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How do we care for others when we disagree?

Our conversation went something like this: “Pastor, my Mom said you were a good man, and I should talk with you. She’s been telling me this for weeks, but I was too proud to ask for help. I’m at the point where I have nothing to lose anymore. I need help.”

Mike Denton - Conference Minister

I was working late at the church I served in Dayton, Ohio, and he’d come knocking on the door.

“Whose your Mom?”

“Annie Williams. She’s seen how you’ve been able to help other people in the neighborhood and thought you could help me, too.”

Our church had a small emergency pantry for when the community food pantry was closed. I had a small discretionary fund for emergency grants, too. This was the time before gift cards were so available.

“What’s your name?”

“I’m sorry. I was so nervous I forgot to give you my name. Anthony Williams.”

He extended his hand. We shook. I invited him into my office. We talked for a while. 

He told me about his life and how he had been fired a couple of months ago. He’d just started a new job and was able to get enough of advance to cover his back rent but didn’t have enough food to make it through the week. His new job was also off the bus line, and his car was out of gas. It was clear he needed help.


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“Well, Anthony, we don’t have much, but we can help out some. I can set you up with a bag of food and $40. Would that help?”

He nodded. “Anything would help. I can figure out the rest. That will just about get me through.”

I pulled out the envelope in my top drawer with the discretionary money and gave him the $40 that was in there. Then, I pulled out my wallet and added $10 more to the mix. He was gracious and, still, a little embarrassed, too.

“You don’t know what this means to me. Thank you. I promise when everything’s good again, I’ll bring this money back to you.”

I said what I always said. “How about this? When you get back on your feet, how about you share this with someone else who needs it?”

“I will. I promise I will.” I sent him off with a prayer.

A couple of weeks later, I saw Mrs. Williams out for a walk.

“Good afternoon, Mrs. Williams! How’s Anthony doing?”


And right at that moment, I knew. Up to that point, I thought I had a pretty good con radar. Although the vast majority of people who asked for help or I offered help needed it, there had been a one or two I’d turned away. There had been another couple of times I had my doubts. But “Anthony” fooled me.

I felt bad about it. The fund we used to help folks out was down $40, and $10 of my own money was gone. I’d given away food that other people had donated. I didn’t tell too many folks about it because I was embarrassed. Unfortunately, there were consequences of this con that spread beyond “Anthony” and me, too.

I tried to convince myself that maybe he needed it and thought this was the only way to get help. However, after that, I listened to those who knocked on the door with a little more caution. I am sure I didn’t help some people as much as I could have because I doubted my judgment.

How many of you, while reading the story, were completely pulled in by it? How many of you have had a similar experience or know someone who was conned? What did you feel? What did they feel? What’s the response we should give to someone who was conned?

There is a lot of anger and rage these days aimed towards the unvaccinated and vaccinated; the unmasked and the masked. Each side is convinced the other side is conned. We were already divided in many ways. Now, this division is being used by some on both sides of the divide to consolidate power.

But there are those words Jesus says about “an eye for an eye” in Matthew 5:38-48 and those words about striving to “do what is good” in 1 Thessalonians 5:15.

What is our responsibility to those whom we believe have been conned? How do we care for one another even we disagree with one another?


Copyright © Fall 2021 - Pacific Northwest Conference United Church of Christ News


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