I have much to be thankful for this morning. My wife and family are safe and there has been little or no damage. Diane has no electricity, but she does have a phone, and my phone bill from here will be horrendous. She and the puppies spent the night in the homemade “bunker” under the stairs with sleeping bags and dog pillows, and I wish I had a picture of the three of them under there. As I read over the weekend, Rita arrived with all the wind and fury of a 70 year old smoker after running up 10 flights of stairs.
I’m still in Duisburg, Germany, but much calmer today than the past several days. There’s a church just down the street here from the hotel, St. Joseph’s, that I went to this morning to give thanks. I didn’t understand the sermon since it was all in German. From my viewpoint, it was just German people standing for a while, then sitting for a while. I did notice, though, that the average age was like 95 years old. Why are there no young people in church?
I left there to find some breakfast and to be alone with my thoughts to give thanks for this week. I would love to read a paper in English and have a bagel, but I haven’t seen any American news except what I read while in this Internet cafe.
An old weathered man with very old clothes angles his approach to intercept me. I barely glance at him; I would much rather support my church’s efforts at helping the poor rather than just give money directly; I’ve heard too many stories of Houston bums than spend the money on beer.
“Morgen!” he calls out enthusiastically. I suspect that once he finds out that I only speak English he’ll leave me alone. In this little German town they have very little use for English.
“Good morning,” I reply.
He stops with a surprised look on his face. “Where are you from?”
I’m surprised, too, that he speaks English. “Texas,” I say.
His happy demeanor disappears and he looks downcast. “Terrible news from there with the hurricane. Everything is all right with you, I hope?”
I’m touched that this old beggar is concerned about me. “Yes, fine, thanks. My wife was there near the hurricane but she’s all right.”
“Thank God for that. Say, can you extend to me any spare change you might have?”
Normally I avoid giving money to beggars, but he seems different to me. I hand him4 Euros in coins.
“I thank God for this gift you have given me. God bless you, young man, just keep being who you are. Never change. Somebody” – and he looks skyward – “is looking out for you.”
“I thank God for all I have, thank you. God has blessed me very much.” The two of us clasp hands, he looks me in the eyes and nods, then we say goodbye.
I turn and start walking, thankful for this encounter this morning, for an English speaking beggar to approach me, remind me that everything we have is a gift from God. He was happy and content as I’ve ever seen somebody, yet he was living on handouts. Suddenly I think I would like to buy him breakfast and talk to him. I turn around… and he’s already gone. I don’t know how he could have disappeared so fast, but he’s no longer there.
For you, friends and family, I hope you remember to thank God for all you have. I couldn’t have asked for a better church service this morning.