He who does not give God gives too

An episode, apparently unimportant, reveals one of the deepest needs of the heart: the knowledge of being loved. A story from the United States.

A street of Washington, D.C. (USA).

These days, it’s rare to see people in the U.S. with cash. We are used to paying for things with credit cards or apps on our phones. If on the one hand it makes things easier, on the other, it makes it hard to perform an important dimension of Christian life: almsgiving. Over time, I have learned to arm myself by asking for change in dollar bills that I keep in the glove compartment of my car, so I can always have something ready to give.

A few days ago, while I was stopped at a red light, an older African- American man was walking between the cars asking for change. Immediately, I opened the glove compartment to get some money, but with painful surprise, I saw that it was empty. When the man arrived next to my car, I rolled down the window and said with regret: “Look, I’m really sorry, but I don’t have anything to give you.” Out of the corner of my eye, I saw  75 cents next to the transmission. Exultantly, I exclaimed: “Wait, it’s not much, but I have something to give you!” Even before my exclamation, he had approached my window. I dropped the change in his paper cup, content but a little upset. I said: “It’s really not a lot, but unfortunately I don’t have anything else.” I noticed that the man, ignoring the money in the cup, was staring at me. “Father, I beg you, please give me a blessing.” For a fraction of a second, I was speechless. I didn’t understand his request: wasn’t he asking for change? I was upset that I didn’t have a dignified amount to give him, and he was asking me for a blessing! Reflexively, I lifted my arm and traced the sign of the Cross, pronouncing the benediction. “Thank you, Father! Thank you!,” he said to me with glazed eyes and left. The stop light turned green, and the cars started moving. Lost in my thoughts, I wasn’t able to comprehend what had just happened: an old man, asking for change at a stoplight in the middle of winter, recognizing that he had a priest in front of him, asked for a benediction instead of worrying about the amount of money that he had received.

Maybe it was for this reason that in front of a priest he did not ask for money, but instead, there came forth from within him the ancient need to know that he is thought of and blessed by the Father.

            What was that man’s story? What had happened that landed him in that dramatic situation? Did he not have a family, a warm place with people who were waiting for him? Was he not the subject of someone’s thoughts, of their attention and of their affection? Or was he completely alone, abandoned unto himself, obliged to beg for alms to survive? Who knows, maybe this was the cruel reality. Maybe it was for this reason that in front of a priest he did not ask for money, which he could have received from anyone, but instead, there came forth from within him the ancient need to know that he is thought of and blessed by the Father. A phrase of Benedict XVI came to mind: “Whoever does not give God gives too little.”

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