An Act of Compassion


Seated: Eldon, me, Conrad; Standing, Phil, Dan

My Joy made cup cakes for a SS class social, and prepared her own special potato salad using a receipt from her mother for a family gathering on Father’s Day.  While she was occupied I reread chapter 3 of Lederach’s book. It focuses on Jesus as a compassionate reconcilor. Lederach suggested that his readers test their compassion by trying to recall the faces of the last three homeless persons who approached them.

When Joy and I read the chapter together we shared fairly intimate stories. I told her of some events that happened to me in 1960. I was depressed. Some unwelcome events dictated that our family move from my beloved Tampa to the Mennonite colony in Sarasota.  I believed then and now that this series of events occurred because I needed to be reassured of God’s care for me.

I had just finished shopping at our local supermarket when a strange man asked me for five dollars to buy a meal.  What made him unique was that he asked for a job to earn the money to repay me. I told him I had a job for him and gave him directions to my house. As he walked away from me to the store I supposed that I was seeing him and my five dollars for the last time.

As promised he came to my house next morning.  But he needed another meal so he asked me for an advance on his wages. Again, I watched this stranger walk away from me with another of my five dollars. Would I ever see him again?   I was pleased when he returned to paint the back porch for several days. But he had his limits.

He said he could not work on Friday; on that day he honored the Father. Nor could he work on Saturday; he honored the Holy Spirit, nor Sunday; the Son must be honored.  Finally, work was banned on Monday; it was his day to honor the Holy Mother Mary. But he could and did work on Tuesday.

On Tuesday evening he returned to help me move four colonies of honey bees by pickup truck to the country home of Conrad’s biological father who had bought them from me. I explained to him the dangers of bee stings, etc.  But he was willing to help me.

Returning to my house, he asked me to let him off near an abandoned Dairy Queen that had been broken into and robbed.  I watched as he crawled through the broken class door. That was his home for the night.  Who was this man? That was the last time I saw him.  Was he an angel?  Or was he a man God used to bless me because we were compassionate toward each other?

About Martin Lehman

I was born 92 years ago, the son of a Mennonite pastor and organic gardener in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. At age 10 I was baptized as a member of the Marion Mennonite Church. I own the "Old Fool" moniker because I want to walk the Jesus Way even though the world and much of the church takes me as a fool for doing so. In my life I have moved from being a young conservative to an elderly radical. I tell that story in My Faith Journey posted on my website.
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2 Responses to An Act of Compassion

  1. Freda Zehr says:

    Nice story, Martin. Another side to that kind of giving—my husband Vernon was on the board of the Sunday Breakfast Mission (a mission for alcoholics) in Wilmington for most of his life and when he retired, he volunteered there several mornings a week. He found out that when giving homeless people money, it most times went for drugs or alcohol, , so when someone asked him for money for food, he would say, “come with me and I will get you food”. I was often with him in later years when this happened. Invaribly they would say cuss and say no, they wanted t he money. I don’t know if that is the right way to go about it or not. I know that at first when we were in Wilmington, he would just hand out the money. I recall one time when we got a call from a motel for people who were supposedly out of money and I went with him, and he gave them fifty dollars, but when we got there to t heir motel room, their car was parked right outside and he asked them if that was their car. They admitted it was , and it was a brand new rolls royce. We did not ask for the money back but after that, he was always very careful to make sure that it was really needed.

    • I think those of us in city missions must each develop our own style of response t0 those who take advantage of our generosity. I generally tried to give what was asked for, because requests were small, even though I expected it to be used unwisely. However if it was a phone call asking for money I learned to say that I never turn children away. I added that if their children were hungry I would meet them at the store and get milk for them. No one every took me up on that.

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