34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

37 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? 39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

40 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’

– Matthew 25:31-40

As a receptionist for a medical company, I see a lot of people in a day:

  • Old (my sweet 95-year-old friend who asks me on a date at least once a week)
  • Young (our 25-week premature babies)
  • Rich (one man paid $1600.00 in crisp 20 dollar bills)
  • Poor (the guy who had to go back to his car to search for change to pay his $5.00 copay)
  • Generous (the man who was sitting in the lobby and paid the above patient’s copay while he was out in his car. I almost cried)
  • Energetic (3 brown-eyed freckle-faced brothers)
  • Devastated (a patient who became a widow… yesterday)
  • Kind (one woman slipped me a sticky note right before heading out the door: the note said “your phone etiquette is SUPERB)
  • Rude, Demanding, Impatient
  • and…. STINKY?

We have a patient who comes in every month or so.

I promise the man hasn’t bathed in a year.

When I see his name come up caller ID, I suppress the gag reflex as I answer politely.

I’m not kidding: it’s bad.

He returned to our lobby this afternoon.  He stood a foot away from my desk, but his stench drifted through the protective glass and collected in my small work space. He offered a half grin.  I tried to return the smile as I fought against the temptation to run for the hills. I worked as fast as I could to get his order together as the delightful smell of human waste, cat urine, body odor and stinky feet made my head spin and stomach turn. When it looked like it would be a few minutes before his order was ready, I offered a chair and a glass of water for him to wait.  My hope was that he’d step a little farther away so I could breathe deeply for a few minutes.

He took the water, but remained at the desk. Close.  Too close.  I tried not to inhale. I couldn’t decide if it would be better to breathe through my nose (which would make me smell him) or through my mouth (which would mean I might taste the stench).  After what seemed like an eternity, his order was complete and his copay paid (in the form of 10 sticky coins that he counted from his pocket into my hand).  He shot me a toothless grin and waved as he headed out of the door.

I sat back in my desk chair and tried to ignore the smell that lingered long after his departure.  Four words sprang into my head: the least of these.  It was in that moment of my watering eyes and suppressed gag reflex that I had seen him: the least of these.  Had I loved him? Had I done my best for him? Had I been kind? Did I treat him as I would have treated Jesus?

As my day progressed with ringing phones and endless walk-ins, and long after the smell had disappeared, those words echoed around in my head: “when you did it for the least of these brothers, you did it to me”.

Thank you, Lord, for these gentle reminders.  Open my eyes so that each day I may see the opportunities you’ve given me to show your love to those I come in contact with. Help me to see the hungry, the thirsty, the strangers, the naked, the sick, the prisoners…. and (yes) the stinky.