Entertaining Angels Unawares
by Lori Heine
I've had the same landscaper for years. Chad is a Christian, and I know I can trust him to do an honest day’s work, charge me a fair price and look for ways to save me money. We’ve chatted often, over the years, about the things going on in our lives.
Though we’d gotten to know each other pretty well, there was one piece of information about myself I was reluctant for him to learn. Because he’s straight, and an Evangelical, I was afraid he would be scandalized to find out that I’m gay. One day, when we were talking politics – one of our favorite subjects – a current gay-rights controversy happened to come up, and in giving my opinion, I let slip a “we” instead of “they.” Just like that, I outed myself.
It was a non-event. Not only was Chad unoffended, he didn’t even seem the least bit surprised. Just when I’m sure that I could never be prejudiced, I learn, again, that I’m as capable of it as anybody else.
When we open up and let people know who we really are, they often do the same for us. Chad told me that he volunteers regularly to help the homeless in Phoenix, where we live. As it turns out, one of the people he befriended, in his work with those who make their homes in a desert encampment, was a gay man. Rob was about seventy, Chad said, and a veteran – probably of Vietnam. The other desert camp-dwellers tormented Rob because he was gay, so he had to live apart from them, all alone.
Rob suffered from health problems and had had bad hips ever since the war. He’d take his bicycle on a meandering path from the road to his camp, always making sure nobody followed him. He’d built a shelter into a big ocotillo tree, and had learned how to make a very small fire to cook his meals, so nobody else would see the smoke. But he took pride in his solitary home, and kept it and himself very clean. He took a daily shower on a concrete slab, using a big bucket of water, because even though very few other people saw him, he cared about keeping his appearance neat.
Chad was practically his only friend. He helped Rob out every chance he got, doing what he could to make Rob’s life a little easier. Rob confided to him that he was saving money, a little bit at a time, to buy a car. He dreamed of driving up to Northern California and seeing the giant redwoods – just once – before he died.
One day when Chad came to help his homeless friends, Rob was gone. Because he’d needed to hide from them when he was there, none of the others knew where he went. Chad sadly figured that Rob must have become ill. After some time had gone by and he didn’t see Rob again, Chad assumed he must have died.
Several months later, Chad got a message on his telephone voicemail. It was from Rob. He’d called to tell Chad that he had bought a car, and was up among the redwoods at last. And he thanked Chad, one more time, for all he’d done. He just wanted to let Chad know, because he knew that he would care.
Chad saved that message, and listens to it whenever his spirits need a lift. It lifts mine, too. It’s a powerful reminder, to me, that not all straight Christians are adversaries. Some of them are really quite wonderful. They can recognize the good in us – and it can touch the good in them.
“Be not forgetful to entertain strangers,” advises the King James Version of Hebrews 13:2, “for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” When we help someone in need, without even realizing it, we might be helping an angel. To Rob, Chad was an angel. To Chad, Rob was, too.
© 2014 Lori Heine
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