The Least of These … A Lesson Learned

Let’s just get this out of the way first thing – my confession. Here it is. I really didn’t want to visit my mother Saturday afternoon. There, I said it. She lives in a nursing home walking distance from where I live. We try to stop by a couple of times a week. However, this week, for whatever reason it didn’t happen. So, come Saturday afternoon, the right thing to do was to go see Mom… and I didn’t want to … but I did, being the dutiful son and all. So, instead of washing the cars, I walked to the ‘home.’

I found Mom in the big room in her usual recliner, feet up, deep into an afternoon nap. The warm room was crowded with residents none of whom we’re watching ‘The Lion King’ blasting away from the big screen TV at the end of the room. Sitting next to Mom was Alice, in her wheelchair, chin on her chest, wrapped in a blanket, sleeping. Alice had two black eyes that looked like the black grease a ball player might wear. Mom said that Alice fell out of bed. This was where I learned my least-of-these lesson.

Jesus taught the original least-of-these lessons in a parable in which a group was commended for feeding the hungry, clothing the poor and visiting the imprisoned. Jesus said that when they did these things it was doing it for him. They were surprised to hear that, I think. I get the impression that these folks figured they were just doing what they do.

I think these ‘least-of-these’ moments happen often. It’s not always the big ones of feeding the hungry, clothing the poor and visiting prisoners, either. Every day there are occasions where people, for some reason, are genuinely in need of something – in need of encouragement, kindness, friendship. I’ve been that person … the ‘least.’ In small ways, God’s work of grace and love gets done in significant ways by people putting other’s needs before their own … just doing what they do. No big deal, just taking care of the least-of-these without even realizing it.

So there we were, Mom and I, chatting, the Lion King roaring from the TV, when Alice opened her eyes and cried out, “Evelyn!” And again, “Evelyn!” My Mom reached over, lifted the blanket covering Alice’s arm and gave it a little rub. Mom’s smile and words told Alice that everything was OK. Alice responded with a relieved smile of her own and nodded off again, content.

It was a small thing really. Alice needed a bit of comfort and my mom was there to give it. No one noticed… except me… and Jesus, for whom Mom was doing this without realizing it no doubt… just doing what she does.

I’m here to humbly confess that this was the place I needed to be on Saturday afternoon. I was the needy one that afternoon. God … just doing what he does … taught me an important lesson, this time about the least-of-these. Thanks, God. Thanks, Mom.

Matthew 25:40 – “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'”

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