Missed Him By That Much

   In my best Maxwell Smart voice … “Missed it by that much!” I was traveling between Dodge City and Cimarron a couple of weeks ago and saw a bicyclist traveling with what might be considered all of his worldly possession; saddle bags on the front and rear. Just behind the seat was a hand written sign that I did not catch as we passed by on our way.
   Two days later I was on my way to Salina for Annual Conference. I had decided to leave the day before I needed to be there so my Tuesday would not be so long. Just outside of Larned I saw the green bicycle again, complete with rider, saddle bags, and sign on the seat. This time I watched as I drove by … the rider was not waving his arms, or being intrusive, or drawing attention to himself other than the simple cardboard sign attached to his seat. “Hungry Please Help,” was all it said. I drove on by thinking of his sign and the heat of the day.
   When I arrived in town a few minutes later I pulled into the local Sonic and ordered a double cheeseburger, fries, and a Route 44 ice water. I left there and found the local Dillons store and purchased several of those flat foil pouches of meat; tuna, chicken, and dried beef. I picked up a loaf of bread, some fruit cups, and 3 bottles of sports drink and headed back from whence I had come.
   I found the man resting alongside the road and pulled off on the shoulder. I asked him if he would like some ice water, he was very appreciative and expressed his thanks. I then handed him the bag from Sonic and explained the contents. He smiled a sparsely toothed grin and said “Thank you very much,” and started to sit to eat. I asked him if he thought he had room for the other groceries I had purchased in this saddle bags. His whole body shook, it was unclear if it was from fatigue or from the excitement and appreciation for the food. He assured me he could and took them gladly.
    He sat down in the grass with the bags and began devouring the feast. I do not believe I have ever been in the presence of someone “that” hungry … spoke to him of the heat and and the day to which he simply nodded as he ate. I finally simply said, “God Bless you on your journey,” and pulled away back on my way to my destination.
    I felt good, I had fed a hungry one. Scripture passages came to mind, “I was hungry and you fed me,” “show hospitality to strangers,” and others. But it was many miles down the road when I realized what I had missed.
    I was not in a hurry, my destination later that afternoon and evening was about getting a sandwich myself, sitting in my hotel room, and reading preparing for Conference. I wondered to myself why I had done that, why within my call and work to feed this hungry one I did not go the extra mile? Why I had not taken the time to sit down on the ground with him? Why had I not ordered myself a sandwich too and shared a meal there in the grass? Why had I not sat down and said, “If you are comfortable, tell me your story.” “Where have you been? Where are you going?” Why had I not made myself even more available to this weary traveler?
     I realized as I drove along how much I had missed. Perhaps it was in preparation for what I was to hear at Annual Conference about Radical Hospitality. That it isn’t enough to simply bring bread “to” the hungry, but perhaps our deeper call is to break bread “with” the hungry.
And I wondered … I pondered … whether … had I stayed … if HE would have been made known to me … in the breaking of bread. I wondered … and today as with the day of my experience, I give thanks for grace.


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