May 08

Whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward. —Matthew 10:42

The walls of the house were rubble. Fallen rafters jutted out from a heap of debris on the ground, old door frames gaped in front of us, leading nowhere. I stood looking at the ruins, my heart beating rapidly as I remembered similar homes where we had so often taken shelter from enemy fire here in Italy during World War II.

In faltering Italian I spoke to a man, about sixty, who was standing nearby. "Battle damage?" I asked. More than half a century had passed since the Italian campaign, but everything changes slowly in these poor, isolated reaches of the Apennines.

The man, dressed in threadbare black, looked me over carefully before answering. "Yes," he said, and then he asked a question of his own. Was I an American? Yes. Had I been here in the war? Yes. At this reply the man became animated.

"I've been wanting to thank an American," he said, grasping my hand. "I was eight when you came to Italy. You know what I remember most? You guys gave us your chocolate. Thank you, thank you."

GIs had risked their lives in Italy, but this man remembered us for the bars of chocolate we gave him. Today, too, I suspect, it is the little kindness that is remembered by those we befriend, perhaps because the small act best speaks to the eight-year-old child within us all.

Lord, help me to share some small treasure with a stranger today.

—John Sherrill