“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.” (1 Cor 13:1-3)
The college I attended as a young man was a collection of beautiful, red brick buildings built along the side of a hill. At the bottom of the hill was the closest town. Getting back to the dorms from town during the cold, Winter months was a treacherous trip even for the sober students.
For those who had been drinking at the town bars it often led to many slips and falls as they stumbled up the slick sidewalks. On one December day a friend and I were debating going into town to grab a bite to eat at the local convenience store. We didn’t like the idea of walking downhill on a sheet of ice, but the dinner at the cafeteria that day had left a lot to be desired. Finally, we decided to head down and grab some sandwiches and sodas. We gingerly made our way and after about ten minutes got to the bottom of the hill. As we walked towards the store a shivering man approached us. His clothes were worn and dirty. His gray hair was wild and unruly.
His face was unshaven. He didn’t have a lot of teeth left either. He smelt strongly of sour liquor. When he got close he stopped and seemed a bit ashamed of what he was about to say but finally he asked for a few dollars to get something to eat. I stepped back at first and all of the warnings that I had heard others say against people like him played in my mind. Yet, when I looked into his sad eyes I felt a warmth in my heart. I pulled out my wallet and gave him the money. As we walked on my friend said that the man was probably going to spend that money on alcohol. I thought about it then said, “What he does with the money is his choice. Sharing it was mine.”
I have looked back on that memory so many times over the years. If I had it to do all over again I think that I would have talked to the man longer, gave him more money, and maybe shared a hug with him as well. Even to this day some 30 years later I keep that man in my prayers.
I pray that he found his way back to health, back to a home, and back to God. We all come into this world from love and when we leave it we will return to love.
Whether we love while we are here, however, is up to us. What is your choice going to be? Are you going to live by the rules of the world or the rules of Heaven? Are you going to help just yourself or are you going to help others as well? Are you going to let fear rule you or are you going to love others as God loves you? It is up to you!
Joseph J. Mazzella