Lessons from Henry

Essays, Social Justice — By on June 11, 2012 at 9:21 am

Have you ever been given a gift whose meaning and significance have blown you away? The gift might not really be worth all that much from an economic perspective, but its value is indeed great. That happened to me today, this gray, cloudy Monday morning. Still in my pajamas, and bemoaning a stomach flu bug that won’t subside, someone knocked on my door. Opening the door, I saw the familiar face of “Henry”.

Henry is an older gentleman who lives by himself in our neighborhood, surviving on his monthly social security disability income checks. In his own words, Henry says, “It isn’t that I’m retarded like people say, I just have problems remembering things. I can tell you when and where I was born, but forget what I had for breakfast. Oh I’ve got lots of problems.”

I can’t remember the first time Henry stopped by or what prompted his visit. I do know he was quite chilled from walking in the frigid winter weather. Not knowing whether our church house was a church, or a house, he took the chance that he might find a place to warm up. After a cup of hot tea, a muffin and a few encouraging words, Henry was on his way again.

Henry has stopped by numerous times since then, knowing our house is always a safe place for him to warm up with a cup of hot tea. The kids all recognize Henry and engage him in conversation about something they’re learning, building or doing. Two weeks ago around midnight, with John away at work, and me still up doing some reading and writing for seminary, a knock came on the door. Concerned a little for my own safety, I timidly opened the door to see Henry. He had been assaulted, needed a warm place to sit, and a phone to call the police.

We’ve seen Henry several times since that midnight visit too. He stopped by this weekend needing help to fix his bike tire and adjust his bike seat. Over several cups of tea we’ve enjoyed several meaningful conversations. One of those conversations led to my precious gift. Henry had a children’s Bible that had been given to him by his mother, who has now passed away. Because he doesn’t have any children to share this Bible with, he wanted to give it to me, to share with my children. He promised that some day he’d stop by with the gift.

Today was that day.

Here I thought I was ministering to him in some small way with a cup of hot tea, when in fact he showed me a precious truth with his generous gift.

Thanks Henry.

And I am praying that you will put into action the generosity that comes from your faith as you understand and experience all the good things we have in Christ. Your love has given me much joy and comfort, my brother, for your kindness has often refreshed the hearts of God’s people.

Philemon 6-7

 

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    1 Comment

  • That’s a beautiful story. Too often I’ve thought I was the good Christian, reaching out to someone, when in the end the other person has been the one who’s blessed me.

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