I was sitting on my front stoep observing cars and people go by. It annoyed my as we are in lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic regulations. I turned my attention to the rows of refuge bins lining the street. It being a Friday, I wondered if the refuge removal service is operating. An elderly man scratching through the refuge bins caught my attention. I must admit that at this stage he was just another homeless person scratching around for something he could go and sell. There was something about his tattered clothing and white hair and beard that made me wonder where he came from and what he would find. I wondered where he lived, and if he had a wife, a family.
I watched as he patiently and methodically scratched in a refuge bin. A car pulled up with four guys in it. The speakers were blaring some stupid excuse for music. I reached for my phone to call the authorities. The guys in the car must have noticed me and quickly sped away. I was annoyed and forgot about the elderly gentleman. As I got up to go back inside my home, I noticed the old man looking at me. It was not a stare. He just stood there, looking at me without uttering a word. Staring back at him it felt as if he was gazing right into my heart and soul.
I’ll never forget the feeling that came over me. He just stood there, looking at me without saying a word or making any gestures. His wrinkled stony face looked so serene. A few seconds passed. I heard myself calling to Helen, my wife, if there was anything to give the old man. I indicated to the old man to wait as Helen replied that she will go and fetch something.
The old man sat down on the pavement. No words were uttered between the old man and me. I stood and looked at him wondering why I did not offer him something to eat in the first place. Helen soon returned with two polystyrene containers containing some food. I called to the old man as I took the containers from Helen.
He walked over to me with a limp. As he came over to the palisade fence, I noticed tears running down his cheek. He raised both his arms heavenward and uttered inaudible sounds. I realised that he could not speak. It has been a long while since I experienced such an expression of gratitude. He thumped one hand against his chest over his heart and raised his arms heavenward. He did this a number of times before receiving the food. I proceeded to raise my hands and said to him that God is good. After placing the polystyrene containers into a packet he had on him, the old man again raised his arms heavenward. His expression of gratitude humbled me and I became emotional. I stood there and wondered how grateful I really am, having meals every day.
But that is not what inspired me to write this story. I was about to learn a lesson in faith this day. After the old man placed the food into a plastic bag, he withdrew a plastic spoon from his pocket, similar to the one I had given him. He placed both spoons into the pocket. As he walked away it dawned on me. This old man walked around going through refuge bins with a spoon in his pocket. He did not know where his next meal would come from, but he knew it will come.
He believed it, hence the spoon in his pocket. Not only did he teach my about gratitude but to have faith no matter what the circumstances are. How many times did we go to church and pray for rain and leave our umbrellas at home? I realised that the old man we fed was a man of faith. As I sit and type, I realise that I should look deeply into my own faith in God. This experience is all about the old man with the spoon.
I hope and pray that God protect and bestow His Grace and Mercy upon the old man and his family. Please let us remember him, and others like him in our prayer.
Brother Allan A. Klein
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