‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
This passage is from a Lenten reading on Monday, February 22nd, the day my father-in-law passed away this year, and it reminds me so much of him. Al was a man I was grateful to know, because he embodied the kindness that Jesus calls us to live. Al wasn’t a fancy guy; he preferred camping to four-star dinners, and lived his life with compassion. His career was spent as a grocery store manager, and he never hesitated to help out someone in need who was hungry, and he did it quietly. He was never wealthy, but he always thought of ways to help others because he could. Most impressively, Al died the way he lived: he didn’t want to be a burden to anyone. So much so that he called a day or two before he died and reminded us to cancel his Amazon account! The word in Yiddish for a man like him is “mensch,” or a good man. He got his final wish: he died peacefully in his sleep, joining his dear wife in heaven who passed away just 9 months ago.
The teaching from scripture along with the model that my sweet father-in-law’s life has become reminds me that small acts of kindness aren’t motivated by wanting to “give back.” Al’s kindnesses were part of a lifelong quest to become a better person that he was before. I pray that I will always know the nearness of his particular way of showing me the path of humility and kindness that Jesus extols us to follow this Lenten season.