My husband first noticed Jonah while taking out the compost one bitterly cold night. What first appeared to be a pile of threadbare clothes turned out to be an elderly homeless man sleeping next to our garage.

Should we call the police? Invite him inside? Drive him to a shelter? We opted to make him as comfortable as possible without disturbing him. We piled on thick blankets, placed a bag of groceries near him.

The next morning I walked outside to get our kids in the car. I expected our guest to be long gone. Instead my 2-year-old and I nearly ran into him. His hair was white, his nails were dirty, and his smile was kind. I shook his hand and asked his name. My husband came out and handed him a mug of coffee. Jonah insisted on leaving.

We later saw him enter a nearby bar, one of the only warm places open, but I imagine there was another appeal, too.

But before he left Jonah looked me in the eyes and said, “Thank you for knowing how to communicate with someone who has been rejected by society.”

We did so little, and I’m not sure we did all the right things. But I know his words were a gift — a reminder to this writer that actions — the blanket, the coffee, a handshake — are frequently more meaningful than the most heartfelt words.

“And Jesus wept.”

“But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.”

“Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala.”

Wept, kept, ponder, stood. No words, but what power in these acts.

In the new year, I plan to have a renewed commitment to what I convey without words.

Thank you for that, Jonah.