On one hand, I rationalize: I’m plenty involved in giving and helping strugglers.
I give my time, ears, money.
On the other hand, it never seems enough. Irrational, but the thought is haunting and there like the undercurrent in a river.
I remember junior high school in a big city. Those three years taught me how it is to feel like an outsider, a nobody. People all around me, and yet, I didn’t feel like I was there.
Now, as a senior adult, I hear from people about how they feel invisible, no one caring, loneliness, illness, fearfulness. Human stuff, hard stuff.
When my table is full of Thanksgiving and I am surrounded by loved ones listing their blessings and gratitudes, the burden seems heavier, making me even more aware of how limited I am in fixing things for others.
Oh, I want to. I just can’t.
“All the lonely people, where do they all come from?”
A line from a song by the Beatles comes back to me. “...Where do they all belong?”
My hunch is that they belong right here in the middle of us. Not sitting off to the side.
If we’d invited more people to come for Thanksgiving Day, they might have said no, but we won’t know because we never asked. Did they invite us to come be with them? No, so we don’t know they wanted us.
Can you see what gets me?
I was in Walmart this week, shopping with hundreds of other people. Crowded. I focused on the cart, the needed items, the aisle. Not much focus on people.
I moved slowly through the crowd, reaching, bending, pushing a cart. Not talking.
What would Jesus have done in this circumstance? Maybe he would have sent a disciple. Well, what am I? And where is God?
C.S. Lewis said, “God is everywhere, everywhere incognito.” The toughness is seeing God in others, in circumstances. He’s there, but do I have the eyes and ears to see, to hear?
I pushed my cart into a check-out line, inching my way forward behind a mother and child, talking a little with the mother, playing a little with the child.
The cashier spoke like someone from Guatemala. I noticed how she used endearments with the child: “Bebé, Sweetie.” They left. The dark-skinned woman smiled at me. She talked as she worked, calling me “Honey” and “Bebé.”
Blessed is the one who perseveres and gets in her line. God is hanging on tight to those in her line. She lets her love flow like a river between banks.
I walk to the car, aware of a truth: Only with and because of God are we ever enough. We have God inside us, outside us, around us.
This is confirmed again on Saturday as I was leaving a hospital. I paused and sat in a chair outside the ER hallway to check a contact on my phone. While talking on the phone, I watched a woman bundled in a blanket across from me. (I couldn’t tell if she was bleeding or not. Definitely shaking and crying.)
When I’d hung up, I approached the stranger, knowing she might think me crazy, “Hi. I have been sitting on the other side of this wide hallway watching you. Are you okay?”
I learn her name is Sharon and that she has spent the last eight hours in ER. She has pneumonia and a pinched nerve in her shoulder. They gave her a prescription for an antibiotic, and she is to set up an appointment with her family doctor on Monday. Now she waits for her husband to come and pick her up.
My irrational side was touched. I said, “I don’t know what to do for you, but I see you need help. Would you let me pray for you?”
“Yes,” she said. “I’d like that.”
I prayed for Sharon. She finished the prayer by saying, “In Jesus name, Amen.”
God, please take care of all the Sharons out there. Hang on tight to them. You are enough.
Photo taken by Alex Jimerson, White River in Norfork, Arkansas, November 2017.