It was hot that year. I remember one evening in particular. I had gone outside to sit and relax in the shade on the porch. I had an ice-cold lemonade on the table beside me and had just lowered myself into a comfortable chair.
It was then that it happened. I saw him from a distance as he came down the street. “Oh, don’t stop at my house,” I thought as I watched him. So many neighbors were out in their yards. Why couldn’t he stop at one of their houses?
He came on slowly. Finally, he stopped at the gate and looked towards my house. The thought that I might be hidden in the shadows was crushed when he said, “Please, could you give me a drink?”
It seemed as if not only the eyes of the beggar but the eyes of the whole neighborhood were on me. How could I get him to go away quickly? was my only concern.
I looked around and noticed an old pink cup next to my garden hose spigot. I used it to water my potted plants. I jumped up and grabbed the cup. It was a little dirty and there was a crack at the top which was made a little worse when I tapped it against the wall to shake off the dirt. I quickly filled it and then practically shoved it into the hands of the man. I tried not to notice his pleading eyes. I looked down at my feet and said, “Keep the cup.”
Then I went back into the house, forgetting my lemonade on the porch.
My business did well and every few years I moved into a newer and grander house. I was a diligent and well-respected member of the community. I went to church every Sunday and, though I often found myself thinking about my business, I was always very well dressed and reverent.
From time to time, however, I noticed the word “reward.” That caught my attention and I would think about the kind of reward I would have. I had been so faithful in coming to church, so diligent, so virtuous.
Then one day, I suddenly found myself walking down a road which seemed familiar but I couldn’t understand why.
As I panted up the hill (It was a hot day!), I noticed a house with a gate in the distance. I saw various people going up to it and being welcomed inside.
I was very hot and tired by the time I reached the gate. I was hoping that the owner of the house would invite me in. I could barely see him as he sat in the shadows on his porch.
“Please, sir, could you give me a drink?” I called out. As he came out from the shadows, I thought he looked familiar but I couldn’t place him.
He slowly went over to the spigot and filled something that he had in his hand. As he came toward me, at first, I didn’t notice what he had in his hand. I was too busy looking at his eyes. They were full of sadness as he said, “I apologize, my friend. This is all I have to give you.”
I looked down at his hand and saw a dirty and cracked garden cup.