I threw it, it went everywhere, and I turned and left him to pick up the pieces of my generosity. It wasn't 24 hours later that I was pulling out my wallet to pay a big tip to a horse-and-buggy driver to show off in front of my friends. I was self-centered, fearful of those that were not like me (and who I thought were lesser than me), and ignorant.
And perhaps it should be noted that I was attending the National Missionary Convention.
At twenty, I was on the fast track to becoming one of those hot shot ministers that could preach to large crowds and do fantastic things. I had helped write and design the curriculum for the NMC's youth program for that year, and would be helping teach it throughout the weekend. I was there to be an expert.
And yet I knew nothing.
My first year in ministry and I am surrounded by a new reality. In my first month I am going to a different type of missions gathering. A group of 10 of us, half of them teenagers, are going to talk with Islamic refugees. We are not going to preach, nor are we going to accomplish some great work. We are simply driving five hours from home to spend the day having conversations in English, helping them get accustomed to their new life in the United States.
I talk to an elderly man as we walk through the park. He is weathered from horrors that my life cannot comprehend. He asks about my family, and why I do not yet have children at the age of 23. I balk and try to explain the intricacy of being stable before having children to a man who was uprooted and moved across the world just a year before.
He asks about my faith, and I share that it is in Jesus the Messiah. He came to bring good news. I asked about his faith. He shares that when he was young they would have stoned any man found out to be a follower of Jesus the Messiah; and those were the good old days.
As we leave for the return home. This man, whose pride is killing my brothers, embraces me in a hug--a deep sign of respect.
On the ride home I realize:
The one thing I know is that I know nothing.
Now a four year ministry veteran. I know less than I did before, but yet I know more. On trips to serve or listen or talk I have learned that these places, these people are crucial. They belong to God. I am struck now, this very morning, as I read again through Paul's letter to the Galatians, about a simple agreement between Paul and the other leaders of the church:
"All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do."
Let me be likewise eager, O God and Father of this homeless soul.