It was so hard to look into his eyes. My immediate need was to look away and distract myself with some inane conversation about the weather or the economy or the latest political scandal. But his eyes . . . they were like magnets drawing me nearer to see things so terrible, so overwhelming, that I had no choice but to either view all they held or to shed tears without even knowing why. His words conveyed his story, but the truth that I could not escape lay in his eyes.

And yet, if it was so difficult for me to merely glimpse the reflection of what lay inside, what must it be like for him looking out; this man who stood before me, so needing to tell me the story of how he lost everything. When the flood came he saw the work of a lifetime snatched away in a few terrifying hours. That night he awoke to darkness and fear, half running and half swimming with his family to safety. That night was but the beginning of a nightmare that still goes on.

He spoke with sad eyes when he told how his family lost everything; home, possessions, livelihood.., everything. He and his wife both had worked out of their home, their only means of support washed away in the waters of the flood.

He spoke with defeated eyes when he told how they had decided not to come back to this place, but to let the government, through FEMA, buy-out his home. The ever-present threat of flooding, the evacuations every time a big storm blew through were more than his family was prepared to face.

He spoke with powerless eyes when he told how long the process of government red tape was taking. It can take three years or more before the government buys such houses and no other relief was in sight.

The pain in his eyes nearly took over when he told how he had no choice but to move back and clean up. If he didn't keep up with the mortgage, then he would lose what little he had left. Paying rent and a mortgage was close to putting him over the edge into bankruptcy and the insurance money, once it came, barely made a dent in the costs he faced.

The hopelessness in his eyes nearly brought tears to my eyes. My heart reached out to this man as if he were a child when he told how he didn't even have water to clean up the mess. The water pipes had burst in the unoccupied house during the cold winter months. He had no one to help clean up what remained of his house because his wife and son were working just to keep the bills paid and food on the table.

His eyes softened with love when he told how his daughter would help but she was too young to go into this house. And when he spoke of his neighbors, (he knew each one by name), and how well they got along, there seemed to be a glimmer of hope in his eyes. But many of these neighbors may never be able to come back to their homes, the expense is just too great and the cleanup too hard.

Then he spoke with faith in his eyes as he thanked God that he and his family had come safely from the waters that night so many months ago — not everyone was so lucky. He said how thankful the people of the community were for the people from all over the country who came to help.

And then his weary eyes turned to me and he didn't speak at all.

Looking into this stranger's eyes has somehow changed me. Only minutes before I was patting myself on the back for a job well done as I helped clean up some of the mess. Now suddenly, as I looked and saw Christ in these eyes, I realized that this truly was the least I could do, nothing more than a gesture. Somehow I must find a way to meet this man's eyes in faith so that he too could look and see the eyes of Christ.

And this of course, is where my challenge begins.


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