Activated - - NEWS - Anna Ranta has been a Chris­tian mis­sion­ary for 45 years and is the au­thor of Liv­ing an Ex­tra­or­di­nary Life, avail­able at The Book Patch. By Anna Ranta

It was a typ­i­cal Mon­day morn­ing, and my hus­band and I were in town on busi­ness for the hu­man­i­tar­ian aid project we op­er­ate in sev­eral Balkan na­tions. By 10 am it was al­ready get­ting quite hot. The af­ter­noon was sup­posed to be even hot­ter and more un­com­fort­able, so we were try­ing to fin­ish ev­ery­thing on our to-do list by noon.

As we parked our camper van, a man ap­proached us, ask­ing for money or food—not at all un­com­mon here, since mil­lions are still strug­gling to over­come the eco­nomic ef­fects of the civil war of the early 1990s. We usu­ally try to give some­thing to those who ask—some hu­man­i­tar­ian aid if we have any with us, or a lit­tle money— but this time we paid the man lit­tle at­ten­tion and hur­ried on our way.

When we re­turned some time later, he was wait­ing for us, un­per­turbed by our pre­vi­ous rude­ness. Since our ve­hi­cle has Ital­ian li­cense plates, he said a few words to us in Ital­ian. When I told him that I wasn’t Ital­ian but from Scan­di­navia, he started to speak to me in Dan­ish. My hus­band and I be­gan look­ing in the van for some­thing to give him, and when he heard us con­vers­ing in English, he switched into nearly per­fect English. This was no typ­i­cal beg­gar.

He ex­plained that he was a refugee from Croatia, hav­ing fled from the war years ago with noth­ing, and that he was home­less. He and some friends were liv­ing in the park across the street. A small gas cook­ing stove and three stray dogs by his bedroll tes­ti­fied to the ve­rac­ity of his story. My hus­band and I felt ter­ri­ble for the way we had treated this ob­vi­ously de­cent and in­tel­li­gent man who had fallen on hard times, or for hav­ing treated any­one that way, for that mat­ter.

The tragedy of war had brought him and his friends to their pre­sent state, but the longer we talked with him the more we re­al­ized that they had adapted ad­mirably well to their ex­tremely dif­fi­cult cir­cum­stances, liv­ing in a makeshift home un­der the trees in a park and bathing and wash­ing their clothes in the nearby Danube River.

We searched through our camper and gath­ered some sup­plies for him and his friends—food, soap and other toi­letries, as well as some in­spi­ra­tional read­ing ma­te­rial—and promised to bring them some cloth­ing the next time we came to town.

How easy it is in our some­times too-hur­ried lives to miss those pre­cious mo­ments when we can do some­thing to help a fel­low hu­man be­ing in need. We all have much to give oth­ers and they have so much to of­fer us, but too of­ten our busy­ness keeps us from re­ceiv­ing that bless­ing.

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