When I started working in House of Grace at the age of 25 as a resource developer I could not help but feel it was part of God’s super-plan to help me fulfill the most important commandment: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Ma 22:39); and it was easy! I enjoyed my long chats with prisoners in our rehabilitation program, volunteering with youth at risk gave me great satisfaction, and helping with the food packages for needy families made me realize how truthful is the verse ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’ (Acts 20:35).
Finally, I thought, I could grow spiritually, I can be the Good Samaritan, the carrier of light, a true Christian … and drunk with hubris, I was.
It was a regular day at the office, and I was busy with writing proposals and reports and answering phones when a man wearing almost nothing but a blanket entered the room. He seemed to be in his late fifties, with a glowing red face, lingering drunkenly around the office he finally arrived at my desk. With a heavy stutter he muttered something in a language I could not identify. Not only that I could not understand what he was trying to say, but I was also stunned by the obnoxious smell. I called Thomas, asked him to urgently come to the office and see what this man wanted. Apparently, the old man was homeless and sought help. Having no windows in the office, it was important for me to make it clear to Thomas that he should continue his attempts to converse with this man outside and make the necessary phone calls later. It seemed that Thomas did not really understand what I was saying, although he seemed to understand the old homeless man, and my agony continued for long minutes.
Two days later I arrived at the office and met a middle-aged man sitting in the waiting room. With a shy smile, he greeted me and kindly asked for my help to make a few phone calls. We exchanged a few sentences just before Thomas came and asked the gentleman to join him out. Sometime later Thomas came back and I could not resist asking about who that man was; “What you don’t recognize him? He’s the man you saw the other day,” Thomas answered, unable to hide his grin as if he knew his answer stunned me like an ice-water bucket dumped on my head.
The truth is, this experience, at the age of 25, had indefinitely changed my perspective on both life and faith. I have learned how circumstances do not change the essence of man, created in the image of God, but how ridiculously easy it is for us to deprive someone of the respect and compassion they deserve. While the commandment ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ seems easy to follow at first, it is always easier to judge and condemn those who are in need of our help and dismiss them or excuse ourselves from helping them as we are simply unable to cope with what we dislike. Faith is a relationship of love between a person and God, and equally a person and his ‘neighbor,’ and I pray may God give me the courage and modesty to live up to this mission.