I recently reconnected with a woman I’ve met a few times. She was bundled up against the cold and hunkered down outside of a retail store in our community. As I walked by she called out, “Can you spare a toonie?”

Stifling a groan, I shifted the weight of multiple purchases hanging off my numb arms and turned to face her. Surveying the scene, my eyes were drawn to a large collection of cigarette butts carefully corralled in the basket of her buggy along with a few bags of clothing and a blanket. Everything she owned appeared to be riding on those four wheels. 

It’s amazing how quickly we judge certain people and situations. I found myself thinking, “Now why would I want to give her money for smokes? I know that’s what she wants it for.” My aching arms and buried wallet and her dubious intentions for my hard-earned toonie were excuse enough for me to sheepishly mumble, “I don’t have anything for you right now.” 

All the way to my car, my heart was heavier than the 20 pound bags swinging from my arms. I congratulated myself on being a fine Pharisee (read – religious “know-it-all” who doesn’t practice what she or he preaches) and promptly went fishing in my wallet for some loonies and toonies. 

Walking back over to this weather-and-life-worn woman, I noticed another woman ahead of me stopping to hand her a coin. Pocketing the money, my homeless friend looked up in surprise as I placed more coins in her hand. I don’t think I will ever forget the question she asked as she struggled to her feet! 

“Can I have a hug?” 

Her childlike simplicity and raw authenticity humbled me. I can assure you she received a bear hug! After we had chatted for a while, she thanked me and told me that she always feels better when I stop to talk to her. I was reminded that what I had to offer her was much more precious than a depreciating coin. 

Jesus was once asked what God’s most important commandment was. “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these. Mark 11:29-31

Jesus said that the distinguishing mark of those who are His disciples is that they would love others as He had loved them. More than ever, God’s love is what the world needs now.