This post isn’t about this, but I’m running the Chicago Half Marathon on Sunday morning.
Don’t track me. Don’t look up my results. Just, don’t.
If I finish, I’ll be one happy lady. There’s been no training going on here. (As in ME. Obviously my marathon winning husband has been putting the time in.)
Today Josh and I headed downtown for lunch and to pick up my race packet. He had the day off of school and I thought it would be fun to get some time in together and for a fun walk around the city. We parked near the race expo and took off for our mile hike to the restaurant of his choice.
The sun is shining.
Cool breeze blowing.
And there are desperate people, everywhere.
We couldn’t walk more than half a block between folks who had a sign and a cup.
There were so many hanging heads and palms facing upward. There were so many stories written onto cardboard squares, sketched with a Sharpie and condensed to a sentence or two.
Moms, Dads, Veterans, Homeless, Wanderers, Addicts and more. All ages. All races. Clearly different religious backgrounds. All asking for help in the form of whatever you could give.
It’s not just downtown. It’s at home too.
This is everywhere. Our move has brought us right into the face of poverty. We can’t escape it, it’s everywhere we go. There are faces at stoplights, outside restaurants, on the corners, at the gas station, outside the library and waiting for me at the door of the coffee shop. Wherever you go someone has a sad story and they need my help. Life was so much easier when this wasn’t in my face. Don’t get me wrong, I knew it was out there. But I can’t fix it and it was nice not to have the daily reminders. This area has wealthy on one street and poverty next door. It’s the diversity we hoped for, but not the diversity I am always prepared for.
And now, my kids are reading these cardboard signs. They are hearing the stories. They hear the cries of the mentally ill. They see the eyes glued to the ground. Today we saw a woman so disfigured, it was hard to eat my lunch after catching a glance of her. Isn’t that horrible of me? But, it’s true. The brokenness of the world was alive and visible and I couldn’t wish or pretend it away. Now, it’s all around me. The rich, the poor, all of us broken and living together.
This isn’t a post to tell you I have the answers. I have no idea what to tell my children. I always assumed it was good enough to say that we gave at church or to other organizations, so I was covered. My responsibility went no further than to explain to them why it was impossible and impractical to share with every person I encountered.
But I can’t look away anymore. I can’t sleep at night knowing that I refused to look so many people in the eye today. What is my responsibility?
I don’t know.
What do you think? How do we navigate this broken world?
I will not tell my kids that those folks deserve this. I have NO idea what their stories may be.
All I can say is what I did today. This is how I got by…
When Josh and I finally arrived at his restaurant of choice, we bought a gift card. I thought about the things I was hoping to purchase at the expo and wondered if I really needed them? I thought about the difference a few dollars may make. I knew I couldn’t help everyone today. But, that isn’t a reason to just look away. So on our walk back to the car we dropped that gift card into a cup. It was someone whose story knew nothing about. I had no idea why they were there, but they were. So I did what I could. But usually, I do nothing.
I’ve been looking away. And if I want to live into the things that I believe and the convictions that I write about, it’s time to do this differently. The thing is, no matter how compassionate you are, there is NO end. There is no way to help everyone you meet.
If you live in an area where you encounter people asking you for money all the time- what do you do?
Say a prayer? Drop some change? Look them in the eye? Glance away?
I really want to know.
(I just don’t want to hear that these people are lazy. Please, no. I cannot imagine the desperation and the humility it takes to beg. No matter what.)