As I continue on this Journey of Faith, one thing that hits me the hardest is my lack of generosity and concern. Now, some of my friends who read this might think to themselves "What? John's often concerned if I have a need and offers to help." And to my friends and family, that is true.
But to those who are outside that circle, that is far from the truth. For it is those who I see almost daily that need my generosity and concern more than my friends. It is those people who live out of a shopping cart, who stand at the freeway exit or major intersection with a sign asking for money. It is the person walking down the street who might be slightly, well, off, talking to himself or maybe even gesticulating in a way that indicates that he or she has a mental problem. I live a mile from Disneyland, and yet, see this flotsam of humanity within the sounds of the Mark Twain whistle.
And I don't do anything about it.
Why is it that we - that I - shy away from these people? People in need for so much that I cannot fathom it. While I might complain about how my mortgage payment is going up, or how it takes me an hour to get home from work, my "needs" are so meager and so insignificant to the needs of these people. Yet, I don't DO anything!
Never have I felt this more keenly than this past week, when I was running late to get home with some dinner, and stopped at Arby's to get something for me, Justin and Colin. It was 6:30 PM, and I had to get dinner for us, eat, and leave to get to a choir rehearsal in an hour. As I stood near the door, waiting for my order (it's a small Arby's), a man outside was asking for money to be able to buy food. And I said I couldn't help him. I had $15 in my wallet. I COULD have helped him. But what I should have done was brought him in, taken him to the cashier, let him order, and paid for it. THAT'S what I SHOULD have done.
Instead, I did nothing. And the guilt and the conviction of that has been with me for these last few days.
I know that as kids we are told to not speak to strangers, and those that are living off the street, or are poor and need food, are total strangers to us. We put up our defenses. We guard ourselves against them. We look down on them. And if they're acting strange, or look repugnant, we avoid eye contact or outright ignore them. We're conditioned to believe that if we provide them with money, they'll "go buy drugs" or "go get a bottle of booze". We're conditioned to think that way, even if we are (like I was) brought up in a Christian home and a church environment.
You know how people say "What Would Jesus Do?" when they have some kind of problem or crisis? I've thought about that sometimes, but then I realize that it's a lie. Because that concept is based on thinking how would Jesus react or respond to something happening TO him, so we need to act like he would in that situation.
But when you REALLY think about what Jesus did, he often did things that were not reactive, but proactive. He didn't wait for the opportunity to help to come to him, he sought it out. He went among the sick, the needy. He reached out and touched those in need. I am sure that the Touch of Jesus was enough to physically heal those in both body and spirit. Our touch today may seem meager to his, but it can be effective.
So, if Jesus were still physically on this planet, where would he be? Not in our houses of worship. He'd be in the homeless encampment in the Santa Ana river bed, under Chapman Avenue. He'd be talking to the woman in the Orange Circle, with all her belongings in a Target shopping cart. He'd be sitting next to that teen who's contemplating suicide because he or she is gay and scared to tell their parents. He'd be with those that are around us each and every day that we ignore.
And the guilt of this is real to me.....