First, Do No Harm

I walked over to talk to a woman that Angie was already talking to at the gospel mission. She looked homeless in her layers of clothing, and heavy tweed overcoat, long grey hair, and small cart full of knick knacks of things. Her face looked like a man, too, and at first it threw me off that this woman had a moustache and such masculine features. It threw me off in the sense that at first I wondered if I got it wrong; it's disorienting not to be able to place someone's gender right away.

She didn't talk long. I think she pegged us for Christian do-gooders, and she probably pegged us right. Not that our motives weren't good ones, they were. But when you're homeless I don't imagine that good motives count for squat. She talked about how sick she was of Christians trying to convert her to Christianity, and she almost spit out words about how she doesn't need it, doesn't want it, and was raised in a Christian home and knows what it's all about. The thing is I don't think she knows what it's all about if all of her reactions are negative ones. Unfortunately somehow she must not be hearing from anyone about Christ's incredible love and passion for us. I had sat through the same mandatory bible study that she did, so I know how boring the pastor was who delivered the message. Boring and off the mark. Boring and embarrassing in ways, like when he talked about how he wouldn't buy a Cadillac because it wouldn't look right as a pastor. I don't imagine homeless people care to hear about someone buying a car, or trying to sound humble because they could have bought a Cadillac and didn't.

I wish I'd thought fast enough and told that woman, "Yeah, sometimes we really suck, we Christians." Because sometimes we really do. "Here, let me take my religion and shove it down your throat because I need to save you really fast so you don't go to hell."

I wish I could have apologized for all the sucky Christians she's encountered. I wish I could have said it that way about how we suck sometimes because maybe it would have made her laugh, and laughter can be a huge blessing. I wish I could have given love, offered repentance for wrongs done in the name of our faith, and showed her just a tiny glimpse of Christ.

As it was, all I thought to say was, "At least you're honest about your feelings about Christianity," and she said rather bitterly, "Yeah, but do you think they care?" And I said, "I think they should."

But what I said wasn't enough. Was it something? Probably not. But maybe next time.



Tonight in my small group we're going to the Gospel Mission to hang out with the people staying there who have no homes. I wasn't sure I was going to be able to go tonight. I was out taking a break during work when I got a call on my cell phone from Carman. Our electricity had been turned off. I hadn't even noticed that I had a shut off notice. In my inbox I'd seen a bill for $87 but I figured that wasn't too much - little did I know that was the minimum amount required to keep my service on. Thank God I just did a little freelance work after not doing any for a long time. It cost $307 to have the power turned back on.

I left work an hour early. For one thing I was crying, and I never cry at work. For another thing, I didn't want to leave Carman sitting there all by himself with no electricity or heat. When I started driving home, the tears just came pouring out again. What is it about having one of my utilities turned off that makes me feel so helpless and so alone? When I walked in the door I started crying again, and my wonderful 15-year-old son just said, "I think you need a hug," and came right over to the couch and gave me one.

I was so, so lucky that Consumers came within an hour or so and turned my power back on. Although I was getting a lot more cleaning done than normal without my computer, and with all that anxiety churning through my veins, it was such a relief to see lights turn on, and hear the furnace kick in.

Afterwards I realized two things. One, I never prayed about this. I just cried. I didn't reach out to God at all. I thought about praying, but I didn't do it. I just felt bereft instead. Two, it doesn't escape me that I had my power turned off the very day I am to go to a homeless shelter to hang out with the people there. Maybe that was the fasting I was supposed to do today - fasting from electricity and heat.

I hope next time (will there be a next time?), I remember to call out to God.