Easter and Thoughts of the Least of These
It was Easter week, a week of sunshine, warm weather and birds singing me awake each morning. It was a time for thinking about the hope that is part of the season, the promise made and kept by the perfect promise keeper, Jesus Christ. My spirits soared with the awesome music of a choir at my church. It was astonishingly beautiful as we celebrated the eternal truth of Easter. He is alive. Ken and I enjoyed a marvelous meal at a favorite restaurant late Easter afternoon. When I hesitated over ordering a favored appetizer plus dessert, Ken smiled and told me to enjoy ordering whatever I chose as Easter comes only once a year. But Easter did not come for the man who climbed into a dumpster to sleep. It wasn’t a dumpster full of garbage. It was one used for recycled items, cardboard neatly wrapped in bundles, newspapers stacked, waiting to be sorted and repurposed. The dumpster offered a temporary bedroom for the homeless man. He knew better than to once again sleep behind a building. He’d been trespassed for doing that. The police in several communities knew this homeless man. At least he had a name. He must have been very tired, perhaps he had once again imbibed too much as he was known for three things at least: drinking too much, trespassing to catch some sleep and being homeless. There he was deep into that restorative oblivion when the efficient recycle truck’s mechanism scooped him up and dropped him into the truck to be crushed ending his nightly search for a safe place to sleep. The truck is a one-man operation, efficient, swift and a marvel to behold. This accident was either no one’s fault or the fault of thousands of us, maybe most of us. We struggle with homelessness in America, the land of opportunity. We view it as a plight, a blight, or maybe a plague. We have services for the homeless, temporary shelters on bitter cold nights, meals at designated places at designated times. We have a long list of attempts to address the issues that go with being homeless. We care, many of us do care, not all of us but many of us, maybe even most. But I just can’t seem to forget this man who fell asleep in a dumpster and ended up at the landfill. He was somebody’s son. I have two sons; four grandsons. I can’t imagine the grief, the pain, at learning one of them was homeless, sleeping in a dumpster and crushed to death. Or even worse that this man who experienced a tragic life and death was missed by no one. I do a quick search online and up pop other homeless men injured or killed while sleeping in dumpsters. Maybe we should quit building homeless shelters and just set aside a fenced, safe area with empty dumpsters. Put a stack of blankets next to them. I do know that God knew this man who died Easter week 2015 in a recycle dumpster in a Florida beach town. I wish we could have at least had a funeral for him. Maybe we need a tombstone for the unknown homeless who die alone and forgotten. I think of this man and others like him when I read these verses. Matthew 8:20English Standard Version (ESV) And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”
Matthew 25:40English Standard Version (ESV)And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ My King of Kings, this man, who was crushed to death as he slept in a dumpster, probably is one of those categorized as the least of your brothers. I do not know if he knew you. I hope he did. Give us a heart for those you characterized as the least of your brothers. Help us remember the homeless are not a faceless group; remind us that each homeless person is a unique individual created by you in your image and lead us to be wise in how we respond to that person’s need.