But what do I know of such things…

Recently, I spoke to an aged friend who is slowly slipping away.  The doctors say that his life is now measured in months and not years.  I have told him not to fear, to be confident in his faith, and courageous in his journey… that death is nothing more than to find oneself in the warm embrace of God.  But what do I know of such things?

I stopped the other day and handed the homeless man standing on the corner, a few bucks from the abundance of many in my wallet.  I told him that I would be praying for him and that hopefully his lot would improve soon.  I told him to keep up his hope as he looks to better his life.  I can often speak on such topics… those of helping the marginalized and giving to the poor who need our support.  I act as though I know what it is to be hungry and cold and without hope.  But what do I know of such things?

I have a black friend with whom I often speak.  Recently we talked about systemic racism and hatred and the evils of our misguided culture.  When she told me about a recent afternoon walk when she was verbally assaulted with angry racial slurs just because she dared to smile and say hello, I thought, but what do I know of such things?

I pulled in behind an old, beat-up, van at the gas station last week.  I watched as 3 young children spilled out of the side door.  The father handed each a single dollar as they headed for the convenient mart with their mother.  Their faces lit-up with the excitement of all that a dollar could purchase.  3 bucks… a treasure for them, but surely a sacrifice for an over-worked and weary father.  He squeezed off the pump handle when it tallied $10.  He must live with the dog of scarcity constantly nipping at his heels.  But what do I know of such things?

I adjusted the thermostat last night, to provide a little additional warmth to the house.  I curled up in a warm bed and watched a little cable tv before I went to sleep.  I watched a news report about some refugee families that gathered everything they owned and packed them in a few cloth bags to carry on their backs as they walked to a strange country, where the language was foreign and the people unwelcoming.  I wondered what such a moment must be like… But what do I know of such things?

I have a friend who has suffered with a cocaine addiction for nearly decade, another friend who is a slave to alcohol, and still another who lost his job, wife, and health because of his inability to separate himself from the lure of gambling.  It’s easy to think, “Just quit drinking! Hang around people who will lead you to make better decisions.  Count the cost of what gambling has done and walk away from it.”  It’s easy to recognize the demons in the lives of others and offer a glib response.  But what do I know of such things?

I heard a report this morning on NPR about a man who lost his job because of COVID19.  His employer could no longer make ends meet and the decision was made to close the business.  This man has courageously tried to fight through the downturn.  He’s been able to find a few odd jobs here and there, but nothing that is lasting or sustaining.  He’s worried.  This past week, he started selling items from his home out on his front sidewalk.  “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” he jokes.  Imagine selling your possessions to buy food for your family because there is no work.  But what do I know of such things?

Here’s what I do know.  I know that it’s hard to understand the lives of others, when you haven’t known their life experience.  I know that judging others is never the way forward.  I know that having the world’s goods while seeing your brother in need is egregious to Holy God.  I know that a spirit of generosity is one of the gifts I have to offer but fail to extend often enough.  I know that hope is forged on the anvil of human kindness and contact.  I know that I can make a difference if I choose to do so, or I can stand in the ever-dimming light around me and curse the on-coming darkness.

The world can be made better by acts of kindness, grace, and understanding.  But what do I know of such things?

Jon R Roebuck – Nov. 2020

 

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