From his seventh floor office Thomas had a beautiful skyline view. The monstrous structures that formed the perspective through his window oftentimes stole away his attention. One minute he was processing purchase orders from billionaire clients and the next he caught himself daydreaming about how this vantage point was very different from the one which he grew up accustomed to.
Thomas had worked his way up from the rural village he was raised in starting first with his state university degree. From the age of twelve Thomas knew that he was destined for more than inheriting his family farm and the monotonous tasks attached to the life of a rural man. On rainy evenings he would find his mind wandering to the beautiful concrete palaces portrayed on television. His senior year of high school he enrolled in an internship in the nearest town where he filed paperwork for the city. Those long days loading filing cabinets were spent planning out a future far from sharing the road with tractors and driving fifteen miles to the nearest bank.
When he graduated first in his high school class of sixty-five students Thomas began to view himself superior to those around him. He no longer believed that the city life was his personal destiny, but he began to see this as the only real path in life. Thomas fell prey to the American Dream. Despite the disappointment of his parents Thomas declared his business major and packed up his old station wagon and headed for the big city.
Once he settled into this new life he had chosen he never looked back. This was his calling. There was no time for dating or forging friendships outside of the workplace. He worked his way up the ranks in various jobs. Once he had done all of the available tasks and filled all of the positions Thomas would start applying elsewhere and move on to conquer another company. As impressive as his resume was Thomas struggled to find the job he wanted to spend the rest of his working years in.
One Thursday in June Thomas gazed out his crystal-clear window and itched to be outside. The sun was beating down on the people of the pavement below. Lunch time was approaching, but usually Thomas worked through his allotted lunch time. If he was going to apply for the Vice-President vacancy he had many loose ends to tie up in a short period of time. He also had been crunching the numbers and figured that if he procured that position he would finally be able to afford the studio apartment he had been desiring for quite some time.
But as he continued to lose his focus by the glare of the summer sun Thomas decided that a five minute walk around the block may improve his productivity. He wrapped up the current file and headed out his corner office past the interns and administrative assistant.
“Going out for lunch, Doc?” Corrin, the intern, asked of Thomas.
“Just for fresh air.” He declared as he entered the elevator at the end of the hall. Thomas wanted to be clear that he was not about to break his habit of working through the lunch hour. He had a stern and reputable image to uphold in the eyes of the interns.
Down on the street level Thomas emerged from the glass double doors and entered the hustle and bustle of the busy city. A girl in a a tight hair bun, sunglasses, and black heels balanced a cup of coffee in one hand and was placing a phone call on her iPhone in the other. A man passed in front of Thomas wearing a perfectly tailored, imported suit. A group of young interns meandered through the quick pace of the crowd clinging to the lunch orders they were called upon to fill. Being in the company of so many people on a mission on the streets of an overpopulated city made Thomas feel at home. He quickly blended into the scene as if he was born to wear a slim fitting suit and Italian leather shoes.
He began his trek around the executive block at a brisk pace. His eyes were on the pavement and he attempted to clear his mind as his stride widened. In his mind he began to run through his to-do list for the evening: pick up some suits at the dry cleaners, fix the leaky sink in the guest bathroom, and pre-order the next book by his favorite business author on Barnes and Noble.com. He was so preoccupied that he barely noticed the man in front of him.
The man was in less of a rush and had become a stumbling block in Thomas’s immediate path. In the last second before impact Thomas attempted to dodge the man, but incidentally in his toil to not collide with the man he made it more sure to occur. As Thomas moved to the left of the man his right shoulder bumped with the man’s left elbow. Embarrassed of his own mistake Thomas plotted quickly to pick up his pace and get out of the line of sight for this stranger as quickly as possible. The man, on the other hand seemed less bothered by the situation than Thomas had anticipated.
“Sorry, sir.” The man said apologetically as though he had been the one day dreaming haphazardly.
Thomas was already a good five paces ahead of the man, but turned when the man spoke. He caught a glimpse over his shoulder and was taken aback by the appearance of the man with which he had made a collision. The man wore tattered clothes that were visibly of the wrong size for his small malnourished body. His hair was dark and matted as though he had not bathed or brushed it in a couple of days. A substantial amount of dirt had made this man’s nail bed its home and his skin was oily as it reflected the rays of the warm June sun.
