Matthew 21:25-28 (NIV)

But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them.  It shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave; even as the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” 

She’s known as Aunt Rita among the kids in the neighborhood, but Rita isn’t her name.  She’s not sure where the name came from.  She weighs about 90 pounds and keeps her walker within reach.  It’s parked next to her cot in a National Guard Armory, which has been home to her since a hurricane darkened her building there in New Jersey.  Her neighbor kids, the ones who call her Aunt Rita and who stay in trouble at school and on the street, checked on her first when the lights went out.  Two of the biggest, scariest looking teens gently carried her down 14 flights of stairs—in the dark. They forgot her walker and two of them climbed back up 14 flights of stairs to get it for her. They made a second trip up the stairs to get her blood pressure medicine. Then they carried her into the shelter, three blocks away.

Now Aunt Rita sits, with her medicine in a worn paper bag on her lap, anxiously scanning the crowd for “my kids.”  They told her they’d be back to report in on her cousin, who has been unreachable since before the storm hit. They had connections on the street and would look for her.  Aunt Rita’s eyes light up as she spots the boys who look like men trying to talk their way past the skeptical cop at the shelter’s entrance.

“I knew they’d be back,” she tells a soldier medic, clad in combat fatigues, who is checking her blood sugar.  He eyes the three and is equally skeptical.  He sticks close to his patient, secretly hoping the cop doesn’t buy the story the guys at the door are telling him.  Aunt Rita doesn’t need trouble and neither does the medic.

The cop, weary from years working the mean streets of Jersey City, is doing his job to keep the elderly shelter residents safe.  He’s still skeptical but sees the connection between Aunt Rita and the boys—she’s waving to them by now, grabbing her walker and struggling to stand.  The cop escorts the boys past dozens of cots and gets them to Aunt Rita’s side.  He makes eye contact with the medic, the look on his face saying, “I got this.”

The medic goes on to care for the next shelter resident, but the cop sticks around to ensure the conversation between Aunt Rita and the boys is a safe one.  He hears them reporting in to her: “Your cousin?  She’s in the hospital.  But she’s okay.  Here’s her number.”  The biggest guy produces a phone number, written on the back of a candy wrapper.  Another one digs in his pocket and offers Aunt Rita his phone.  She’s confused by its touch screen. He dials the number and gently holds it to her ear.  She can’t hear her cousin on the phone in the noisy shelter, so he acts as messenger, telling the cousin that Aunt Rita is safe, relaying to Aunt Rita that the cousin is feeling better, then, with only a hint of that well-practiced teen eyeroll, says, “Yeah, she loves you too.”

The boys square their shoulders and stand a little taller as they leave.  They’ve promised Aunt Rita they’ll be back tomorrow.  Aunt Rita is smiling.  The cop and the soldier?  They are, too.

Trudy Thompson Rice

But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them.”  It shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slaves; even as the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” 

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