“And the King will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’” –Matthew 25:40
As a licensed clinical social worker in private practice, a wife, and a mom of three young children, life can be very busy. Add to that the idea that Christians are supposed to be preach the Gospel, serve God in small and big ways, and give sacrificially as Christ has given, then the ideals of Christian living can be pretty elusive. It was elusive that day in early January, when I was on my way to pick up my son from a play date at his friend’s house. That’s when I saw a homeless man holding a sign at the busy intersection of a freeway. I made quick eye contact and gave him a tentative smile, but did not want to make a long connection for fear that he might think that I had some money to offer him. I glanced down to my right at the passenger seat looking to see if I had any food to offer. Instead, I saw an envelope full of coupons, one of which I was going to use for a planned dinner outing that evening with my husband and son. The thought ran through my mind that I could invite this man to join us for dinner at a restaurant later that night, and I knew that my husband would approve because his big kind heart had done so many times before. For a few seconds, I debated if I had time to roll down my window and talk with the stranger. I hesitated, and decided that there was not enough time to make the proposition in the middle of the busy intersection. Immediately, I regretted not acting more decisively, so after picking up my son, I returned to the same location.
Surely, it would please God to share some food with this downtrodden soul? Yes, I am busy, have many responsibilities, and our family is on a budget, but this is an opportunity to connect and I was not in any particular rush that evening. Surely, one does not need to be a licensed helping professional to break bread with someone, as Jesus did so many times with “the least of these”, get to know someone, and in some small way, lend a helping hand. The thoughts ran through my mind–we do not need a church missions project to serve. We do not need to sign up for some big volunteer program. Social work skills of connecting, relating, and helping in a non-oppressive, non-judgmental way can certainly be helpful, but maybe God wants us to put these skills into practice in our own personal lives, too, without compensation? Yet twenty minutes later, when my son and I returned to the intersection prepared to take up the call of duty, the thin, disheveled looking man, cladded in a thick brown coat was no longer there. How many times have I passed a homeless person on the streets without stopping or giving? And here I was, ready and willing, but the opportunity to “meet God” eluded me. Perhaps God wants us to serve on His terms, and not on ours? Or perhaps I was truly not ready.
Kim P. is a wife, mother of three, licensed clinical social worker since 2003, and private practice therapist since 2009. She has been a member of NACSW since 2010. Please go to Kim’s website for more information about her practice.