Thomas shrugged off the encounter after a temporary moment of pity for the man in need. He continued his walk at an even quicker pace to avoid further interaction with a man much his inferior in society. He jutted through an alley to head back toward the office. Once he reached the glass double doors he entered and headed back to the seventh floor and continued his productive work day as though nothing of consequence had just occurred.
A few days later the sun was beaming once again through the large glass windows of his office. Thomas was engrossed in his work and listening to his favorite podcast. The solar thermostat on the wall stated that the weather was eighty-six degrees Fahrenheit outside and Thomas once again got the desire to abandon the workload to experience the beauty of fresh air. Before embarking on a another walk around the block Thomas resolved to stay more aware of his surroundings in order to avoid another “run-in.”
This walk was quite uneventful. The novelty of the beautiful weather must have run its course for many as there were far less people out and about on this particular day. Thomas completed a walk around the block quite quickly and so decided to lengthen his route to include the next block as well. The next block housed one of the city’s urban parks. As he strode through the beautiful landscape with the skyscraper background Thomas noticed a woman and two small children. At first, it was their laughter that caught his attention. The young children were playing a game of “I Spy” as their mother laced up a pair of tennis shoes. All three were sitting in the grass just off of the pavement.
“Richie, hold out your foot. I hope this is a better fit. It’s the best I could find at the shelter.” The boy struggled and grunted to fit his wide foot into a shoe that was obviously too small. The three of them worked to get it over his foot, and although Richie was clearly uncomfortable he smiled and hugged his mother when they finally got his foot inside of the shoe.
Thomas tried not to pay attention to other people. In fact, he had built his life around the principle that he must only be concerned about himself. However, something about this family made him think about his own life. A feeling of remorse for the boy in the shoes came over him. These feelings made Thomas uncomfortable. He quickly pushed them from his mind and made his way back to work.
That night, Thomas decided to treat himself to a meal at his favorite bistro on the other side of town. Parallel parking on the city streets was no easy task so he opted for valet parking. As Thomas traded in his keys to the Volvo with the Valet he caught a glimpse of a small group forming across the street outside of an old cement building. A rather large group of people were congregating and moving slowly through the single-door entrance to an Episcopal church. Of the people in the line one stood out to Thomas in particular, the man he had collided with days before on the sidewalk.
Something tugged on his heart and for a moment Thomas lost control of his body. Instead of embarking on a much anticipated meal at a table for one Thomas crossed the street and joined the others as they filed into the church. He couldn’t remember the last time he had crossed the threshold into a sacred place of worship. Thomas was not one to dabble in religion. It seemed that many of the people he knew that were religious lived a rigid life full of rules and still struggled with the best of them. He never saw much benefit in worshiping a God that didn’t take care of his own and yet demanded so much from them.
Once he entered the sanctuary he found a vacant pew in the back and tried to blend in, although clearly he wasn’t as poor or dirty as many of the others present. The service began quickly and although Thomas wanted to sneer at every scripture read and leave during the singing of hymns something inside of him kept him there. He listened as the rector read from a script, but could not deny the passion in his voice.
At the conclusion of the service there was a call to pray at the altar with some of the deacons of the church. Thomas took that as his cue to quietly make an exit. As he turned toward the exit behind him he felt a tug at his elbow. The man he had made contact with a few days ago on the sidewalk smiled at him once again and pulled him toward the altar and led him to pray. Thomas was stunned to realize that the assumed homeless man was in fact a deacon of the church. As they approached the altar together Thomas was moved to tears. He noticed in that moment that all his life he had been chasing wealth and prestige which had left him lonely and empty. He prayed that day at the altar and in the presence of the poorest people in the city Thomas came to know a Lord that sees beyond income and status to the heart of His followers. As he looked around he saw that all of those around him looked like the city’s poorest yet the most content. And for the first time in years Thomas smiled genuinely.
But many who are the greatest now will be least important then, and those who seem least important now will be the greatest then. Matthew 19:30 (NLT)
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