The teacher appears

I am told there is a Chinese proverb “When the student is ready the teacher appears.” Every time I think I understand, God sends me another teacher. Just a few minutes ago one rang my doorbell.

St Paul’s is hosting the Community Thanksgiving Service. We will be collecting items (ramen noodles, hot chocolate packs, coffee  packets, socks, boots, toilet paper, tRamen noodlesents, sleeping bags, etc.) for Jesus Cares at Exit 0 Ministry to the Homeless. We have been promoting this among the downtown churches. I got a call a couple of days ago. The man calling told me he would not be able to attend the service but could he drop things off? I gave him our address and thought no more about it.

The doorbell rang 5 minutes ago. I went to answer the door and an older gentleman stood there can in one hand and two plastic bags in the other. He explained he had called and he wanted to help. He then began to tell me it wasn’t much… But he brightened as he told me about a sermon he heard recently. “ The Father was saying how we might like to help to do something, but because we can’t do as much as we want – we may decide not to do anything. But he told us to go ahead and do what we can because that can be a help – that can do something for one person. It’s better to do something for one person than to wait to do something for many.” He then handed me one bag containing toilet paper. “When I got those, I also saw these…” And he then handed me the second bag containing a package of socks and a couple of knit hats. “I figured they could help keep someone warm…”  With a few more words of gratitude for my receiving these offerings, he turned and very slowly and painfully made his way down the steps and set off towards where he lived.

I suspect from several different cues that these items represented a real sacrifice. He most likely has a fixed and limited income. He was moved to reach out to give what he could (and then some) to help someone else in need. He has a home and in gratitude wanted to help someone without a home.

It puts what I do in a different context. It causes me to ask what can I do NOW for one or two?  And I must ask whether I should stop more often to think about what it is I have to be grateful for, and then ask how I can share my blessings with others.

As today’s teacher slowly walked a way I thanked God for the encounter, I asked God’s blessing on my anonymous donor, and offered thanks for yet another lesson in the economics of God. This gentleman’s hat and socks (like the widows mite) should motivate and inspire me to do now what I can do, and perhaps just a little more.


About don

The Rev Don Hill is an Episcopal priest, rail fan and writer. He and his wife the Rev. Dr. Nancy Woodworth-Hill are currently Co-Pastors of St Paul's Episcopal Church, Jeffersonville IN, in the Diocese of Indianapolis. They also work as parish consultants in Appreciative Inquiry, strategic planning and spirituality development for parishes and vestries.
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