the least of these

I hadn’t considered myself among “the least of these” until starting over at 51 as an ex-felon working a $9/hour church janitor job apparently exceeded the qualifications.

But the surprise of a fifty dollar bill tucked in my back pocket by a passing stranger at Christmastime was eclipsed only by the words accompanying the gesture. “You’re making more of a difference than you know, young man.”

I’m not sure if I was more shocked being addressed as a young man or by the unexpected generosity of his acknowledgement of a stranger working a lowly invisible job during the busiest time of the church calendar. I’d just returned from plunging a TeenTime toilet full of poop and was en route across the courtyard to a hazardous cleanup in KidKare made by two siblings who’d had bad blueberries and Alpha Bits for breakfast.

I’d like to report our encounter was an interaction but his swift disappearance into the festive crowd of evening Christmas servicers was as angelic as his act of kindness. By the time I put my mop and pail to the ground and wiped my hand on my shirt to shake his hand, he was gone. I reached into my back pocket to find the gift he’d bestowed and while $50 was a helpful blessing this time of year, his words had been of much greater value.

Invisible people are all around us. Janitors, cashiers, clerks and other such name tags we rarely if ever read or better yet, take notice. Doing so need not cost 50 dollars or 50 cents, but only to know the words to their song on a not so silent night that hoped someone might care enough to notice and at the very least, tell them that in this world, they’re making more of a difference than they know.