Angel in the Night:
My college friend Dean and I were in downtown New Brunswick, New Jersey. The year was 1980 just before the huge downtown restoration project was going to take place. We were both in school at Rutgers and wrestling for the team. We would sometimes hop on a bus and get dropped off in the downtown George Street area, or we would drive down in his green Comet,looking for good food. A place called “Stuff Yer Face” was there and Tomaltys’ pub and a few good ‘hole in the wall’ pizza places.
It was a mild fall night so Dean and I were sitting outside at a table sharing a huge pizza. We would often pig out, when we did not have an upcoming match. I loved to eat a good east coast style pizza and converse.
We were enjoying our meal when we noticed a homeless man limping his way up the sidewalk slowly. He was dragging a stuffed dirty pillow case in which, I assume he was carrying everything he owned. I noticed he had a spasm in his jaw/mouth that bothered me. He also smelled of urine and body odor. So the odor and the spasm were enough to set me back and to pull away.
Dean kept urging me to talk to this man and in fact he wanted me to offer him some pizza. I kept saying no; that I just did not want to. And I knew the scriptures; I knew the arguments. I knew I was saying no to a lot more than a homeless man.
Dean was bolder than I was when it came to talking to strangers And in sharing his faith. In fact, Dean was on his feet already, ready to greet this man. Dean would soon be in seminary so he was quite serious about his faith. I was a bit timid, far too self centered but that is no excuse for not feeding the hungry. And I knew it.
I think I was trying to stall just long enough in hope that this guy would disappear around the corner and it would be over. Dean persisted, still trying to get me to feed this man, but I held my ground. He was slowly walking away from us down the sidewalk, slipping away. Thank God, I thought.
I am now embarrassed for being so self centered. I feel a bit ashamed of myself. I kept saying to Dean, “I just want to eat my pizza and relax.” as though if I kept saying that to myself it would justify my choice. Yeah, there I was a college kid on a full ride scholarship and well fed. What a tough life!
The space between us and the lame man was lengthening. And then, just when I thought this was going to all be over a strange turn of events took place. The man, as though he read my mind, or God’s mind. Or both, slowly did a 360 and was heading back to me. Straight toward me.
Slowly, step after step, limp after limp, he came right up to our table. It was Dean, not I , who handed him the two slices of pizza which he gobbled down. He did not say a word. Nor did I.
Dean also reached out and gave the man a hug saying God bless you.”
I did nothing.
But I still wonder if perhaps we entertained an angel. Or the angel was entertained by my pitiful selfishness.