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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Of urinals and the least of these

'At the end of our least act … stands another human being'

There's a cigarette butt in the urinal. Saddest, soppingest, yellowest, shreddingest castaway I ever hope to see again. But sadder than that cigarette is the poor soul forced to scoop it out again. I know that poor soul. I call her by name. She has children and tired feet and bills and a blessed capacity for friendship. And she is: the night-clerk here at this family owned gas station who is my friend.

But saddest of all, I think, is the impoverished soul who was first to act, flicking his unflushable butt under showers of urine, zipping up and walking away. The man is benighted. He cannot see — or doesn't care to see — that at the end of even his slightest act there always stands another person, one whom he shall have scorned or might have loved by his habitual behavior.

I wonder whether this flicker of cigarettes can claim truly to love others. Surely he doesn't love my friend. He befouled her fingers and some piece of her dignity. He didn't have to know her to know that she existed, nor to know that he made her existence a greater drudgery.

DESIGNPICSThis may be the acid test of a genuine love: how do we love the ones we may never meet, those who can neither punish nor reward the deeds we choose to do? True love arises, ironically, from the selves that we are not. Something from a nothing. True love loves the Lover first and then allows the true Lover to fill our empty selves with his Something. Divine Love arises and acts in us. And through us offers love unqualified and free.


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