Why don't I -- like Mother Teresa -- see the face of Jesus in the poor? Am I missing something she sees, or have she and Dorothy Day fed me some kind of a line?
--from Not All of Us Are Saints, by David Hilfiker
The first time I met Jesus, he was standing in front of the Sojourners office with his pants at his knees, genitals exposed. It was raining.
(Okay, he'd pronounce his name hay-SOOS -- he was Salvadoran. But why save the punch line for the end, like one of those fuzzy fables about footprints in the sand or inspirational emails that get forwarded to your inbox ad nauseum? You'd have seen it coming anyway -- this is a Good Samaritan meets the Least of These urban parable. An accent mark over the "u" would only confuse the issue.)
My first impulse is not compassion. I want to get this guy-mentally ill or drunk or whatever-covered up and on his way. I dust off my Spanish and diplomatically negotiate the pulling-up of his pants. Upon closer observation it's obvious that he's seriously ill. His face and hands are swollen, and he grimaces in pain as I pull his rain-soaked jeans to his waist.
Just then, my co-worker Rose arrives. I ask, "Does Christ House [a local clinic for the homeless] take walk-ins?" She thinks they do. My car is right there. I decide to take him the few blocks to Christ House, where I hope I can hand him over to professionals.
On the way, I practicar my español. What's your name, where are you from, do you like it better here than El Salvador? He compliments my Spanish. I begin to wonder if this is going to turn out to be one of those stories you read in Sojourners -- transforming relationships with the poor and all.
He keeps saying that he doesn't have any money. I tell him he doesn't need money where we're going.