November 24, 2012

What is the right answer?

Yesterday, I was brought up close and personal to one of those problems we like to ignore, or at the very least avert our eyes from when we see it. We often separate the world into an us/them dichotomy. 

Having little guests visit us for the holiday weekend, we decided to take them to our fantastic local children's museum. It's in our downtown area and we need to park in a lot a block away from the museum and walk to the entrance. After leaving the museum, we were at the crosswalk. Our group was 2 teenagers, a toddler, and a kindergartner  as well as myself. There was a crowd waiting to cross the street, including a man intent on handing out religious pamphlets encouraging us to make our lives right with Jesus.

As the religious fellow thrust the pamphlet at a disheveled looking woman and her companion who were also waiting to cross the street, the woman challenged the man handing out the pamphlets. "What is this for?" He explained that it was about Jesus. Her hostility increased. "What do you know about Jesus," she asked in a louder voice. The red light seemed endless as the "Don't Walk" continued to blink. I held the kids hands tighter. The pamphlet guy explained how Jesus was the answer. She scoffed at him and said, "My brother and I are homeless, tell me what you're doing to help us, tell me how giving me a piece of paper about Jesus will help us find a meal or warm place to stay tonight? I like Jesus. I believe in Jesus. I don't need to learn about Jesus. What I want to know though is what is someone like you doing to help someone like me?" She continued to challenge him.

I held the kids closer willing the light to change, awkwardly holding the flier I reluctantly accepted from him, but unable to ignore the conversation that was unfolding on that corner.

The man handing out the fliers muttered something about the Rescue Mission, and she again looked at him and said, "I didn't ask you about the Rescue Mission..."

The light changed and we rapidly crossed the street as her words reverberated in my brain,

"What is someone like you doing to help someone like me?" 

-Matthew 25:45


  1. Replies
    1. I'm glad you asked... as this is a discussion worth having. Yesterday, I saw the juxtaposition of what a Christian thinks he should be doing next to someone who had a much different idea of what he should be doing. It rattled me. What good IS a pamphlet when you're hungry? I think in some ways that homeless woman was a sort of angel, albeit a confrontational one. Think John the Baptist. Calling out hypocrisy and charging us to do things differently.

      I don't find myself offended when someone calls me a jerk if indeed I'm being one, so her call, while not directed at me was a reminder to walk my faith differently.

      I do realize that your post prompted me in a slightly different direction. So ... what do we do about homelessness? For homeless people? How do we help? I am torn on it. I think that we should all work tirelessly to make sure that everyone in our society is fed, clothed, and sheltered. I'm not sure who is responsible for that, though, except "all of us" should feel the pull to be part of the solution. Maybe that is what the solution is? That we all first agree that we should not avert our eyes, but meet it head on, and when it comes to our world, to do something about it.

      I think if I had been in a slightly less awkward moment (trying to watch two little ones and my teenagers at a busy intersection and not interfere in a discussion I was only watching), I may have tried to talk to the lady. Asked her what had worked for her in her life? What wasn't working. What did she think would help? She clearly knew that the answer was NOT a pamphlet. I wonder what she thought it was.


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