As God views us….

Psalm 86:15 “But You, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious,
long suffering and abundant in mercy and truth.”

The Ugly Man

Our house was directly across the street from the clinic entrance
of Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. We lived downstairs and rented
the upstairs rooms to out patients at the clinic.

One summer evening as I was fixing supper, there was a knock at the
door. I opened it to see a truly awful looking man. “Why, he’s hardly
taller than my eight-year-old,” I thought as I stared at the stooped, shriveled body.
But the appalling thing was his face, lopsided from swelling, red and raw.

Yet his voice was pleasant as he said, “Good evening. I’ve come to
see if you’ve a room for just one night. I came for a treatment this
morning from the eastern shore, and there’s no bus ’til morning.”

He told me he’d been hunting for a room since noon but with no
success, no one seemed to have a room. “I guess it’s my face… I know
it looks terrible, but my doctor says with a few more treatments…”

For a moment I hesitated, but his next words convinced me: “I could
sleep in this rocking chair on the porch. My bus leaves early in the morning.”
I told him we would find him a bed, but to rest on the porch. I went
inside and finished getting supper. When we were ready, I asked the old man
if he would join us. “No thank you. I have plenty.” And he held up a brown
paper bag.

When I had finished the dishes, I went out on the porch to talk with
him a few minutes. It didn’t take a long time to see that this old
man had an oversized heart crowded into that tiny body. He told me he
fished for a living to support his daughter, her five children, and her
husband, who was hopelessly crippled from a back injury.

He didn’t tell it by way of complaint; in fact, every other sentence
was preface with a thanks to God for a blessing. He was grateful that no
pain accompanied his disease, which was apparently a form of skin cancer.
He thanked God for giving him the strength to keep going.

At bedtime, we put a camp cot in the children’s room for him. When
I got up in the morning, the bed linens were neatly folded and the little
man was out on the porch. He refused breakfast, but just before he left
for his bus, haltingly, as if asking a great favor, he said, Could I
please come back and stay the next time I have a treatment? I won’t put
you out a bit. I can sleep fine in a chair.” He paused a moment and then
added, “Your children made me feel at home. Grownups are bothered by my
face, but children don’t seem to mind.”

I told him he was welcome to come again. And on his next trip he
arrived a little after seven in the morning. As a gift, he brought a big
fish and a quart of the largest oysters I had ever seen. He said he had
shucked them that morning before he left so that they’d be nice and fresh.
I knew his bus left at 4:00 A.M. and I wondered what time he had to get up
in order to do this for us.

In the years he came to stay overnight with us there was never a
time that he did not bring us fish or oysters or vegetables from his garden.
Other times we received packages in the mail, always by special delivery;
fish and oysters packed in a box of fresh young spinach or kale, every
leaf carefully washed. Knowing that he must walk three miles to mail these,
and knowing how little money he had made the gifts doubly precious.

When I received these little remembrances, I often thought of a
comment our next-door neighbor made after he left that first morning.
“Did you keep that awful looking man last night? I turned him away!
You can lose roomers by putting up such people!”

Maybe we did lose roomers once or twice. But oh! If only they could
have known him, perhaps their illness’ would have been easier to bear. I
know our family always will be grateful to have known him; from him we
learned what it was to accept the bad without complaint and the good with
gratitude to God.

Recently I was visiting a friend who has a greenhouse, As she
showed me her flowers, we came to the most beautiful one of all, a golden
chrysanthemum, bursting with blooms. But to my great surprise, it was
growing in an old dented, rusty bucket. I thought to myself, “If this were
my plant, I’d put it in the loveliest container I had!”

My friend changed my mind. “I ran short of pots,” she explained, and
knowing how beautiful this one would be, I thought it wouldn’t mind starting
out in this old pail. It’s just for a little while, till I can put it out in the garden.”

She must have wondered why I laughed so delightedly, but I was
imagining just such a scene in heaven. “Here’s an especially beautiful one,”
God might have said when he came to the soul of the sweet old fisherman.
“He won’t mind starting in this small body.”

All this happened long ago — and now, in God’s garden, how tall
this lovely soul must stand.

I Samuel 16:7b “For God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward
appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

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