Washing His Feet

He limped in off the street, leaning on a wheelchair that had “2nd Floor Pain Clinic” written on the seat. On the back, it just said “PAIN” in large letters.

We had just endured twelve days of subzero temperatures in Kansas City, with lows in the negative teens. At Morning Glory Ministries, a social outreach ministry, we had been struggling to help our guests amid the record freeze and an ongoing pandemic.

I helped the man with the door, and he told me how many places he’d been kicked out of or shuffled around to. As he spoke, he sat down in the wheelchair. With a slow but steady determination he took off his old battered shoe and the wet sock underneath, revealing a horrid sight: a missing big toe, the other toes blackened from frostbite, and crisscrossed scars running up the length of his leg.

PAIN, indeed.

After listening to his story, I spoke with our director and case worker, who would come up with a plan to help him find the care he needed. Around that time, a young woman came in for help. She said she’d lost everything and had been sleeping outside up until the previous evening, when it was just too cold to bear. In the middle of our conversation, the man in the wheelchair started crying. He was cold, in pain, and overwhelmed. I too was overwhelmed—by his acute suffering, by the suffering of all our guests, and by the cruelty of this particularly hard freeze.

I consoled him as best I could, and in between interviewing other guests, noticed the young woman had started talking to him, asking him why he was crying and what happened to his foot. When our case worker called him into his office, the woman pushed his wheelchair. And when they left the office with warm clothes, food, and housing resources in hand, she knelt in front of him, held his foot and carefully put on the dry sock and shoe he’d been given. She asked him if it felt okay. He nodded. Not only had he stopped crying, he almost smiled as she gently held his foot—and all his painful history—in her hands.

Moments like this make the resurrection believable. More than that, they make it possible, and maybe even inevitable. Because on a freezing cold day in February, in the muddied vestibule of Morning Glory Ministries, I watched a young woman with nothing except her love, dignity, and compassion become Christ to someone who had even less. And in that moment, under the scourge of cold and in full view of the ravages of illness and injustice, I saw an indefatigable love pouring out of her and over all this world’s brokenness.

She saw Christ, crucified in the flesh of our suffering brothers and sisters, and she loved him. The promise of salvation that Easter offers is an invitation for us to do the same.


Please consider donating to Morning Glory Ministries and supporting their ministry to people experiencing homelessness and poverty in Kansas City.

Michael J. Sanem, “Washing His Feet,” from the April 2022 issue of Give Us This Day, http://www.giveusthisday.org (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2022). Used with permission.

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