Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Christianity 101: I'm Not Sure I Pass This Test

My husband and I have decided that is is much easier to love and support Jesus's "least of these" in the abstract.

You know. When their dogs aren't peeing on your garbage cans.

We live right up the hill from our little church. And like most church people, for better or worse, we can be a bit...a bit...territorial about our grounds. So when an old pickup truck with an RV attached appeared in our parking lot in the middle of last week and stayed, we were curious.

We got the story this weekend. The owner is a woman, probably mid-forties. Long blond hair and a cowboy hat, very friendly. Nowhere else to go. She shares the RV with her two dogs -- dogs she would have to give up if she were to go to a homeless shelter or transitional housing. (If that were even an option in these times.)

The church gave her permission to park overnight last Wednesday. As of last night she is still there, plugged into our electrical grid, popping into the church to warm up or use the facilities whenever the doors are unlocked. She's always cheerful and friendly and doesn't seem at all threatening. I mean, she waved a very cheery hello to my husband and me as we were heading into bell choir practice last night. (You know. As her dog was copiously relieving himself on that garbage can.)

Nobody seems to know quite what to do with her.

See, when Jesus said, "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me..."

Well, that's sometimes easier to do in theory. Or from a distance.

Like it or not, right or wrong, it's just a lot simpler to write a check to support established organizations who have established structures in place than it is to personally deal with all the ugly loose ends that pop up when you're dealing with actual, real-life people. What to do with the woman who continues to have children she is not equipped to deal with? Or the alcoholic/addict who will never manage to break free, and doesn't even seem to be trying? Or the man who has been convicted of a crime so heinous that you can't imagine even sending a card, let alone visiting him in prison?

Or (hypothetically speaking, of course,) the woman who waves a cheery hello as she takes up two parking spaces, runs up your electric bill, doesn't leave when she says she will, and lets her dogs pee on your garbage cans?

This Christianity stuff isn't nearly as simple as it looks on paper.

Maybe that's the point?


Jason McQuiddy said...

Yes Laurie, that is the point. I have to admit I take some small pleasure in this picture you paint as I view it from the east coast. My struggles with the very institution that owns said parking lot in which the cheery lady with the cowboy hat resides (filled with some of the most wonderful people I have met I'll also admit) has proven your theory time and time again. Let's just remember Jesus didn't expect "nothing" in return for all that He offered his people. Maybe that is the lesson in this whole scenario. How will the people of your little church accept her into their community, and by doing so, initiate giving on her part. Or, in contrast, will she simply and politely be asked to leave as she has probably been before from her last "sacred campground." After all, she knows its coming. As her
cowboy hat suggests, this ain't her first rodeo.

pcflamingo said...

Gosh darn it, being a follower of Christ is hard work sometimes. But I guess if it was easy everyone would want to do it....

Your story could be a whole sermon, couldn't it?

Brenda said...

Great story and thought provoking questions and comments.

*karendianne. said...

Well there's some food for thought. Thank you for sharing! And thanks to Nancy, near Philadelphia for sending the link.

Quayquilter said...

I too am here through Nancy and I understand completely your point. This is your church's chance to help this one person, perhaps. If it were me I would suggest she gets a bucket of water and washes down those garbage cans and sluices away any other residue! Also perhaps to "pay" for her residence she could help out with cleaning the church etc.
I'd like to direct you to Alan Bennet's "Lady in the van" his memoir of a lady with mental health issues and a campervan who installed herself first in the street and then in his driveway for over a decade. He wasn't a Christian, did not appreciate her various horrible habits but was humane enough to put up with it anyway. I have to say I don't think I would be able to cope on that scale!

Anonymous said...

What "test" would there be to pass? Helping is one thing, even if it is a challenge for one´s patience. But to LET others continually indulge in taking advantage of others and myself is not anything "Christian". As Jason wrote: "Let's just remember Jesus didn't expect "nothing" in return for all that He offered his people."

M. said...

This post brought to mind my friend who always made cakes for the grief committee at our church. I asked her if she ever helped serving the cakes at the wake, to which she replied emphatically, No, I don't want to talk to them! Why don't you take some time to talk to the lady and ask about her circumstances? It might make more sense to you.

suz said...

Seems to me that Jesus has sent your church a wonderful Christmas present! We never know when He or his angels might come to visit. She lets her dog pee on the garabge cans - oh my - very good reason to throw her away! She wears a cowboy hat, so she's been around the block apparently? - throw her away! She's wasting your electricity (must use a huge amount in that truck) - throw her away! ... or, find out what's happened - can your community help her find a job, a home for herself and her dogs? Can you all act Christ-like. Remember, Jesus was born in a barn - would you have dismissed Him and Mary and Joseph because of that? They were, at that point, homeless. They were taking up space that could have been used for animals. They might not have been paying for the space. They had a lot of people tramping thru there. Would you have dismissed them for being inconvenient? The real spirit of Christmas isn't a choir singing, a decorated tree, lots of presents-it's opening our hearts to someone in need, someone who just might be a little bit inconvenient. That is the real spirit of Christmas.

Yuki said...

Not being a Christian, I do find these issues interesting. I remember something in the bible about giving food vs teaching someone to fish. Couldn't someone teach her a skill or help her to support herself?