One of the things that grabs my attention the quickest when I visit France is all the handicapped, crippled, blind and slightly demented people I see on the streets of the cities. I am not saying that France has more than we do in the USA—-perhaps they have fewer. But they are seen in France, and I just don’t see these kind of people that often in North Carolina. Perhaps it’s because we are such a sedentary state (North Carolina) that this is why I never see these kinds of people. In my state people hardly ever walk anywhere. We use a car and never walk down the streets. Yes, that might be why I never see folks that are handicapped very often, but I also wonder if we are more inclined to “put them away” in my country. Maybe we prefer to put people that are blind into blind colleges, blind communities and working at places just for the blind. Perhaps the same is true for those a bit demented. Maybe we put them into special homes where no one else sees them. Maybe we justify that by telling ourselves that it’s for their own protection and treatment.
We might have good reasons for putting away all the folks that have physical or mental shortcomings, but one thing was clear to me today: I had compassion on those that I could see and touch in a way I could not just by reading about them or seeing a TV special regarding their plights. Walking right up to them made them individual beings in a way a poster or special campaign to assist does not.
I also noted that my troubles and challenges quickly receded to the back of my mind as I thought about all that these folks are up against. I whine and whimper about how hard my work is and how unappreciated and misunderstood I am —— and then I am literally face to face with a man with no legs—-begging for food…..or an old lady bent and twisted so much that she has to strain to see in front of her……or a man muttering and arguing with someone that is not there as he crosses the street! What on earth do I have to complain about!……and thank God for letting me so how difficult life is for some——who never seem to complain.
The Bible speaks about angels and how God sends them to protect the “little ones”. The author of Hebrews admonishes us to be kind to strangers because it might just be an angel. I wonder sometimes: Was that a bent up old lady….or an angel? Was that man really demented…or was it a messenger of God?
One of our staff and I were in Puebla once walking through a bazaar, and a young man walked past us begging for food. We both recalled that he did not appear to fit in, and as we both turned to look at him again he was gone—vanished. It was as if we were being tested to see how we would respond to cries for help. We failed the test.
What if I treated every strange man, woman and child as if they were really an angel? What if I treated them if they were really Jesus Christ? What if that is precisely what Jesus told me I was supposed to do?!