When I was a child, my family lived hand to mouth. We were loved and cared for, but the cupboards were often more bare than full. I often say that we ate a lot of Hamburger Helper in those days – but with only the Helper.
My dad worked at a textile mill, a job he maintains to this day, though he should have retired long ago. Down at the mill, a couple of my father’s co-workers would help us – as such salt-of-the-earth people do. One of them was an old Baptist preacher named Gene Clark. Gene worked the mill during the week and preached on the weekend to a congregation of less than a hundred people way out in the sticks.
During the hardest years, Gene would slip my dad a wad of cash on Friday afternoons and say, “The church has plenty of money. You need this more than they do.” And honestly, we did. Another man was Bobby Gentry. One Saturday morning, Bobby pulled up in the driveway of our home and got out of the car dressed in a way I had never seen him before. Rather than donning his usual coveralls, he was wearing a suit.
Three other men from his church dressed in suits got out of the car with him. Then another car with four more men pulled up. These eight men began heaving brown paper sacks of groceries through our front door for what seemed like an hour. It wasn’t Christmas. It wasn’t Thanksgiving. It was just on time. And while I have long lost track of Mr. Gene and Mr. Bobby, I have neither forgotten them nor their kindness.
Jesus spoke in Matthew 25 with familiar, but inescapable, words: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory he will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you. 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. When you did this for one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it for me!’”