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HomeStorytime!Bible StudiesPoems for the HungryAbout the Author
Outward Appearance

Our house was directly across the street from the clinic entrance of
John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. We lived downstairs and rented
the upstairs rooms to out patients at the clinic.
One summer evening as I was fixing supper, there was a knock at the 
door. I opened it to see a truly awful looking man. 
"Why, he's hardly taller than my eight-year-old," I thought as I 
stared at the stooped, shriveled body. But the appalling thing was his face- 
lopsided from swelling, red and raw. Yet his voice was pleasant as he 
said, "Good evening. I've come to see if you've a room for
just one night. I came for a treatment this morning from the 
Eastern Shore, and there's no bus 'till morning." He
told me he'd been hunting for a room since noon, but with no success, 
no one seemed to have a room.
"I guess it's my face...I know it looks terrible, but my doctor says
with a few more treatments..." For a moment I hesitated, but his 
next words convinced me: "I could sleep in this rocking chair on the 
porch. My bus leaves early in the morning." 
I told him we would find him a bed, but to rest on the porch for now. I 
went inside and finished getting supper. When we were ready, I asked the old 
man if he would join us. "No thank you. I have plenty." And he held up a 
Brown paper bag. 
When I had finished the dishes, I went out on the porch to talk with 
him a few minutes. It didn't take long time to see that this old man had an 
oversized heart crowded into that tiny body. He told me he fished for a living
to support his daughter, her five children, and her husband, who was hopelessly
crippled from a back injury. He didn't tell it by way of complaint; in fact,
every other sentence was prefaced with a thanks to God for a blessing. 
He was grateful that no pain accompanied his disease, which was 
apparently a form of skin Cancer. He thanked God for giving him the strength 
to keep going.
At bedtime, we put a camp cot in the children's room for him. 
When I got up in the morning, the bed linens were neatly folded and the little
man was out on the porch. He refused breakfast, but just before he left for 
his bus, haltingly, as if asking a great favor, he said, "Could I please come
back and stay the next time I have a treatment? I won't put you out a 
bit. I can sleep fine in a chair." He paused a moment and then 
added, "Your children made me feel at home. Grownups are bothered by my face,
but children don't seem to mind."
I told him he was welcome to come again. And on his next trip he arrived a
little after seven in the morning. As a gift, he brought a big fish and a
quart of the largest Oysters I had ever seen. He said he had shucked them that
morning before he left so that they'd be nice and fresh. I knew his
bus left at 4:00 a.m. and I wondered what time he had to get up in order to do this for us.
In the years he came to stay overnight with us there was never a time
that he did not bring us fish or Oysters or vegetables from his garden. Other
times we received packages in the mail, always by Special Delivery; fish and
Oysters packed in a box of fresh young Spinach or Kale, every leaf
carefully washed. Knowing that he must walk three miles to mail these, and
knowing how little money he had made the gifts doubly precious. When I received
these little remembrances, I often thought of a comment our next-door
neighbor made after he left that first morning. "Did you keep that awful
looking man last night? I turned him away! You can lose roomers by putting up
such people!" Maybe we did lose roomers once or twice. But oh! If only they
could have known him, perhaps their illness' would have been easier to bear. 
I know our family always will be grateful to have known him; from him we
learned what it was to accept the bad without complaint and the good
with gratitude to God.
Recently I was visiting a friend who has a greenhouse. As she showed me her
flowers, we came to the most beautiful one of all, a Golden Chrysanthemum,
bursting with blooms. But to my great surprise, it was growing in
an old dented, rusty bucket. I thought to myself, "If this were my
plant, I'd put it in the loveliest container I had!" My friend changed my
mind. "I ran short of pots," she explained, and knowing how beautiful this one
would be, I thought it wouldn't mind starting out in this old pail. It's
just for a little while, till I can put it out in the garden."
She must have wondered why I laughed so delightedly, but I was imagining just
such a scene in heaven.
"Here's an especially beautiful one," God might have said when he came
to the soul of the sweet old fisherman.
"He won't mind starting in this small body." All this happened long ago-and
now, in God's garden, how tall this lovely soul must stand.
The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward
appearance, the LORD looks at the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7)
 

 


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