years away from retirement. She was raised in a Christian home with loving Christian parents, but it wasn’t until she was 32 that she really understood that Jesus loved and died for her and what that meant for her individually. Her life has never been the same since. She LOVES the Christmas season and dreams of one day writing a Christmas novel. She would love to have you visit her at her blog “Lifeboat Moments” at

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Blogger Denise said...

May you be sweetly blessed.

December 10, 2008 at 12:47 PM  
Blogger Marita said...

Oh, Wow. Thank-you for your candid honesty. It speaks volumes to many of us, I am sure. I'm not sure I would have even stopped. Forgive me, Lord.

December 10, 2008 at 1:09 PM  
Blogger Angie said...

Beth ---I loved this. I spoke LOUD and clear. SO many times we see these among us. There is an area at our Interstate at the Wal-Mart turn where certain 2 men stand---with a sign. Sometimes they have various parts of their body in a bandage or sling---but it's the same two. For weeks in the summer they did that. We found out it was their "job". The way they chose to make money. Someone my husband knows stopped one day to offer them a short job (since the sign they held said --"will work for food")--the job wouldn't take long, but it would give them something to do and pay them as well. Unfortunately, the men weren't really after a job. They wanted money. They turned the offer of a job down---hoping to get $$. I think instances like this taints the view of those really in true need. You are right we are to minister to those in need...I pray for wisdom to see the truth and know His voice.

I am like Marita---I'm not sure I would have stopped either. I would have missed out on blessing someone.

BTW----He does give do-overs. We just have to watch for them. I am so GLAD He offered me a do-over with something once.

Your post today really blessed my heart.

December 10, 2008 at 2:16 PM  
Blogger Jennifer Dukes Lee said...

Wow. I'm feeling both speechless and convicted. I will be sharing this devotion with some friends today, as we've been discussing this very sort of issue. God bless you, dear one!

December 10, 2008 at 3:41 PM  
Blogger Buffy said...

How wise you are. Giving money is the easiest thing in the world compared to giving time, or risking our reputation, or suffering discomfort or embarrassment.

December 15, 2008 at 6:30 AM  

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It is good to hear from you... thank you so very much for leaving a note on the table. That makes us smile!

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