The one that’s already not yet here? Good question.

We’ve recently undergone a major house renovation project, replacing 19-year-old carpet, linoleum, and tile with hardwood floors. I’m naïve so I thought this would take a week. It took two weeks of demolition by my husband to move furniture, tear up the carpet, lino, and tile, remove the bathroom sink, vanity, and toilet, and pry up about ten thousand staples by hand from the subfloor in the kitchen. Then a week of installation, then a couple of weeks and counting of setting things to rights.

Of course, when you redo most of one whole floor in your house, other things crop up. The baseboards are off so you might as well paint the kitchen and office. Our furniture was from what I call the “early garage sale period” of a couple’s marriage, so we needed new end tables and lamps in the family room. And new rugs, and a new faucet for the bathroom sink, and valances (do not get me started on the subject of valances). I’m a reluctant shopper at best, so unlike lots of people who live to renovate and redecorate, there was some teeth-gritting and eventually, some griping (that’s the polite term).

All of this culminated on Sunday with not one but two trips to Bed Bath and Beyond before the 11 a.m. service. At 10:30 I was at the BB&B at Village Pointe, returning a rug. At 10:45, thoroughly “disgruntled” I was speeding down Dodge to the intersection at 90th. I stopped at the light, thinking about how irritating it was to have to return another (insert your favorite curse word here) rug and all before church when I prefer to have a leisurely coffee and read.

First world problems, anyone?

In this ridiculously self-absorbed frame of mind I noticed a homeless man was standing on the corner by the library. In his hands he held a sign that read Not all homeless people use money to buy drugs or alcohol. I use it to buy food and toiletries.

Hey, Margaret! Change your whole way of thinking, for the Kingdom of Heaven is now!

I sat in my warm car, feeling pretty ashamed for being crabby about buying beautiful things to put on my beautiful new floors when some people don’t have a home at all. I searched the car for something to give him – food, gloves, a hat, anything – but $2 was all I had in my wallet. I pulled it out and gave it to the man. He said, “God bless you” to both me and my son, who was sitting in the back seat, taking all of this in. The high speed return trip, the irritated drive to church, the homeless man, and an act of changed thinking. All of it, viewed by an 8-year-old who spent the rest of the trip to church worrying whether or not the man’s gloves were warm enough.

Am I building the Kingdom? If I am, $2 isn’t enough, not with all I have been given and all I have to give. I shared this story with a couple of friends, who suggested making kits to keep in my car, bags with toiletries, cereal bars, notebooks and pens, etc, so I have something substantial to go with whatever cash I have on hand. This is a good practical idea. Over winter break we’re going to get together and make up a few of these bags with our kids, just to be prepared.

Jesus exhorts us to stay awake, to be ready, and that’s not just for the sake of my own soul and salvation, but for the opportunity to tug back the veils hiding the Kingdom and show love and compassion to our fellow travelers. Because that’s what it’s all about, especially in this Advent season, being prepared for the Kingdom that’s already not yet here.

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