“Bartimaeus… a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.”” – Mark 10:46-49
It was the first snow of the season. The wind was blowing snow so hard that it sounded like pieces of glass hitting the windshield. Cars crept along the street, drawing faint lines of tires in the white road.
In the front seat of my family’s pick-up truck was my father, my brother, and myself. Given this snow storm, we were all glad to be just a few blocks from home. We pulled into a gas station and there we saw her, a woman waiting for the bus. Even as a child I could tell she was caught off guard by the weather; no hat, no gloves, no boots, and a jean jacket. She walked from the bus stop to the gas station. She stopped at one car, then another, and another, and another. She approached the truck and spoke to my father through the window. “Sir,” she said, “could you give me a lift to the Dunkin Donuts? I need to make it to work today.”
Did I mention my father hated driving in the snow, and he was just saying he could not wait to arrive home and start a fire? So, it took me by surprise when he said, “Sure, get in.” So now in the front seat of the truck was my father, my brother, me and this stranger. I thought my father was crazy, picking up the hitchhiker. Who picks up hitchhikers? Not my family!
Now the Dunkin Donuts was not around the corner. On an ordinary day it would take about fifteen minutes, but on this snowy day it took twice as long, and in the car there was some awkward conversation. When we arrived, the lady said, “Now you wait right here.” Shortly she returned and handed my father through the truck window a dozen donuts and a cup of coffee, saying, “Thank you so much for stopping for me. I really appreciate it.”
With a smile he replied, “No problem at all,” and lifting his cup of coffee he added, “and thank you.”
Slip sliding our way home, we all snacked on the donuts. My brother and I asked him, “Dad, why did you give a stranger a ride? You know you are not supposed to do that! Wait until we tell Grandma and Mom!”
With a matter-of-fact tone, my father taught his children an important lesson.
“Sometimes you need to stop what you are doing, because someone needs you,” he said.
In this Thanksgiving and upcoming Advent Season, here are a few ideas of how your church can stop and be mindful to the needs around them.
- Consider a pop-up coffee or hot chocolate stand at the local train station, bus stop or motel and be present with the community.
- Engage in a mission or special offering that extends the work of Christ and the church into the community and world.
- Assemble child-friendly welcome bags of goodies to distribute during worship to families’ visiting with younger children.
- Offer a cookie baking event to extend the cheer to those serving as first responders, or in our hospitals or nursing homes.
- With clergy leaders, create an ecumenical Longest Night Service/Service of Hope designed to reach those who are searching for the comfort and peace of the season.
- Serve at a food pantry or soup kitchen and listen deeply to the stories of volunteers and clients.
In this season, may we stop and offer a blessing and a sign of God’s mercy. In the process, may we know that in blessing another, we are blessed; in showing mercy, we receive mercy; in welcoming the stranger, we are welcoming Christ.