Unto the Least of These

[Cross-posted from Deliberate Discipleship] My dad was born in 1920 – during a time when people didn’t lock their doors and it was safe to stop and help a stranger. He also was given such a good heart that he always wanted to help those in need. He would frequently stop for the hitchhiker, help those stranded on the side of the road and pray for those he couldn’t help.

Today is a different world. It isn’t safe to stop for hitchhikers any more. I worry about the safety of my family and myself if I were to stop. Most people these days have cell phones, so is there really a need to stop and help someone who is stranded with a disabled car? Could I even help with my lack of automobile knowledge?

There are many times I see people on the street corners that need help. They are homeless, hungry or in need of work. My heart aches for them but I think, “What can I do?” or “Do they really need help or are they looking for drug money?” More often than not, I drive by in my air-conditioned car, thinking about them until the next stoplight, heading to my comfortable home.

A few years ago, while still living in the Arizona desert, I saw something that I will never forget. Heavenly Father had a lesson for me that day. I was driving past an intersection on a typical Arizona summer day; 100+ degrees. On this corner was a man dressed as though he was prepared for the world’s worst blizzard. He wore a scarf, hat, several layers of heavy clothing followed by an open coat. His bearded face was barely poking through the layers of clothing. It was obvious, from the appearance of both the clothes and the man, that neither had been washed in some time. In fact, it took some effort to differentiate the man from the clothes, as they were both so dirty. He had sunken down, half laying, half sitting, to the cement, leaning against the stoplight post. He is what I imagine the Savior meant when he said “the least of these”.

Next to this poor man was another man, maybe in his 20’s, although I didn’t see his face. One arm was around the fallen man and, with his other arm, he held a yellow Gatorade to the man’s mouth. I could tell by how the younger man leaned in to help, that he wasn’t worried about smell, filth or safety. He was worried about a fellow human. I felt as though I had seen the story of the Good Samaritan play out right before me. I have seen the painting, one man leaning over another to help, but this was a real life version of it. I wondered how I could get to that point in my life where I would not worry about what is unpleasant for me and worry more about what my fellowman needs.

A good and righteous king in the Book of Mormon, King Benjamin, taught that we are all beggars before our God. We all stand in need of succor – of rescue – at some point. (Mosiah 4:16-19, 22, 26) So, who are we to judge the needs of others? Similarly, we are taught by the Savior, Himself, in Matthew 25:35-40 that when we serve “the least” of humankind, we are, in fact, serving Him. It is as if we had done the kind act for Jesus Christ.

 We are all given opportunities to reach out to those around us in need. And, there is always SOMETHING we can do. Every day we wake up is a blessing, an opportunity to bless someone else. The Lord has tried hard to teach me this lesson. I have come to the conclusion that if He is the one blessing me then who am I to refuse help to others? Who am I to withhold what I can share from them? Of course, I don’t think the Lord expects me to compromise the safety of my family or myself. But how difficult would it be to stock up on bus passes, Wal-mart gift cards, or even Gatorade. These are things I can do… these are things that “the least of these” need.

I know that all that I have, the Lord has given me. It does not belong to me, but to Him. It is my sacred duty to share with those around me. Who am I to turn them away?

 


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About Kathy P.

Kathy is a mother to five beautiful children. She is married to her highschool sweetheart and living in beautiful Colorado. Kathy graduated with a BS in Family Sciences from Brigham Young University. In her free time, Kathy loves to write, sew and dabble in photography. Kathy can also be found blogging at www.DeliberateDiscipleship.com.

11 thoughts on “Unto the Least of These

  1. This is why we have the guidance of the Holy Ghost. As women it is often easier to be guided by societal expectations or feelings of compassion. The story of what happened to Elizabeth Smart whose father extended a helping hand to someone who seem to need employment stands as a warning. After her abduction her father was criticized for bringing a dangerous stranger into their home.
    On numerous occasions I have had the opportunity to help and was grateful I could do so but when I see an apparently needy person I pray about what I should do. Sometimes I am prompted to stop and help and at other times I am warned to ignore the situation.
    The piece of cardboard with a scrawled message in black crayon or marker is an almost certain indication that the person carrying it is in the begging game. They want cash and will discard food or comfort items that are donated. I’ve seen it happen.
    Depending on where you live, there are private institutions which have been set up by other concerned people to care for those in need. They can always use the help of volunteers and donations. Some so-called charities are worse than simple professional beggars since they pay their executives six-figure incomes and prey upon the compassionate to become wealthy.
    It is easy enough to separate the sheep from the wolves by doing research on the Internet. Fortunately, through its humanitarian services and the fast offering, the Church gives us the opportunity to spend whatever we have for charity in a way that preserves the dignity of those in need while avoiding the excessive overhead of many charities.
    Most of us live in relatively urban areas where we have no knowledge of the people living near us. In a village people usually know who is truly needy.
    I had a friend who made it a center of her existence to solicit God for knowledge of who might need her help. One Christmas time she asked me if I could provide some gifts for a family in the ward who appeared well off but who were unemployed and desperate. She had undertaken to provide food and necessities but she felt a few small luxuries would help alleviate their need for something to ‘make their spirits bright’. Using more imagination than money, I was able to meet her request. The parents thanked me with tears in their eyes for making it possible for their children to open gifts on Christmas morning.
    A little more than a year ago I was near dying from severe anemia as an unknown tumor sapped my strength. At the end of a long journey from Utah I reached a subway station in New York City and realized I lacked the strength to pull my carry-on upstairs to the street. My cell phone was discharged. I prayed for strength but instead an angel appeared. She wore tattoos, wildly colored hair, a vulgar dress and smelled of cheap perfume. She lifted my carry-on, gently took my arm and helped me up the stairs to the street.

