There’s a photo in my office of my grandfather. It’s a copy of a picture that used to hang in my grandmother’s apartment when we were kids. A Greek immigrant to the United States, my grandfather is pictured standing proudly in the diner he owned. There’s a customer at the counter enjoying his coffee, and three waitresses.
I never met my grandfather – this photo was as close as I ever got. He died when my dad was young. But in this one photo, I learned a lot about my grandfather. You see, on the back of the original photo in my grandma’s house, when we peeled the picture out of its frame, was this handwritten note…
“For I was hungry and you gave me food,
I was thirsty and you gave me drink.”
It’s a scripture from the Bible, lifted from Matthew 25:35. I’m not writing today about faith, although the message on the back of this photo paints the picture of a man who clearly lived out what he believed. I’m not writing about immigration either, although I’m proud to be an immigrant’s grandson. Instead, this is a reminder of something I believe intensely…
We’re responsible for one another.
When I first saw this photo as a kid, I loved everything about it. My grandfather ran his own business. He was a hustler, a hard worker, an entrepreneur. Along with the diner, he ran a candy shop. My grandma worked with him there pulling taffy. My uncle used to tell stories of running to the candy shop to help after school, then home for dinner and schoolwork, and back to the store at night to sell popcorn on the street to theatre-goers.
My dad ran his own business too. Entrepreneurship felt like it was in our blood. Make your own path, and do your own thing. Work for yourself and write your own story. Take risks, and live fearlessly. That’s what that photo meant to me as a kid, and I carried that with me as I started my own business.
Now, though, this photo means much more. Today this image of my grandfather and the note inscribed on the back remind me to give freely without expecting anything in return. I have visions of my grandfather sharing a coffee or meal with someone he knew couldn’t pay, with no expectation whatsoever. No strings attached, doing it because it was the right thing to do, never holding it over someone’s head that they couldn’t pay. Sharing with others because as in immigrant business-owner, my grandfather realized he was a blessed man… or at least that’s the picture I’ve created based on that message on the back of the photo.
I am blessed. Even on the most challenging days, I am blessed and responsible to share those blessings with the people who need them. This isn’t just a “red-kettle, December outside the grocery store” thing. This is an, “I need a place to sleep tonight” when it’s ten-below in January thing. It’s an, “I’m hungry” on a hot night in June thing. It’s an, “I just need someone to talk with, can we grab coffee?” thing. It’s a, “My car broke down – can I catch a ride” thing. The ways we care for each other are different every day.
We’re responsible for each other – for our friends and family, and for the people we don’t know who are navigating being human just like we are. You know what this looks like in your own life. You know the people who need a lift. You see them every day. Some look needy and poor, and some look just like you. Don’t let those opportunities slip by – create a life where someone will write this note to you someday…
“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink.”
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