Paying it Forward
Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, ‘Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.’ Luke 19. 1 - 10
When Jesus called Zacchaeus, the rich tax collector, down from the tree, Zacchaeus knew (in the Holy Spirit way of knowing) that something really good was about to happen. So as we often do when the Holy Spirit pays a visit, he said to himself I'll do anything to make up for all the terrible things I've done...here, let me give half of everything I have to the poor and "pay back four times as much" as I have taken from people. In other words, he decided to pay forward for the forgiveness he was receiving from Jesus...that's how the Holy spirit moves among us, I do believe!
Yesterday I witnessed the Holy Spirit "moving among us" in the little town of Lenoir, NC. The story goes like this:
My friend Susan's tire went flat, and two men stopped to help her. They fixed the tire and were on their way when Susan tried to give them some money for helping her. They said no, give it to the homeless. Well, fearful that giving money to the homeless was not a good idea, Susan told the story to her prayer group, and they decided to take food to the homeless at the intersections in town where they slept under the overpasses. The women asked for help from the local police, and the police said no, that's not a good idea. So, the prayer group decided to do two things.
They put together bags of little toys and treats for the police force to carry in their cars in case they had to take children away from their parents. A new stuffed animal and a piece of candy or such would brighten a ride that could be terrifying for a child.
Secondly, they started a pay it forward project. And so at their prayer meeting yesterday, they shared stories about opportunities they had had to pay it forward. One woman had just paid for the groceries of a man behind her in line who had helped her get something off a shelf because she had a bad arm. Another woman who is partially disabled had been in line in front of a weary looking couple and told the cashier she wanted to pay for their groceries, and the cashier leaned into her and said, "They have already paid for yours!"
It seems these women have started something in Lenoir. When I went to dinner with them last night, three of them pointed out a man sitting behind them who had paid for their lunch a week or so ago. The six of us giggled about that and how kind it was and what a coincidence that the man was there again at the same time they were. As he left, they thanked him for that kindness, and he said, "Well, enjoy your dinner tonight too!" and he had done it again, this time paying for dinner for six.
From now on, I think I will call Lenoir "the town that pays it forward." Such generosity and hospitality in that little community will always remind me of the story of Zacchaeus and the men who helped Susan with her tire. It will also remind me of the generosity and hospitality I have witnessed there and for which I will be ever thankful...especially for each of you Susan, Rebecca, Alyce, Phyllis and Deb.
May we all be like Zacchaeus and come down from our trees to welcome the Risen Christ and pay his love forward for the rest of our lives.