His hands were caked with the grime and grunge of a Middle Eastern street. Pointing to the slab of cement we could (with a bit of imagination) call a sidewalk, Mahamadou, my nine-year old friend, invited me to have a seat. Following his lead, I sat beside him. With a delicate touch, he took the sweet potato in hand which he had just purchased with precious coins collected from selling Kleenex on the street. Gently dividing it in two, he broke the potato giving me a generous half. It was in that moment that I realized a simple truth.
Though my earthly home was thousands of miles away, Arabic was in no way my native tongue, the street had never been my home, and we shared few commonalities in life—at that moment, thanks to an act of love and a sweet potato, all walls had been broken down. What was left were two guys sitting on the street eating half a sweet potato.
This has little to do with food. It’s about friendship.
My little friend offered me something few give. Everything. He invited me into his home, the street. Unashamed of the conditions, I was the honored guest at his table, with sweet potato on the menu. I had seen him walk across the street to a local street vendor who was roasting potatoes. Though his little stomach was probably throbbing for food far more than my western belly, he offered dinner at his expense asking nothing in return. Nothing, except the presence of a friend.
Mahamadou taught me a lesson on life.
We perceive the walls between us and those around us to be massive. We read the news and think of perpetrators of violence, political unrest, and social injustice—in labels rather than lives. With so many nations, peoples, languages, cultures, political affiliations, and diverse opinions on social issues swirling throughout our world, it’s quite simple to miss the individual.
Sometimes it takes a sweet potato.
Are we prepared to see walls fall by inviting our neighbors or those we perceive as different INTO our home? To our table? At our expense? Looking for NOTHING in return but conversation and friendship? Are we prepared to use our ears before our mouth? Are we intending to listen before offering answers? Are we ready to care before correcting? Are we ready to demonstrate compassion before condemnation? Love is messy and it won’t be convenient or efficient.
Do we WANT walls to fall?
This is what Jesus Christ came to do. Pull down walls. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility. (Ephesians 2:13-14)
How did He do it? He joined our world.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14) That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life… (1 John 1:1-2)
Jesus lived among us. Invited us to dinner. Accepted our dinner invitations. Was called “a friend of tax collectors and sinners.” (Matthew 11:19)
I am convinced there is no TRUE life outside the eternal peace found in Jesus. If we want to communicate the love of Jesus Christ to those around us, we must also communicate the life of Jesus Christ.
Are you holding onto preconceptions of someone? Anyone? Have them over for dinner. It doesn’t require much.
Sometimes it only takes half a sweet potato.