  2. I am blessed to live in an area with a robust set of charities to assist those in need. Because of the problems Pat addresses regarding professional panhandlers, we are advised to help people get connected with the legitimate aid organizations.

    I work in an area that used to be blighted, with murder being a not-infrequent occurrence. The road from the metro stop to the work site was frequented by various beggars. One day three of us were talking, and the matter of dealing with the panhandlers came up.

    The first man said you just need to not look them in the eye, and recommended a route to further minimize the possibility that there would even be that level of contact.

    I said that I enjoyed talking with the folks, but that I simply had gotten into the habit of never carrying anything of value years earlier because of another situation.

    The third man spoke up and explained how each weekend his family goes through their pantry. Anything they decide they didn’t actually want after all he would stash in his bag. When approached, he would offer the food he carried with him for that express purpose. I admired this approach, though I suspect he soon got a reputation as the man who carried canned goods, which probably resulted in folks avoiding him.

    In time the community developers hired individuals who greet those near the metro, friendly folks who can make sure those traveling to and from that venue are not harassed. If someone is in need, these friendly individuals are able to get them the proper help.

    Closer to home, our congregation has been proactive at finding opportunities to help those in need, such as traveling up to New York to help clean up after Hurricane Sandy, providing meals to the hypothermia shelter, leading up food collection for the local food pantry for Day to Serve, and collecting blankets for Syrian refugees. Every Sunday there’s a bin by the bishop’s office, where those who wish can bring items for the Food Pantry, and there are opportunities to sign up to provide rides, collect and deliver furniture, and take meals to the needy in the local community of all faiths (or non-faiths), as well as sponsoring needy families for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

    Living where I live, it is therefore super easy to help those in need and feel confident that the help is getting to people who need it. If one doesn’t live in such a blessed area, it seems useful to ask God which course of action would be of most use to those around you. I opine that the Christians in my area who created the charity that runs the food pantry, child care center, adult care, furniture donation, etc. have done a greater good than had they merely donated money to the needy who happened across their path.

  3. I appreciate this article and I think it’s always good to remind each other to have a predisposition towards helping those in need. That doesn’t mean every request is truly in need.

    There are numerous stories of “I just need a few dollars for gas after we just ran out at this exit” I’ve personally heard. Often it’s when you pull into a hotel. I’ve probably been approached near car at a dozen hotels across the country with a variation of this story. When I lived near a big city a few years back, near one of the airport freeway exit/traffic lights there was almost always a car parked there with a person asking for a few dollars to help them buy gas since they just ran out. These frequent experienced unfortunately tend to sour our responses.

    However… The truth I have learned about these situations is there is rarely something we can do to turn around the beggar’s life, but often what we do is a reflection of what we love most. Do we love our money or do we love the Lord. When the Lord gave his life for us, didn’t it also include the lying beggar who would abuse any kind act of charity by us or the Lord?

    That does not mean there is a prerequisite to give money to every beggar, but it does suggest we should stop to consider the individual, and not so easily dismiss them out of hand.

  4. The last time I helped a panhandler, she turned out to be a prostitute on the run from her pimp. It’s possible I was putting myself and my family in danger.

    Does that mean I shouldn’t have helped? Dunno.

    Would I do it again? Dunno.

  5. “My dad was born in 1920…”

    I’m glad to see more mature people on LSD blogs. That probably makes you older than Rameumptom.

  6. Thank you all for your comments. You have each brought up some valid points. Choosing if and when to help someone – anyone – in need has to be a personal decision, hopefully with God helping an individual make that decision. That said, the Good Lord has already provided us with a pretty good formula of when we should help and what our thoughts about helping should be. I cited that above in Mosiah chapter 4. Thank you again for your insights. Everyone brings their own unique perspective and it facinates me.

    As for Bookslinger’s comment, I am not sure what you consider mature but I am afraid I might disappoint. I was number 13 of 14 in a yours, mine & ours family. By the time my parents had me in 1972, my dad was over 50. My parents were always the same age as my friends grandparents and my older half siblings the age of my friend’s parents. Now, if you’re 18, then I, at 43, probably do qualify as mature. 🙂

  7. Bookslinger:

    “My dad was born in 1920…”

    Kathy is mature in terms of her understanding of the gospel, but very much young at heart. I’ve known Kathy since high school and I will always remember her as that 17-year old who loved to share the gospel with others.

  8. Geoff,

    LDS / LSD… do enough of either one and you see God.

    Kathy,

    you’re a spring chicken then.

    Do you know why women should stop having children by 29?
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    Because 30 is just too many.

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