Sylvia and her family had gone to town that evening, so I had plenty of time to myself, plenty of time to become discouraged. As I sat there staring at nothing in particular that cold wintry evening, I thought I heard the sound of people singing in harmony with December’s arctic air blasting through the woods outside. All I didn’t need right then were a bunch of church people disturbing my misery.
My lack of a job had sent my self-esteem to depressingly low levels. I really didn’t want to be bothered by anyone trying to spread Christmas cheer. I thought briefly about pretending not to be home. However, I figured I’d already been spotted through the windows. I decided to answer the door.
As I listened to the carolers singing the final words of the song Silent Night, I was nearly in tears. They mentioned they were Ingathering for a local church. “Ingatherers,” I said to myself. A big whoopee! Who cares? I didn’t even have so much as a single coin in my pocket, so I was sure they would soon leave me alone.
So when the group spokesperson asked if I would like to contribute, I explained that I had no money. I fully expected her and the rest of the group to merely say, Oh, thanks anyway. And have a nice day. But instead, I was totally caught off guard by the response of this lady and her group of carolers. Instead of making a hasty retreat from someone who didn’t so much as have a dime to his name, she asked, “Would you mind if we pray for you?” Without giving me time to think about her offer, she and her group had bowed their heads and were praying out in the frosty air as snow dumped down upon them.
Watching Over Me
Now I’d heard people in times past utter a bunch of mumbo-jumbo that seemed to be more on the order of sermonizing than anything else. But this woman didn’t do that; this woman knew how to pray. By the time she finished praying, I wished I had at least a couple of bucks to donate. The group then quickly hopped into their vans and drove off into winter’s wonderland.
Looking back now, I could have kissed them all. Here I was: my wife was expecting, I didn’t have a job, and we had to stay with my mother-in-law and my wife’s two younger siblings in a tiny trailer. I felt so discouraged.
Yet, because of a visit from these carolers, I suddenly felt cared for. I felt that God was watching over me.
More Than Singing
A week passed, and I mostly forgot about the carolers. One day, a few of these same people just happened to stop by with what they referred to as a Christmas basket (it was really a large cardboard box stuffed with all sorts of groceries). They escaped before I was able to mumble more than a few words of thanks. Somehow they had known our food situation or, should I say, lack of it.
Later that week, God answered their prayer for my employment; I got hired at the local furniture factory. I’ve had many opportunities since this experience in northern Michigan to be on the other side of giving. But each time I do, I think back to the discouraged soul on the receiving end of the Christmas basket.
I’m glad the individuals who came to me were more than just a bunch of carolers, more than just a bunch of donation gatherers. We Christians should never settle for merely a shallow involvement in people’s problems. We need to get in there, people to people.
Sometimes it seems as though our church’s welfare program is nothing more than a tightly gripped can extended under the nose of society. I’m thankful that the warmth of those northern Michiganders extended far beyond the can. They sang for me. They prayed for me. And they fed me. Jesus said:
“I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me in prison, and ye came unto me” (Matthew 25:35, 36).
I feel constrained to follow the example of Jesus, who reached out to the starving, the least of the least, the unclothed, the ill, even the evil-hearted of his day, to minister to their needs.
Ron Reese writes from North Carolina.© 2002 - 2021, AnswersForMe.org. All rights reserved. Click here for content usage information.