Do What We Can – When We Can
About a week ago I received a call from a young woman in need of help. In our conversation it was apparent that she had very little and was facing homelessness. For a number of reasons, not of her doing, she was being evicted from her apartment. There were a number of things that took my time last week and I was unable to visit with her until Monday morning this week. I called her first thing in the morning to see when would be a good time and she said that she and a friend had found a place over the weekend but she was waiting for the landlord to come by so she couldn’t leave. I went to see her.
Run Down! Dirty! Barely Habitable!
Now, in my 30 years of ministry I have seen many horrendous things and I have seen a number of living places that should never be rented to anyone. You might think that I would be less affected by difficult sights. However that is not the case.
When I finally ascended the many stairs to this tiny apartment and the door was opened for me, my heart dropped! I could not believe that a place like this could ever be rented, and let me tell you the rent was not cheap!
All I could smell was Mr Clean and Lysol because she had spent the last two days trying to scrub the space so it was at least livable. In the main room the fridge and stove were hauled out from the wall and she had also tried to clean them, discovering that the fridge didn’t even work . The stove could be turned on but the amount of grease and grit caked on the inside of the oven and under the burners meant that it probably shouldn’t for fear of fire. I would not prepare anything that I wanted to eat on it for sure. There were many holes patched up, haphazardly, on the walls. In the bathroom, there was a hole in the wall over the tub and the caulking was cracked and needed to be replaced. However, she had been able to clean it and as she reminded me
“It is better than nothing”.
We spent about an hour together and she shared part of her story. I felt so helpless and thought, what can I possibly do? Plus she was not the only one in this situation and not the only one who has turned to the church for help. After we talked for a while though I knew that there were a few things I could do that might help lighten the load a little. I told her that I would pick up her medications for her (which she had been out of for a couple of months) and make a few phone calls about some other things. Since my visit she called to let me know that the fridge and stove have been replaced and for that we are both most thankful. This morning I received a call from another local organization and we will be able to provide some badly needed furniture.
What never ceases to amaze me is that there are people out there who think that it’s okay to rent run-down, dirty and barely habitable places for outrageous amounts of money, and they get away with it!
Why? Because the people who need these spaces are already in vulnerable positions. They are on assistance income or the working poor and they feel powerless with no options available to them. They make a complaint or speak up and then they are back out on the street so they shut up and put up so that they at least have a roof over their heads.
Do What We Can, When We Can
Most of us go about our daily business and we have no idea of the conditions that others live in. It’s not because we do not care, or that we think they deserve it. I believe it’s because it is too difficult to see. I believe that it is overwhelming and we also feel powerless to change it or make a difference. However, the call of the gospel is clear –
Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act. Do not say to your neighbor, “Come back tomorrow and I’ll give it to you”—when you already have it with you. — Proverbs 3:27-28
Those who give to the poor will lack nothing, but those who close their eyes to them receive many curses. — Proverbs 28:27
Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter — when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. — Isaiah 58:6-11
Give generously to [the poor] and do so without a grudging heart, then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land. — Deuteronomy 15:10-11
Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need. Ephesians 4:28
Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2
Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Luke 6:38
Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give. Matthew 10:8
When was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food or thirsty and gave you something to drink? When was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you or naked, and gave you clothing? When was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you? And the King will answer “Whatsoever you do to the least of these my brothers and sisters you do to me.” Matthew 25: 37-40
In the midst of my feelings of helplessness I am always reminded that even if all I have to offer is a listening ear and a hug then that does make a difference. My prayer is that we will not throw up our hands in despair but, instead, do what we can, when we can and seek justice for all.
© 2020 Rev. Valerie Peyton Kingsbury. All rights reserved.