You know who I’m talking about, they’re probably wearing layers upon layers in the July heat, unshaven, dirty hands…they have their left arm in the sling today.
You see them from your seat in your air-conditioned car. Maybe you wonder about them, maybe you don’t…but in the time it takes for the light to change and for you to be on your way they are gone. From sight and mind.
You know who I’m talking about, the ones who aren’t like us. The ones who sit at bus stops and as you pass you try not to make eye contact. The ones that get on the same trolly as you and your family as you site-see through the city.
The ones you inch away from. (They probably smell)
The ones you smile briefly at. (But only briefly) Because you’re nice.
The ones who aren’t like us. They can’t be. They can’t have stories or a previous life that looked anything like ours. There is no way. We are different. We live in different worlds.
But yet, they get on the same trolly, they walk the same streets, cross at the same cross walks, breathe the same air.
Do we really live in different worlds?
A few years ago, when I was still living at home, I saw a man from this ‘other world’ sitting on the curb in the shade at the CVS. It was summer and it was hot. I was with my sister and we were only running in for a minute. As I pulled up, I saw him, how could you not? He had all the markers of being from this ‘other world.’ I remember feeling anxious as I pulled into the parking space that put him in my direct line of sight. People all around me were passing him, clearly on their mission to pick up deodorant or a prescription. Nobody wanted to see him, I didn’t want to see him. I didn’t want the guilt. I didn’t want the inner-dialogue to start in my head.
“Should I do something? I better not give him money, they say you’re not supposed to do that. Ugh, I don’t want people to see me…I will most definitely stick out if I approach him. God it is SO hot…how is he wearing a coat? I should have parked on the other side of the building. Why is he just sitting there? I bet CVS wishes he would leave…he’s probably causing the customers unease. I feel unease. Should I do something?”
Everything, all of my feelings…they were all about me.
I got out of my car, gave him that brief smile and went inside. We picked up whatever it was we were there for, I don’t even remember at this point. What I do remember, is walking over to the drink cooler and picking up the largest bottle of water I could find. The inner-dialogue still raging…my movements (maybe my heart) just taking over.
I looked at Anna Wallace and said “don’t you think that man outside could use some water?” Her eyes widened and she nodded her head. It made her a little uncomfortable too. Breaking social barriers will do that to a person.
We paid and walked back out into the sun where I immediately started sweating. We head back over to the car…I have to walk a little bit past it to give him the water. Why are there so many people around? My legs are shaking, heart is pounding. I say, “here you go…” and he looks at me, his eyes widened almost like Anna Wallace’s did back at the water cooler. He looks genuinely surprised then smiles and says “God bless you.”
He looked genuinely surprised. And it broke my heart.
I didn’t ask for these emotions today God, I thought as I blinked back tears.
This was years ago and I still haven’t forgotten. I still think of what more I could’ve done, should’ve done. This was years ago and I don’t know of a time I’ve done anything like it since.
When we see them, what do we do? When they are sitting there, smack-dab in the middle of our everyday ‘run to CVS’ lives, waking us up from them, what do we do? I usually do nothing because it makes me uncomfortable. I mean, I wasn’t prepared for this today…I’m on my way somewhere else. I’m already late.
This truth makes me sick to my stomach. It makes my throat tighten.
These people, the ones we think are from some ‘other world,’ they get on the same trolly, they walk the same streets, cross at the same cross walks, breathe the same air.
They are loved by the same God.
They are my brothers and sisters and yet I think we have nothing in common.
I don’t know when I learned this lie, when I started believing it but I don’t want it having a voice in the inner-dialogue anymore.
Read this post…specifically this caption from Flower Patch Farmgirl,
“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.”
(Shannan Martin, Flowerpatchfarmgirl.blogspot.com, The Corner)
I don’t know how to end this any other way. This is just what spilled out of my heart on a Friday afternoon at 3:14.
“So the last will be first and the first will be last.” -Matthew 20:16