Dose of Truth

Mistaken identity

Tim Richards

I did not hear this story until just last week, but it happened in 2014. Karine Gombeau, a 42-year-old tourist from Paris was on vacation with her family in New York City when she noticed a man who appeared to be homeless going through the trash outside Grand Central Terminal. It seemed obvious he was looking for food.

The kind French woman was touched by the poor man’s hunger. She offered him the untouched leftovers from an enormous pizza she, her husband and their 15-year-old son had just enjoyed at an Italian restaurant. When she handed him the bag containing their leftover pizza he asked, “What’s in the bag?” She attempted to explain, but her words came out a confusing mix of French and English. She tried to apologize for the fact that the pizza was cold. He understood enough to say, “Thank you so much. God bless you.”

Gombeau, said it broke her heart to see so many homeless people in the Big Apple. She reflected, “It leaves me really sad to know we waste food and they have nothing.”

However, things were not quite the way they seemed. She did not realize the apparently homeless man she offered pizza was a famous actor filming the movie, “Time Out of Mind.” It was not until a worker at the Salisbury Hotel, where she was staying in Midtown, handed her a copy of The New York Post two days later that she learned the truth. She was stunned to find a photo of herself with the star.

The French tourist was completely unaware that she had just been kind to one of Hollywood’s most famous leading men, Richard Gere. The A-list actor was 64 years old at the time. She gushed, “… It’s unimaginable that something like this could happen… I think he’s very handsome, even at his age.”

Gombeau had no idea who Gere was at the time. She assumed he was who he appeared to be, a needy homeless man desperately looking for food.

It is easy to overlook those we meet and merely see them through our own eyes rather than God’s. Allow me to explain. Jesus made this statement, “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’” (Matthew 25:40, NLT)

It is highly unlikely the next time you help someone who is homeless, lonely, sick, or hungry that you will be helping a Hollywood icon. However, according to Jesus, the next time you help “one of the least of these” you are doing more than you realize. God sees our offer of help to those who need it the most as if we are offering a helping hand to Jesus himself. It is time for us to realize that struggling people are more than just hurting people, in a sense they are Jesus in disguise.

Tim Richards

has been a pastor for 37 years, serving five churches, including his current church, The Refuge in St. Louis, which he founded. He and the congregation minister to those who are hurting and do their part to expand God’s kingdom. Tim and his wife Kelly have five children. “A Dose of Truth” which he has written for more than 25 years appears in 13 newspapers. His book, “Thriving in the Storm: Discovering God’s Peace and Perspective in Turbulent Times,” is available from Amazon. Feel free to contact him at Photography is another of his skills. Pastor Tim photos may be viewed at