By Lorie Newman
As I look back on my life of 36 years, I can see incident upon incident where God has orchestrated certain situations in my life that created in me a heart for the poor and the outcast, the widow and the orphan. Some of those life experiences were painful, and some were just downright perplexing. Such is the way this story unfolded when I was just eleven years old.
It was a normal Thursday afternoon in our country home. My older brother and I sat at the kitchen table finishing our homework. My mother was at the stove preparing dinner. My father, an insurance salesman, was not home from work yet.
The sun was setting across the cow pasture in front of our house which sat way back off of a main road. Our little brick home was secluded to say the least. We lived so far off the beaten path, that we rarely had visitors. In fact, I wasn’t even sure we had a doorbell, until that Thursday evening when its piercing ring jolted me out of my seat at the kitchen table.
Now, I realize that most people’s doorbells ring quite frequently and it’s really not a big deal to open the door to a stranger when you live in a nice, quiet suburban neighborhood. But when you live way back in the country, with no one even within shouting distance, and your dad is not home, and it’s nearly dark outside, and you’re eleven years old, the ring of the doorbell is not a comfortable sound.
The three of us looked at each other and instantly I knew the fear rising up in me was in them as well- I could see it in their eyes. The three of us crept quietly to the front window and slowly pulled back the curtain. What I saw sent a wave of fear through my eleven year old mind that I had never experienced before.
There on the other side of our door stood a man dressed like one of the hobos from my storybooks. He had greasy blonde hair which poked out like porcupine quills from underneath a filthy dark knitted cap. He wore black cotton gloves with the finger-holes cut out. His skin was dirty and he looked like he hadn’t shaved or changed his clothes for more than a week. As I stood studying this stranger, and becoming more terrified of his appearance by the second, my mother did the unthinkable. She opened the door. My heart sank and I’m quite sure I must have gasped as I saw her hand turn the door knob. She said with fear under control, May I help you?
The words that man uttered in reply will forever be etched in my mind. With downcast eyes full of desperation he said, Ma’am, I am so hungry. Would you allow me to beg you for food? And with that, he fell to his knees. I instantly saw my mother’s fear melt into deep compassion and without even a moment’s hesitation, she brought him a full plate of food she had been preparing for dinner. As I think back to that moment, I realize now that what happened next would become a life-altering moment for my spirit.
My mother, wanting to protect us, had given the man the plate of food to eat on our front porch, and then shut the door. Full of curiosity for this strange man on my porch, I peered through the front window to watch what would happen next. As I watched, the stranger ate that plate of food in about five seconds flat. I had never before seen anyone eat food the way he did. He ate it like he hadn’t eaten in a week. Being only eleven, I had never seen anyone who was truly hungry… I had never witnessed anyone eat food after days of being famished.
As he nearly inhaled the food in a few gulps, tears welled up in my eyes and for the first time in my life, my heart broke for a poor person. My heart broke for someone who was needy. My heart broke with compassion for this man who was obviously an outcast, a loner, a stranger. It didn’t matter to me where he had come from or what his situation was. It didn’t matter to me that it may have been his own foolish choices that had brought him to such a low place. I didn’t care about his history or the road that had brought him to my front porch. Overwhelming compassion welled up in my spirit for that man that day and to tell you the real truth, it has never left.
That man left our porch after eating his food, and I watched him walk down our long dirt road until his silhouette disappeared from view. But his silhouette has never left my spirit or my heart. It appears every time I see someone in need–every time I see a lonely orphan, or a grieving widow. It appears every time I pass a beggar on the street or see a drunk on the corner. It appears every time I visit an AIDS patient or see a handicapped veteran.
It appears every time I look into the eyes of an orphaned boy or girl. It consumes me. It ignites me. It becomes me. Why? Because it consumes my Savior. It ignites my Savior who lives in me. And I become Christ to those hurting people. Through me, Christ pours His compassion out and lets it spill over onto the needy, the outcast, the widow, the stranger, and the orphaned.
Perhaps you can search your past and think of specific times when God allowed an experience-perhaps good, perhaps not so good-to profoundly cultivate a compassion for the poor. If you can, thank Him for it today and count it a renewed privilege to be His hands and feet to the needy.
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Lorie is a busy homeschooling mother of six children, including twins and two children who were internationally adopted -one from Haiti and one from Liberia. She has taught and ministered in Bible Studies for over ten years. She and her husband Duane are founders of Reaching Hands Orphan/Adoption Ministries. Through a partnership with Children’s HopeChest, Reaching Hands Ministries enables nearly 300 impoverished African orphans to receive regular food, clothing, and education. You can visit her website at lorienewman.com.