“I Can’t Speak, But I can Listen”
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself.
One of the things I struggle with is helping people standing on corners with cardboard signs asking for help. My problem is that I don’t always give money unless they are older and obviously in need. I have the misguided impression that if you are young and appear to be able, I feel that helping is enabling these folks. In effect, judging them as lazy. My wife, Connie, on the other hand, is always fishing for money to hand over to the people we see on the corner. For years, I have struggled with this, and in my darker moments, I get very judgmental and refuse to help.
Recently, I came across a story about Luke McAllister, that changed my mind. Luke is twenty and lives in Camarillo, California. Each Saturday, he goes to Trader Joe’s with his father and hands out packages to homeless people. The packages are made with Ziploc bags that contain a bottle of water, two-dollar bills, and food items that won’t go bad in the heat of the sun.
Luke is a very different young man. First, he is a non-verbal autistic person. He is twenty years old and attends the Camarillo Church of Christ with his parents. Luke also suffers from severe anxiety and panic attacks. As such, the church leaves the back row reserved for Luke and his parents. This allows Luke to get up and walk outside to relieve his panic attacks without being noticed.
Luke got this idea to hand out packets to the homeless during his weekend shopping visits with his dad. He noticed a number of homeless people and wondered how he could help. He explains why as follows; I have been given an incredible support system, and it scares me to think about traveling alone in this world, but that is the reality for so many, If I can ease a scared soul, my trials are not so bad.
While Luke is non-verbal, he can express himself using an Alphabet board and his iPad. His iPad has an APP that allows the computer to speak his words as he writes them. The church quickly found out what he was doing and they themselves began distributing packets and established Luke’s Ministry. Later other local churches joined in. Using his iPad, he spoke in front of the congregation to explain how he assembled the packets. His father stood next to him to soothe him as he delivered his message.
Luke will tell you; I can’t speak, but I can listen. But he can speak, just not the way other people can. He speaks mechanically through a computer, more importantly, he speaks very loudly through his actions. Luke really does listen, through processing what he sees and understanding what it means. His words are trapped in his mind, and it is hard for Luke to relay back that he is really listening, but he is always hearing. Luke stands as another one of those examples of how God uses humble and ordinary people to be servants.
As I read more about Luke’s story, I got my answers about why I shouldn’t be so narrow-minded about helping the homeless in my community. The first is the gratitude that is expressed by those who receive the packets. In interviews with the recipients of Luke’s packages, to a person they were thankful. The second is Luke’s own words, where he says; I care greatly for the homeless, I care for individuals I see in immediate need. I care intensely about individuals in need who are directionless.
In many ways, Luke is a modern-day Good Samaritan. Today’s verse comes from the Good Samaritan story in Luke. Which brings us to the Bible verses in Luke [10:27]-37 that describes the story of the Good Samaritan, where it says;
He answered, Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.
28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 In reply, Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’”
36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
Normally, I don’t post full-length Bible texts, but for me, this is an important lesson. In this story, we find two well education religious leaders who pass by a man who has been beaten. Yet the third, not a religious leader, stops to help.
And this is the point, no matter how much we say we are religious it doesn’t matter unless we put our beliefs into action, much like Luke does. To truly love our neighbor, putting aside our preconceived bias is very important. We are not to judge, but love. Now you can see why I consider Luke a modern-day Good Samaritan. Luke cares intensely about those who are living in difficult conditions and helps, while not judging.
Off to the supermarket, I will go, based on this story. To shop for my packets for the homeless. My packets will include a bottle of water, a five-dollar bill, and food similar to what I carried while hiking the Appalachian Trail last year; Belvita cookies, raisins, and beef jerky. I will leave these packages in my car and hand them out whenever I see a homeless person.
What a valuable lesson from a person who is trapped in his own mind, but through his overwhelming love and desire to help his neighbor he has found a way to speak and contribute mightily to the world.
By the way, the name Luke means, the bright one or light. Luke certainly lives up to his name.
Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman