I came to work a little late on Tuesday morning. As you probably well remember, Tuesday was cold and damp. As I got to the office it was still snowing. With both the federal government and the city government closed, the streets around Judiciary Square were almost empty.
In fact the only people I encountered as I walked from the Metro were two very wet and apparently homeless people sitting on a bus stop bench. I said “Hello,” and “How are you?” One of them said, “We’re really hungry.”
I have cards that I can give out that are good for meals at New Course**, but the diner was closed. I don’t like to give people cash, and besides, I had no small bills or change in my pocket. I might well have said that I couldn’t help and then just kept on going.
But at noon on Tuesday I was going to be praying for the hungry.
Following the encouragement of Pope Francis I was going to join others in prayer all around the world*** asking God to satisfy the desire of every living thing for nourishment. I was going to be asking God to open hearts everywhere so that we can share what we have with other human beings in need of food.
It seemed heartless and wrong to ask God to help people in general when there were two people specifically standing in front of me who said they were hungry. I opened my wallet and took out $20 for the two to share. They said there was an open McDonald’s nearby, and they said “Thank you,” and they set off.
I don’t know that the world was changed by my actions that morning, but my prayer was changed. I still prayed that God would open hearts everywhere, but I also prayed that God would open my personal heart.
I asked for help so that I could be less likely to take my own meals for granted. I asked that I could be quicker and more willing to sacrifice when I got the chance to give somebody something to eat. And I prayed for the two people I met, asking God to guide them toward dinner and a dry place to spend the night.
Some of what we do to help the hungry we do individually like this. But some of what we do, we can do together. Carry a couple of extra dollars with you to give to somebody who asks you. And remember the organizations that put our money together to care for the hungry around the world and address the root causes of hunger.
This time of year is always especially important to our own ELCA World Hunger. In partnership with Lutheran companion churches, the appeal supports people in towns and cities of the U.S. and nearly fifty other countries. The ELCA World Hunger is our way of serving in the largest refugee camps in the world and in hundreds of little villages you might think the world forgot.
I am grateful to be part of a faithful community that works to follow our Lord and to care for the hungry. I try to do this myself, as I know you do, too. And I support ELCA World Hunger, as I hope you will in these last Advent days. Think of it as an extension of your own care and compassion, because that’s what it is.
And let us all continue to pray that in this world God has so richly blessed, there can be food for all to eat and to enjoy.
With Advent blessings,
The Rev. Richard H. Graham
Metropolitan Washington, D.C. Synod
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
* The original version of this message was distributed to rostered leaders of the synod on 12/12/13.
** The mission-centered New Course Restaurant and Catering is located up the street from the synod office.
*** The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, ELCA presiding bishop, invited members to join a wave of prayer to end hunger.