Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Corner



The trouble with my life right now is that there's too much room for hypocrisy. It was easier back when I lived in the corn field and thought I knew everything. I didn't have to confront any demons, because there were none.

It was idyllic back there. It was very, very safe.

The only temptation was to keep circling in, turn, turn, turn. Because I had a hunch there were things I needed to figure out. They were out there, somewhere. Maybe if I didn't bother them, they wouldn't bother me. I had cookies to bake. Shirts to iron. I had a little online shopping to do and I was behind on my reading.

I still bake cookies and iron shirts, but almost everything else has changed. Now, the thing I know most of all is that I don't know a single dang thing. All of my big ideas have been nuked and I'm standing here in my underwear.

I'm exposed.
Often, I'm failing. 

I haven't walked a mile in anyone's shoes but my own, but I have finally seen their shoes. It's a start.

And still.

I drove to the BMV today and there they stood, on the corner.
A woman my age, maybe younger. A little girl Calvin's age, twirling the strap of her army-green purse around her wrist, trying her best to pretend to be anywhere but on that corner.

I had to wonder, Why are you standing here? It's not the most ideal location.

I wondered other things, too.

Why did you write "My husband left us" on her cardboard sign? Too much information makes me suspicious. Why are you asking for help from strangers in cars when what you obviously need is a shelter? Don't you know there are shelters around here? Are there shelters around here? Someone should drive you one town over. There are shelters there. I would, but I'm in the other lane and besides, everyone behind me is in a hurry. You probably don't even need a shelter. How much money do you make in a day, anyway? The dude finally wised up and sent you and the kid. Sympathy vote. But what if you really do need help? 

Should I give them a ride? What if they're dangerous?

What if they're dangerous.
If only you could have seen them. They weren't.

I drove past and ran my errand. They were still there on my way back through and I drove past again. It crossed my mind to stick a five out the window, but mostly, I was too proud. I hate looking like a sucker.

For the rest of the afternoon, they haunted me. I was ashamed of my reaction. I know better, or at least I thought I did.

But old tricks die hard and I've had years of practice deflecting and deciding my way out of helping.

Many of you asked in my last post on this topic, "How do we help?"

I have a few ideas about helping in the context of relationship. And I'm ready to share.

But what about these situations? What's the right thing? What if she's taking cash back to her druggy boyfriend? What if they're not even poor? What if it's a racket? What if they're not careful? What if? What if?

Here's where I've fallen: I cannot fathom a situation where God would look at me and say, "You know, Shannan, you gave that homeless guy ten dollars that one time. I really wish you'd have kept it for yourself. I wanted you to buy another shrinkage-prone TJ Maxx shirt with that money. I didn't want you to share."

I'll state the obvious here: I don't give money to strangers very often. I don't help every "needy" person that crosses my path. But I have learned that the moment I hop up on my high horse and justify and judge, I would have been so much better off just giving, without expectation or explanation.

If I love Jesus then I love that woman and her daughter. If I love them, I would find a way to encourage or help. If I'm talking myself out of it, I've stepped out-of-line with the matchless grace of Christ that defends the cause of the needy (Jeremiah 22:16). His kind of love flips the Universe like a hotcake and they land on top. His kingdom is for them. He fights for them, protects them, defends them.

That's what He does, while I'm right here trying not to make eye contact.

I headed out for my second run of errands with no plan except an ice cold Diet Pepsi and an off-brand Capri Sun. I was going for my second chance. I didn't know what would happen from there, but we would talk. We'd figure it out.

I rounded the corner. They were gone.


This was a lost opportunity and it pushes my feet into the ground. I feel the heaviness of my loss. My loss. 

It was never really about the mama and her girl standing there in the sun.

It was about the greedy girl who kids herself into believing that her plate is full enough, her pockets empty enough, her day busy enough that she's exempt from loving her neighbor.

She thinks she's smart and logical, a good steward. She forgets that God shuffles the deck. He trades up from the foolishness of worldly smarts. God plucks up that Mama and her cardboard shame and places her at the front of the line while I stare at the back of her head.

I don't know very much about giving or helping, but I really want to learn.
And I wouldn't mind some company, if you'd like to join me.

"We have a chance, sometimes, to create a new jurisdiction, a place of astonishing mutuality, whenever we close both eyes of judgment and open the other eye to pay attention."
 - Tattoos on the Heart, by Gregory Boyle