Dutch Treat


I learned that one sandwich can go a long way. And that you don’t have to eat to be fed.

Dutch Treat

I didn’t think the dog belonged to anyone as I stooped to pet him. Panting in the noonday heat, he sat in a shady spot afforded by the walls of the Rotterdam train station. My missionary companion and I had stopped for lunch at a food stand outside the station. People were pushing by each other, each frantically trying to catch a train.

“Poor guy has to wear a fur coat in this heat,” I mumbled to the gold-colored dog. His fur was dirty, and the hair around his ears was tangled and matted. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a pair of dusty black shoes stop next to the dog and then a wrinkled, dirty-fingernailed hand join mine in petting the dog.

I looked up into the dirty, bearded face of a street beggar. He smiled. His teeth needed dentistry, and the dirt on his skin collected around the crow’s feet by his eyes. His left temple was scarred.

I was a little taken aback. But I smiled and asked him in English if this was his dog. He answered in French. I tried speaking in Dutch, but to no avail. All I could remember from the French lessons I took in high school was how to say my name. So I introduced myself using the best French accent I could imitate from the movies.

The man’s smile widened with his eyes, which I noticed were a beautiful blue. He started talking French very fast. I didn’t understand him. Sensing my confusion, he pointed to himself and replied, “Jacque.” I offered him my hand. He seemed surprised but shook it while lowering his head.

My companion and I got our lunch order and started off for our appointment, thinking we could save time by eating on the way. Jacque smiled again as we passed him and his dog. A scripture came into my mind: “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matt. 25: 40).

Just seeing Jacque smile and feeling for the circumstances he was in, my heart was touched. The Spirit opened my eyes, and for a moment I had thoughts of how much Heavenly Father must love this individual.

So I offered Jacque my lunch. His mouth opened slightly, and he lowered his head again. It was obvious he was very hungry. “Take it. Please,” I prodded, feeling, on the one hand, love for this individual but, on the other, pride for how “giving” I was being.

Then he did something I will never forget. He taught me the full meaning of the scripture I thought I had been demonstrating. He took the sandwich gratefully and broke it in half. Then, while stroking the dog’s head, he gave him one of the halves, talking softly to him. The dog gulped it down and licked his chops repeatedly in trying to catch every last crumb.

Jacque smiled at me, then took a bite. Again the Spirit touched me deeply at seeing this poor man offer half of what he had to his best friend. I never saw Jacque again, but I have never forgotten the example of sharing and love that he set for me that day. I fed him once. But he fed me for a lifetime.

[illustration] Illustrated by Paul Mann