This morning I was sitting at my kitchen table feeding Elijah bananas and oatmeal when I saw a red car pull up in front of my next door neighbor’s house. They weren’t home and, frankly, they don’t get a lot of visitors besides their daughter and since I knew it wasn’t her, I was curious. So I watched as a woman in her late 30’s in a basketball jersey got out of the car with a grocery bag and walked over to the set of trash cans in front of my neighbor’s house. She opened the lid and started rummaging around for bottles and cans to put in her bag.
I’m going to be honest here. My first response was not “Christ-like.” My first response was, “What the heck is she doing in my neighborhood?” Why doesn’t she go back to the neighborhood that she lives in and rummage through her own trash cans. I mean, I live in one of the few pockets of Riverside that is actually kept up and nice. Why do I need to put up with her digging through my trash, as if my trash doesn’t stink. That was (shamefully) my first response.
I’m going to be honest here, again. My second response wasn’t much better. My second response was not “Christ-like” either. My second response went something like this, “Wait a sec… is she homeless? Is she a drug addict? (Because everyone knows all homeless people are drug addicts, right?) Is she getting bottles out of the trash to get money to feed her drug habit?” And frankly, the thought of drug addicts invading my neighborhood kinda scared me. Because they couldn’t possibly live here already. Like I said, we live in a nice area of Riverside. And drug addicts don’t live in nice areas.
My next thought was better. I thought, “What if she’s not homeless? What if she’s just like me?” What if she has kids at home that didn’t eat pancakes for breakfast, because they didn’t have any pancake mix. Maybe she lost her job and can’t find a new one. Maybe she doesn’t want to just sit on the corner holding a sign, but will quietly drive around to different neighborhoods, earning a way to feed her family, or cloth her children. And then my heart broke for her.
I mean, here I am, signing “all done” to my six month old while she’s going to the next house to get more bottles and cans. My biggest worry today is that it’s going to be really, really freaking hot and should I try to hold off running the ac before noon? We’re out of milk, but I can load of my kids in our minivan and drive down to the store to buy some without giving it a second thought. And suddenly I felt this urgency to help her.
My church sends teams of people all over the world doing missions projects. Reaching out to the poor and needy, to the orphans, and the neglected and abused. I sit in my seat and think, “Man I would love to go to Cambodia or Kenya or Thailand or wherever, but I’m just not in a season of life where it’s actually a possibility for me. I mean, I have three kids at home. Three little kids who don’t need their mommy on the other side of the world if something happened to them, or me. I’ll just have to hold off until they’re older.”
But then, this.
This person is literally at my front door. And what am I going to do? I’ll tell you.
In my defense, I did run to my wallet and check for cash, but I never carry cash. I thought I could give her some food, but is that degrading to hand someone a can of chili? I don’t want to make her feel like a charity case. Maybe I over thought it. Maybe I should’ve given her my can of chili. Maybe I should have just gone out front and said hello. Maybe I should have asked if I could pray with her. I don’t know.
Maybe she’ll come back next week. And maybe I’ll be ready for her.
What would you do?