Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda…

When I was a child, my mother told me stories of what I came to know as ‘the Great Depression.’  Living in a house near an east-west railroad track, hobos, as they were called, would come to her kitchen door and beg for something to eat.  Sometimes they would stay overnight in my parents’ barn.  As scary, unshaven, and dirty as these men were she always gave them food even though she had little to fix for herself and my dad.  Potato skins soup or turnips were the usual fare.  When I asked her why, she always quoted the text in Hebrews 13:1 KJV “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”

As a six-year-old, I prayed to be able to ‘entertain’ an angel too.  Late one afternoon, 300 miles away from my folks’ earlier home in Pennsylvania, there was a knock at the front door.  An unshaven, grubby looking man stood outside and asked for something to eat.  Excited that God had heard my prayer, I invited him to sit down on our stoop.  My mom watched as I hurried to the kitchen, made him the only meal I knew how to make–a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  I ran to my room and took four birthday quarters from my piggy bank, a lot of money for me at that time.  “Come right back inside,” my mother warned.  And then, with her orders ringing in my ears, I carried  the sandwich along with a large glass of Nestle’s chocolate milk and a paper napkin out to my very own ‘angel.’

Later, after he left, I went outside to fetch the empty sandwich plate and glass tumbler. Not a crumb or a drop of of food remained.  And the napkin, though used, was neatly folded.  I was so excited.  I knew in my heart I’d “entertained an angel unawares.”  And no one could tell me differently.  I treasure the memory to this day.

In a world where so many people of all ages, color and nationalities find themselves in need, I can’t tell the difference between angels and just plain folk who are lost, hungry or far from home.  But what I can tell you is I never, ever want to say, I coulda, should, woulda when someone comes to my door asking for help.  Whether six or seventy, I never want to miss any opportunity of “entertain an angel unawares.” Do you?

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