By Todd Outcalt
I first met Jerald when he came into my office demanding money for bus fare. He was, at first glance, a guy who seemed more than a little down on his luck. After some conversation, it was apparent that he suffered from mental illness, was a danger to no one but himself and had a dry sense of humor. Over time, as I came to know him, he often surprised me with his depth of knowledge about history, science and religion. Much of my time with Jerald was spent trying to find him shelter, food or medical help, but in between these weekly or monthly adventures, we would often talk about life.
Jerald died about a year ago and I, along with three or four other pastors, made up his funeral entourage as we laid him to rest in a pauper's grave north of Lebanon. Each of us said a few words and tried to recollect a life lived on the streets, but also a life we had known by name and each tried to help in tangible ways. We were amazed at the ways God had used Jerald to touch our lives and to bring joy into the lives of others.
I thought of Jerald again walking to the Colts game and wondered how, in 2008, our collective expressions of love might touch even the least of God's children. We are most often at home and often feel that we are at our best as a church, when we are ministering to those who are approachable, loveable, clean and financially secure. But in God's eyes, we are fulfilling Christ's love when we minister to the least of these.
I hope 2008 will help us to see the least, the last and the lost in our communities and be able to find new friends in people like Jerald.