I was a young editor of a jewelry business magazine whose job entailed mingling with the industry’s illustrious players at elegant parties. Tonight, the champagne would be flowing in one of New York City’s Fifth Avenue jewelry stores. The jeweler, famous for accessorizing celebrities for their red-carpet walks, did not disappoint his guests, greeting us to window displays of Christmas trees dripping in diamonds.
But it was a woman huddled outside the front of the store, holding her hand out for help, who got my attention. It was an all-too-familiar sight on the city’s streets, but the juxtaposition of wealth and poverty was especially raw and brutal that wintry night.
I didn’t want to admit my name was on the party’s guest list. I didn’t want to be like the children in the marketplace that Luke wrote about: those who — even though Jesus and John showed them the way to what really mattered in life — continued making excuses for why they couldn’t follow. Would I listen to John? I’m not listening to someone who ate locusts. Would I listen to Jesus? He dined with sinners, not A-listers.
I stared at the figure obscuring the dazzling window display. I had a choice to make: mingle with those inside or stand with those outside. Turning my back on the party, I handed the woman my cab fare to return to my apartment and began walking home.
Howard Thurman once said that there are times when we refrain from doing the thing that could rescue another person. That night I didn’t want to refrain from doing something for one of God’s children: the real “diamond in the rough” who was more precious and valuable than all of the pressurized pieces of coal dangling from a Fifth Avenue jeweler’s Christmas tree.
God, forgive me when the world’s riches dazzle me. Open my eyes so that I truly see the precious lives I pass by too quickly on my Advent journey. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
Do a mental scan of your community: the streets you walk, the roads you drive and the houses you pass. Where does the candle of hope need to be lit?