Marathon at Pratt–“The Least of These”

As I’ve posted previously (see here), a Writers Marathon can be a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with one’s muse, especially after emotional or trying times.  While unable to join the recent excursion to Lemon Park in Pratt, Kansas, I’m privileged to share Nancy Sturm’s brief essay inspired by her experience in the sunshine that day.

BIO:  After teaching high school English for 21 years, Nancy decided to retire. Now she’s pursuing some free-lance writing and has published a few articles. She also works part-time as a co-director for the South Central Kansas Writing Project. If you would like to read more of her work, she blogs regularly at Looking at the Son.

“The Least of These” by Nancy Hamilton Sturm

Even at 10 am this late June morning, the air is hot and heavy with moisture. Today’s expected high is 106 degrees. Fortunately, I sit in the park, surrounded by huge, leafy green canopies. The cottonwoods, oak, and sycamores provide some protection and relief from the sun’s rays.

All around me I hear Spring’s mating calls: the cardinals sing, hoping to attract a mate. Cicadas’ harsh calls sound from my left, then the answering calls echo to my right. I sit on a bench under the shade of a wooden gazebo, soaking in the calm atmosphere.

My mind drifts. Instead of enjoying the beauty and quiet of Lemon Park in Pratt, Kansas, my mind drifts back a few days. I’m in downtown Wichita, on a Sunday evening in 100 degree heat. Here, too, I’m seeking shade, but for a different reason.

With six gentlemen friends, I seek shade not for myself, but for others. We’re on a quest, seeking the homeless. Surely, on this hot day, they seek relief from the oppressive heat in a shaded spot or grassy, tree-lined park.

My friends and I aren’t disappointed. We find the homeless trying to keep cool in sheltered spots: under the Kellogg overpass, in the shade of a gazebo in Old Town, and in the shadows of the downtown library. We offer our small gifts—a sandwich, a bag of chips, a cookie, a pack of gum, some toiletries, and a bottle of water. They seem such a small gifts. We chat for a few moments with each group. Invariably we are thanked, often with a sincere, “God bless you.”

Then we climb back into our air-conditioned vehicles and search for others who are hot, thirsty, and displaced. The irony of our finding some respite from the heat in an air-conditioned vehicle does not escape me. The 70 or so people appreciate the gifts, but our gesture seems so small, like using a teaspoon to dig the foundation of a house. But we will continue to dig that foundation, providing what we can. One sandwich and one water bottle at a time, we’ll provide small gifts for our brothers. One small gift is better than nothing.

Mark 12:29-31 The most important [commandment] …is this… ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.

Matthew 25:40b Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did your for me.


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