Adapted from a chapter in Tony Campolo’s book, Let Me Tell You a Story: Life Lessons from unexpected Places and Unlikely People:
A schoolteacher served students from several grades in a small one room schoolhouse in upstate New York, including one child who was euphemistically referred to as “special.” That particular little boy was what we might call “slow.”
When Christmas season came, the teacher decided to put on a Christmas pageant, and the special needs boy wanted to have a part in it. He didn’t just want to stand around on the stage; he wanted to have a speaking part. Part of the presentation was a dramatic interpretation of the birth of Christ in Bethlehem. They all knew that he could not remember lines very well, but they came up with what seemed like a viable solution to the problem. They told him that he could be in innkeeper. When Mary and Joseph knocked on the door of the inn, he was to open it and say, “No room!” Mary would then plead with him further, and when she finished her lines he was to say again, “No room!” and close the door.
They thought he could handle this, but just to make sure, they appointed someone to stand near him behind the door and poke him at the proper time and whisper the right words in his ear, should he forget them. Rehearsals went fine, and all were excited about a good presentation.
The night of the Christmas pageant all seemed to be moving well until Mary and Joseph got to the inn door. Mary knocked. When our little friend opened the door he said what was expected of him: “No room!”
Mary responded, “But , sir, it’s cold. Have you no place at all where we can stay? It’s freezing and I am sick. I’m going to have a baby, and unless you help us, my baby will be born in the cold, cold night.”
The boy just stood there and said nothing. Mary looked at him and nodded her head as if to say Go ahead, it’s your turn. There was another long pause. The prompter nudged him and whispered, “No room! Say ‘No room!’”
The little guy then turned to the prompter and said, “I know what I’m supposed to say…but I’ve been thinking.” He then looked at Mary and said “…she can have my room,” and then he opened the door wide for her and Joseph.
To some, loving comes easily and almost without thinking. The rest of us must be more deliberate. Let us pray that we are open to the leading of the spirit by being more responsive to the needs of others as they come to us.