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Latkes, Homeless and Hanukkah

It’s Hanukkah. I had lunch with a friend today where gourmet health food can be had. He bought me lunch, but I also bought myself among a few other food items, including a couple of potato Latkes (fried potato & onion pancakes; yum!), which, if you know, are Hanukkah requirements. It so happens that most of our now-grown kids are presently living elsewhere so this year we didn’t do our customary family latke bake-off. Instead, my daughter Jenny and I did a Face-Time lighting of the Hanukkah candles while on our phones. I lit the candles on my menorah and we both sang the prayer that Jewish people have been singing on Hanukkah for maybe millennia. Not the same as being there but we were together in spirit. But back to today.

I was driving home anticipating my later dinner with the several things I bought including the latkes. I came to a red light and as I was in a somewhat long line waiting for the light to change, I noticed a man with a cane, kind of limping around the area near the corner. I assumed he was yet another homeless person hoping for some help. I attempted to reach for my purse to give him a few dollars, but the traffic was moving quickly and I realized my purse was in the back seat and I couldn’t reach it in time. So I just kept driving. But when I got to the corner, as I was looking over at him, he turned toward me and looked directly into my eyes. I mean like piercing directly at me. Not scary or weird, just connecting. I turned the corner, away from him, and as I kept driving, what went through my mind were Jesus’ words, “As you have done it unto the least of these, you have done it unto Me.” By now, traffic moving as it was, I was now ½ mile or more down the road.

Well, what would you have done? At the first opportunity I turned into a street that I hoped would take me back to him. It didn’t. It wound around a new development of apartments that was like a city in itself and it took me maybe 10 minutes to find my way back to his corner, hoping he would still be there when I got back to him. He was. Still limping and walking around that area like he couldn’t stand still. Maybe his hips or legs hurt him too much to be still. (Having broken a hip once, I know how that feels.) Less painful to keep walking than stand still. At other red lights on the way I had had the opportunity to reach into my grocery bag in the back of the car from which I then decided which of my gourmet goodies I was going to give him. I was faced with: 1) what I really wanted to eat myself, 2) what my cost of each thing was and 3) what I was willing to part with. Well, need I tell you, I’m then thinking, would I do that for Jesus? Wouldn’t I give Him my Hanukkah potato latkes? Sure. And my gourmet turkey meatballs besides.

So I put those two containers in a small paper bag and then thought he might need utensils. I wouldn’t want Jesus eating with his fingers. I dug into my consul and found a nicely wrapped plastic fork and knife, and then added the new small package of tissues that happened to be there. It so happened that a small book, “The Names of God,” was in there that I didn’t recall ever putting there, but it seemed it was supposed to go into the bag for the man too. By this time, I found he was still on the corner. I had to make a left onto the street and then make a u-turn to be able to double back to him. As I came near him, I saw that someone had given him a plastic bag with a few apples in it. No doubt what they had bought for themselves or their family but gave them to him. I smiled at that thought, then rolled down my window as I came near him. He again looked in my direction and I handed the bag to him through my window.

He stopped walking and came to reach for it. He was a rather slight man, with a voice that seemed if he sang he would likely have sounded like a tenor. As he took the bag he said, "Thank you, Angel.” As I drove away I had the sweetest sense of peace, worth so much more to me than the latkes and the meatballs would have ever been. The whole thing was the Lord’s Hanukkah gift to me. Happy Hanukkah, everyone!!

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