It had been several weeks since Gladys’s husband Jeff passed away. Her daughters had helped her donate or dispose of Jeff’s clothes. His work shirts were carefully placed in the trash dumpster since Jeff wore his work shirts until they were rags.
One early morning she walked into her pantry and looked around. There on the floor were two unopened cases of Pork and Beans, Jeff’s favorite. He always bought two cases of the special beans when he opened the last case.
Growing up, cans of Pork and Beans kept his family feed in the winter months. Since they held so many precious memories, he had a real love for them.
Gladys did not care for the beans. She was a meat and potatoes gal, and beans just did not sit well with her system.
She wondered what to do with the two cases. Her daughters were vegan.
Getting down the phone book, she looked for a donation center nearby. Of course the phone book was not helpful, but then she remembered that on her way to the cemetery, where she went every day, was a church-operated service center for the needy.
Placing the two cases on the front seat of her car, she headed out. Pulling into the parking lot of the church donation center, she got out of her car and went inside.
She was greeted by a friendly older woman. Gladys asked if they took food donations, and the church lady said yes.
Going back to her car, she carried the two cases inside and set them on the receiving counter. The lady behind the counter raised her right eyebrow and frowned.
Gladys asked if there was something wrong. The lady said they did not accept Pork and Beans donations.
Gladys attempted to explain about her husband’s fondness for the beans, and she was sure that a family would appreciate them. The lady listened patiently, but then said that her belief would not allow her to give a can of Pork and Beans even to a pet.
Gladys thought that was strange that a can of Pork and Beans would be so viewed, especially with the number of people unemployed and homeless. She asked the lady if there was some other place that she could donate the two cases, but the lady said that in good conscience she could not recommend anyplace except the trash dumpster outside the doors.
Stunned, Gladys took the two cases back to her car. As she placed them on the front seat, she wondered about a church which would toss good food in a trash dumpster instead of feeding the hungry.
Her emotions got the better of her, and she began to cry. She felt a hand on her right shoulder. Turning, she saw a young lady with a smile on her face.
The young lady asked her if she could be of assistance. Gladys explained about the two cases of Pork and Beans and her husband Jeff.
The young lady said that she helped run the local Soup Kitchen in town on Saturday and Sunday. Two cases of Pork and Beans would be a nice hot meal for those who came by. The young lady placed the two cases in her car and invited Gladys to come on Saturday.
Gladys did, and she discovered that the 22-year old lady had started the Soup Kitchen in an old bar when she was fourteen. She had not missed a weekend in the eight years.
Gladys decided that she would volunteer at the Soup Kitchen. Over the next few years Gladys made many wonderful friends and donated not only her time but funds to help run the marvelous place which reached out to those in need.
There was one homeless gentleman who always asked for a plate of Pork and Beans on Sunday. One Sunday Gladys asked why he always wanted Pork and Beans. He simply said that growing up it was a staple in hard times for his family. Gladys realized for the first time that her husband Jeff was not alone in growing up when a can of Pork and Beans became an essential food item.
Eventually, Gladys passed away and was reunited with her husband in the reality which lies beyond this planet traversing the cosmos. On earth all the denizens of the Soup Kitchen showed up for her funeral in a lovely chapel overlooking the lake.
Gladys’ daughters and their families supported the Soup Kitchen which their mother had come to love. They were even able to drop a piece of meat in the soup pot. Being vegan did not mean that they could not help a fellow traveller with their meal. They did prepare vegan meals as well, and they were appreciated for their efforts.
The church lady at the donation center eventually died. As she stood at the Gates of Paradise, she was not greeted by Saint Peter but by a group of children in rags.
She was a bit miffed that she was greeted by children who should have been clothed properly. The children just stood there and stared at her. Soon, out of the clouds men and women dressed like the children joined the children.
This was more that she could bear. She had always dressed for church, and she expected the same in Paradise.
A soft light hovered over the rag-tag group. In a moment they were clothed with beautiful garments and gradually faded into the clouds.
What seemed like an eternity, she stood outside the Gates. Finally, she demanded for someone to speak with about this harsh treatment. She deserved better, she reasoned.
Finally, out of the clouds a soft voice of a female child spoke and said,
“ I was hungered, and you gave me no meat. I was thirsty, and you gave me no drink: I was naked, and you clothed me not.”
The church lady protested and asked when did she do these things? She had never missed church; paid her tithes and gave her offerings, very generous offerings; she had been the chair of the church school; she obeyed every church doctrine; prayed for the missionaries every day; every Tuesday and Thursday she donated her time at the church donation center; and her children and grandchildren were still in the church which was more than she could say about certain so-called fellow church members over the decades.
The group of men, women and children reappeared. The voice said, “These men, women and children could have been fed and clothed by your good deeds, but you chose your own self-righteous acts over compassion and mercy. Remember the two cases of Pork and Beans which you rejected?”
The church lady said “yes” wondering what the beans had to do with the matter. She had followed her church doctrine on the matter.
“From those two cases all of these men, women and children were fed over the years. By rejecting the gift of food brought to you with a loving heart by a widow, you have been rejected.”
The church lady protested. “Rejected!” She shouted. She demanded to talk with an adult not a child. Surely, this child’s capricious nature should not be the final word, she reasoned.
There was a long moment of pure silence. It was overwhelming to the church lady.
The voice continues, “Look at yourself.”
The church lady saw that her fine church clothes were gone and in their place the rags of those she had seen. The rags clothed her like skin. She tore at them but the pain was excruciating. Suddenly, she was no longer at the Gates of Paradise. She felt herself falling into the darkness from which there was no escape.
This allegory is about finite life on this globe. What one does has a direct bearing on others. In the final analysis what you did for a fellow traveller is all that matters when you are gone from this plane of existence.
What will you do in 2014 to help those in need? A can of Pork and Beans can go a long way.
G. D. Williams © 2014