A Hungry Man is At My Door

Cross-posted from Livejournal

Back in 2009, I posted over at Livejournal an entry about Grace Noll Crowell and mentioned that my interest in her had been spurred by a poem that I first read in my high school hymnal, “A Hungry Man is At My Door.”

I had been wanting to find that poem for decades. The advent of the Internet led me to a reference in the index of World Call Magazine, the international magazine for Disciples of Christ – it was published in that periodical in September of 1933.

More digging led me to the Disciples of Christ Historical Society, who – as it turns out – had an archive of that magazine. A phone call led me to a most pleasant archivist who promised to seek out the issue I needed and send me a copy of the poem, and today in my mailbox I found not only the poem, but an extra copy of the entire September 1933 issue.

Miracle! Treasure! Gold-pressed Latinum! All praise to the dedicated archivists who preserve such things, and who are so generous with a casual seeker. I can’t afford a subscription to their membership drive at the moment, but as soon as it becomes possible, it is my intention to show my gratitude in a more substantial manner.

So here, after lo, these many years, is the poem that drove me on my journey of discovery:

A Hungry Man is At My Door
Grace Noll Crowell, in The Christian Advocate

A hungry man is at my door,
What shall I do?
My fire is warm, my loaf is sweet,
And I have you,
Sufficient for my needs… but oh,
The wind is cold.
A hungry man is at my door,
And he is old;
And he is weary, waiting to be fed.
I cannot dine
Until I break in three this loaf
I thought was mine.
I cannot rest beside my fire
Unless I share
Its warmth with him, and find a cloak
That he can wear.
This done — and he upon his way
Along the street —
I find a warmer fire — my loaf
Grown doubly sweet.

It’s no small miracle to me that I remembered as much of the poem as I did, albeit imperfectly. All I can say is that even at that tender and tumultuous age, this simple verse spoke to my heart, and whispered to me of my ultimate purpose, to serve God’s children by raising the human condition.

The poem came more forcefully to mind and prompted me to cross-post this here, because I find myself on the horns of a dilemma at the moment: A hungry child is at my door.

The problem is, the child is an adult – one who has basically been living rough for the last 14 years, ever since leaving home in a ferocious rejection of every value her parents ever espoused.

This young lady is gifted and talented and loves deeply and wants to see good in the world, but lacks the emotional stability to hold down any sort of a job. She wanders the world, sometimes making a bare living with some really kick-ass art skills, other times living on the generosity of friends, or strangers, or just living homeless. I keep thinking she’s hit bottom, but somehow she manages to keep finding new sub-basements, all without having that “aha” moment that spurs other people to clean up their act. In an earlier age, she might have been gathered up and placed in the care of the state – which I wouldn’t object to, because it would mean she’d at least be warm and fed – but our society in its wisdom put a stop to that.

She’s currently in Hawaiʻi (thank God for warm weather!), and apparently gets some assistance from the state down there, but she’s hungry, dammit – and nothing drives a parent crazier than to see a child suffer, even an adult one, even because of lousy choices. Worse, despite having been repeatedly bailed out, she feels lonely and unloved and unwanted, and the sadness around that is unfathomable. Money could be sent, even though I have precious little to send – but it would only be a band-aid, and nothing would change. It’s tearing me apart, and I just don’t know what to do.


2 responses to “A Hungry Man is At My Door

  1. {{{{Chris}}}}

    My parents, who are probably nowhere near as tender-hearted as you, did “what they could” for my mentally ill brother and then just gave up on him. My grandmother took care of him for a year or so, and then he drifted several hundred miles away to homelessness in Baltimore.

    For years, we didn’t know where he was. We kids had been tacitly taught that he was the family scapegoat, and we didn’t really want to find him, I’m afraid.

    Because a paralegal made friends with him, he’s living in a Catholic Charities apartment building for seniors now—he’s 68. He’s back in touch with the family, but mostly Catholic Charities takes care of him.

    I deeply sympathize.

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