The pattern of practical loving

Sometimes I don’t know what the practical side of love is supposed to look like. And by the practical side of love, I’m referring to loving those in need. Is it really even “supposed to” look like anything, as if it were a consistent pattern? 

This is on my mind because today on my way to the store, I saw the same beggar that I always see on the way to the store. As usual, she sat on the sidewalk, her swollen feet outstretched for passersby to take pity on her condition.

I smiled and greeted her. Her face lit with an almost-toothless grin. She cackled a greeting in return and asked how I was. She wasn’t expecting anything more from me than what I gave.

So what did she really want? Was it the couple of coins I could have dropped into her hand? Was it the groceries I could have bought for her? Or did she really just want eye-contact: to be treated like a normal person, to be loved instead of patronized by a stranger?

When I walked back out of the store, I had nothing for her except another smile. And she was ready with that same brilliant grin. What I had given her was all she wanted from me today.

Perhaps the only consistent “pattern” in practical loving the fact that one is loving.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matt. 22:37-40)

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