Across the street lived Jenny. She was a scrawny little girl, usually wearing grimy clothes. She had stringy hair, dirty fingernails and was all elbows, bony knees and big brown eyes. She was the youngest in a large family. Her parents were in their very late 40s.
Many times I observed Jenny walking bare foot on a chilly day or riding her big wheeled bike out into the street. No parent ever came to call her in or tell her to stay on the sidewalk. So with my baby in tow I would go out and tell her to get back on the sidewalk or go in and get shoes.
One summer day when our daughter was about four, Jenny (5), came over to our yard and asked to play. I never let our daughter play at Jenny's because I was afraid there would be no supervision. So that day the girls played on our front porch. I went back in the house to begin supper keeping an eye on the girls. I peeled some carrots and started slicing them. I took some carrot sticks outside and handed my daughter some. Then I reached over and gave some to Jenny.
Jenny looked at me with her mouth open. I thought she was going to tell me she didn't like carrots. She started to walk away and then turned back. She wrapped her arms around my legs and hips, knocking me back a bit. Just as quickly she was gone. She never said thank you, but the message was clear. My breath caught in my throat. Carrots. I hadn't given her ice cream, or chocolate, just plain carrots. Yet those carrots somehow touched her. Was she that starved for affection?
I made it a point to let Jenny come over more often. She was a bit domineering and not shy to use bribery and coercion to get what she wanted from our daughter. But I tried to treat her as one of mine. If she needed hugging I hugged. If she needed scolding I did it gently. Sadly we moved away in August of that year. I've often wondered what became of her.
This morning when remembering the carrot story - I realized I had been withholding love from this little child because she wasn't from 'my kind' of household. I was always reserved about mingling with Jenny. God had to use a carrot to hit me over the head and remind me that this child was His. That she needed love and affection the same as my children.
Do we sometimes withhold ourselves from others because they are different? Do we hold back from making new friendships? Do we fail to call someone to say we're thinking about them, or miss them? Do we keep from praying with someone, or telling someone that God can help?Someone may not be physically hungry, but they may be starving for a bit of attention, a crumb of affection.
For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:
I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?
Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. (Matthew 25:42-45)
May you find time today for the least of these,