“And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek, and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; the one who seeks, finds; and the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” Luke 11:9-10
Over the last several days, my church has hosted what we call a Parish Mission. Our parish community gathered each night to hear a spiritual talk, and our presenter this year was a retired bishop named Harry Flynn. He was the Archbishop of St. Paul & Minneapolis until retiring in 2008. Before he left yesterday morning, he celebrated our early morning Mass, and I had the chance to hear him preach one more time.
The Archbishop told us the little story below, and I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind. It might move you the same way.
One day, Archbishop Flynn was coming back from visiting a parish and as he was driving into the city, he and the person he was traveling with stopped at a red light. A panhandler approached with a sign in his hand saying that he had been laid off and needed money for food.
Although his traveling companion didn’t want to roll down his window, the Archbishop asked him to. He wanted to give him some money. As he opened his wallet, Flynn realized that he only had a twenty-dollar bill. He looked at the little coin holder in the dashboard and saw some spare change. He asked himself if he should give the change, or give the $20. He opted for the twenty, and passed it on to the driver, who in turn gave it to the man.
The Archbishop mentioned to us that he had been asked by his friends and colleagues not to give people cash, since he was well-known in the area and would be an easy target each day when he walked to his office.
He responded to them by saying that, when his judgement day came, he’d much prefer God to say that he had been scammed that day, instead of being rebuked for not taking care of the poor. Flynn reminded himself that what the man did with the money “was not his problem,” and didn’t give the episode another thought until later that day.
Before he left his office for the day, the Archbishop heard a knock on his door. It was the man who had been driving with him earlier. He said that, after he dropped Flynn off at his office, he had gone to lunch at the local McDonald’s.
While he was eating, he said that a most amazing thing happened. He saw the panhandler the Archbishop had given the $20 to come into the restaurant with several other people, all of whom looked like they were homeless. The panhandler came up to the counter with the group and, using the $20 bill, bought everyone a sandwich and a drink.
This little story goes to show that you just never know what good might come out of your generosity.