“This is my command: Love each other.” John 15:17
She rolls into the church building every Sunday morning on her scooter as if she owns the road. She breathes her daily complaints with a smirk on her face. At 75 years old she reminds us she is not homeless, she is displaced. Her worn-thin, hand-me-down scooter serves as a mobile home on the streets of a city of more than 2 million people. She wears her long, white-blond hair tied back from her toothless face, a face that crinkles as she speaks.
She bugs my husband to no end.
While he is trying to make Sunday breakfast, a weekly ritual at Heights, she talks non-stop. That is until a homeless person, anyone on the fringe, a young person, or someone with a dog shows up. She transforms into this gracious, attentive and generous person. Gone are the smirks and the complaints. In plain sight is the Christ-image holding a cup of cold water in his name.
Recently, our love was tested. A man in his early thirties sauntered into the kitchen for breakfast. Because his running shirt bore streaks of dirt, she presumed he was homeless. She scrounged around in her personal stash of junk food and offered it to him. Next, she plowed into her black garbage sack for her clean, never worn red sweatshirt. She cut the sleeves off, making it cooler. She handed it to him so that he could have a clean shirt.
He took her food and crumpled it into a pile of dirty coffee cups and napkins, creating a grand mess of it. He grabbed donuts by the fistful, drank from the coffee creamer, and strode around glaring at everyone with a borrowed cigarette lighter in his mouth.
He implied he was homeless and mentally ill, not realizing that we know a few things about mental health and poverty. Like for instance, homeless people do not wear $500 glasses. Nor do they have many teeth; let alone beautiful teeth straight as a gleaming white picket fence. The homeless don’t have sculpted muscles. They cannot afford hair styled so sharp you could slice bread with it. Never has anyone intentionally acted so rudely or as obnoxious. Yet, we did not tell him any of this. He was a guest in God’s house. Love covers a multitude of sins.
He tossed her favorite sweatshirt in the trashcan outside. She simply said, “He wasn’t who he pretended to be.” She wore no smirk nor voiced no complaints. Her love extended to him as if unto the Lord. Why? Because we are those called to give a Command Performance before the King of Kings.
“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” John 15:12
It is as simple as that.
Ann Bayliss Preacher, Heights Church of Christ Houston Texas