The Least of These
by Kathy Penrod
My dad was born in 1920. In a time when people didn’t lock their doors and it was safe to stop and help a stranger. He also was given such a good heart that he wanted to help those in need. He would always stop for the hitchhiker, help those stranded on the side of the road and pray for those he couldn’t help.
Today is a different world. It isn’t safe to stop for hitchhikers any more. I worry about the safety of myself and my family if I were to stop. Most people these days have cell phones, so is there really a need to stop and help someone who is stranded with a disabled car? Could I even help with my lack of automobile knowledge?
When I was 17, I stopped for a lady who needed work and food so she could help her kids. I was sure that I could fix the problem. I invited her over to our house for dinner. I offered to take her where ever she needed to go and to help her find a job. I had a solution for everything. But she only wanted cash, which I didn’t have.
I talked with my mom about this. Now that I am a mom, I can’t believe she didn’t freak out that I had invited a stranger over for dinner. But she taught me about charity. Saying the Lord was pleased with my efforts. She also told me that sometimes people who are asking for help don’t have as noble intentions with the money as they say they do. I was shocked. She carefully explained that it wasn’t safe for me to stop and help some of these people. I needed to follow the promptings of the spirit and be more careful.
There are many times I see people on the street corners that need help. They are homeless, hungry or in need of work. My heart aches for them but I think, “what can I do?” or “Do they really need help or are they looking for drug money?” More often than not, I drive by in my air-conditioned car, thinking about them until the next stop light, heading to my comfortable home.
A few years ago, I saw something that I will never forget. I was driving past another corner on a typical Arizona day; one hundred plus degrees. On this corner was a man dressed as though he was prepared for the world’s worst blizzard. He had donned a scarf, hat, several layers of heavy clothing followed by an open coat. His bearded face was barely poking through the layers of clothing. It was obvious from the appearance of these clothes and this man that neither had been washed in some time. In fact, it took some effort to differentiate the man from the cloths, as they were both so dirty. He had sunken down, half laying, half sitting, to the cement, leaning against the stop light. He is what I imagine the Savior meant when he said, “the least of these”.
Next to this poor man was another man. Maybe in his 20’s, although I didn’t see his face. His arm was around the fallen man and with his other arm he held a yellow Gatorade to the man’s mouth. I could tell by how the younger man leaned in to help, that he wasn’t worried about smell, filth or safety. He was worried about a fellow human. I felt as though I had seen the story of the Good Samaritan. I have seen the painting, one man leaning over another to help, but this was a real-life version of it. I wondered how I could get to that point in my life where I do not worry about what is unpleasant for me and worry more about what my fellow man needs.
Yesterday, as we were driving, I saw yet another person in need. We didn’t have any cash with us and we stopped beyond her view. So, it was easy to not help. But the look on her face haunts me. She had a sign that told her story. “mom of 3 children, need your help or prayers” How could I pass by? I tried to justify in my mind that her kids were probably with CPS and she needed money for other things. But as I pondered this a while, some scriptures came to mind. In Mosiah Chapter 4, it covers everything I need to know about these situations. Verses 16 -19, 22 & 26 say:
16 And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish.
17 Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just—
18 But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God.
19 For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?
22 And if ye judge the man who putteth up his petition to you for your substance that he perish not, and condemn him, how much more just will be your condemnation for withholding your substance, which doth not belong to you but
to God, to whom also your life belongeth; and yet ye put up no petition, nor repent of the thing which thou hast done.
26 And now, for the sake of these things which I have spoken unto you—that is, for the sake of retaining a remission of your sins from day to day, that ye may walk guiltless before God—I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor,
every man according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing
the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually
and temporally, according to their wants.
So, I have concluded that the Lord wants me to learn a lesson. What can I do to help these poor people? Who am I to withhold what I have from them? Of course, I don’t think the Lord expects me to compromise the safety of my family or myself. But how difficult would it be to stock up on bus passes, Wal-mart gift cards, or even Gatorade. These are things I can do… these are things that “the least of these” need.
I know that all that I have, the Lord has given me. It does not belong to me, but to Him. It is my sacred duty to share with those around me. Who am I to turn them away?