Thursday, June 2, 2011

Be Courageous! And Maybe Sort of Crazy.

My apologies to anyone who was hoping for a WIWW post yesterday. In case that's you, here are my excuses: 1. I took no photos this past week. 2. We are fairly consumed around here with preparing for our church's Bible Camp next week. 3. My heart is aching as I follow Tsh's (and other bloggers') posts from their trip to the Philippines with Compassion International, and it's kind of hard to talk about clothes right now.
Compassion Bloggers: Philippines 2011
If you haven't read any of her posts, please do. In sum, it's nigh impossible to look the other way when kids who could be your own children's playmates live in shacks with cardboard ceilings on top of marshes that are basically giant cesspools. 

Of course, guilt we may feel about our First World perspective is only useful as far as it goads us to action. Sometimes that means committing to send money. God is infinitely wealthy, yes. But He tends to leave much of the distribution to us. 

And sometimes, being His hands and feet and ears and eyes and mouth means showing compassion right here at home. 

Story #1. A few months ago I was in an outlet store browsing girls' swimsuits. I suddenly became aware that a woman standing at the counter a few feet away was sobbing into her cellphone. Then the sobbing became wailing. Y'all, I'm talking volcanic weeping here. As in, the entire store fell silent and stared at her. You could have heard an embroidered onesie drop. 

I wanted to help this woman. But the weird thing was, I worried that if I stepped forward, she might lash out at me. Might misinterpret, might blow me off. And what would the other shoppers think? (This nonsense happens when the word "me" enters the deliberations.) I hesitated. Then I walked over to her and just stood next to her until she hung up her phone. 

"What's wrong?" I whispered through her sobs, as the cashier offered to hold the woman's baby. 

"My grandfather just died," she moaned. 

Still unsure of myself, I did what my intuition seemed to dictate. I just wrapped my arms around this woman and hugged her, listening to her choke out the story, until her husband, struggling with a stroller, walked into the store with a bewildered look on his face and managed to take over. 

Story #2. Yesterday, I was in the changing room at the Y. I'd just run for half an hour on the treadmill, and frankly, I probably stank. But I couldn't ignore the frantic squalling of a baby behind the row of lockers, the chatter of two toddlers, and the tense, exhausted voice of their young mother trying to corral kids, swimsuits, towels, shoes, etc. I could pretty much hear the sweat beading on her brow. 

 I have SO been there. Have you? 

Once again, I debated. Should I offer to help? Will she think I'm meddling where I have no business? 
Then: What's the worst that could happen? Answer: She could say no. 

I popped around the locker bank. "Can I help you? I have three kids of my own and I know how it is sometimes." 

It took her all of a nanosecond to hand me the baby, who wasn't happy about the situation but just had to put up with another pair of arms and a weird singing lady in a stinky workout top for a very long two minutes. We got shoes onto the other kids. We packed her bags. "Let me help you to your car," I suggested, and she agreed. She grabbed one and I, the other. (Why is that we moms always end up bringing giant boxcars with short handles to the pool?) I asked my girls to wait inside for me, and we walked all together to her car. 

I wanted to tell her, Jesus loves you

But I kind of figured she knew that. Sometimes, words are unnecessary. 

The point? Not that I'm Mother Teresa come back to life, or indeed anyone worthy of congratulations. Goodness knows I've sat passively by, hoping for someone else to be the Good Samaritan. The point is that we all run into situations where we wonder whether helping is the right thing to do. Excuses abound. I believe they all stem from fear. Fear of being rejected. Fear of looking like a fool. Fear of getting involved. Sometimes, love in action just isn't sensible. 

Or maybe we're the one who needs help -- and it's painfully obvious.  But accepting it requires the same laying aside of pride and fragile self-sufficiency. 

One more story? 
I was a mother with a six-week-old infant, sitting interminably on an airplane, stuck on a runway. The baby -- dry-diapered, tummy-filled -- cried inconsolably. And I couldn't get up and walk her, because the Airplane Nazis had decreed that we must, at all costs, stay buckled into our seats. This time, I was the tense, exhausted, sweating one -- longing for the invisible trapdoor to open and swallow both of us. 

Then I heard a man's voice in my ear. I never saw him. He simply told me, "I just want you to know that you're doing a great job with that baby. She's just doing what we all want to do, and you're doing the best you can with her. Just hang in there." Before I could turn my head, he was gone. 

He could have stayed in his seat, worming, debating, assuring himself it was none of his business. But in that moment, that man was God to me. I've probably told this story before, because it's etched forever on my heart. 

It's not just money He needs help distributing.

It's love. 


Raji P. said...

That was so beautifully written, Hannah. I think if we were all to slow down, step back and open our eyes as well as our hearts, we might find such opportunities every day.

The bond of motherhood is something that can really bring mothers together in helping each other.

We should try to do it more often, wherever we are.

Danica Newton said...

Beautiful. Inspiring. Encourages me "to love and good deeds" <3

KTG said...

Oh the man on the plane story so sweet!

Julie said...

Wow. That was just the best post ever. I can sooo relate...I never know whether I should jump in and help because yes, fear of all those things you stated just takes over. The most I do is try to offer an encouraging mom's dealing with out of control kids or what not...and I only do that because one person said something nice in a store to me one day when I was dealing with a tantrum with one of my children and it made me feel so much better...That man on the plane must have been an angel...that sure was some kind of wonderful, God must have sent him over:)

Anonymous said...

so beautiful, hannah. one of my favorite posts. what a good reminder and encouragement!!! love.

Bear Creek Mama said...

This is SO true...thank you for writing it so beautifully.
I read your post just after Katie's - check it out:
It talks more about just where your heart is.

SimplyKL said...

Hannah, your post encourages me to step out from my comfort zone and reach out. It's not easy to go out of our way and accommodate others. But like you said, we never know when God wants to use us as channels of blessing to others.

Vanessa said...

When we are enjoying the Lord and contacting Him, it's amazing what gets lived out of us--Christ in his humanity. Your stories are just testimonies that there is a God who loves man!

I am so thankful that we don't need to try to be good and nice people or be a mother Theresa, but just enjoy Him and COOPERATE with Him!

Amelia said...

Thank you. For writing. For sharing. For reminding us how little things can be so big.

Tsh @ Simple Mom said...

I love this post, Hannah.

LlamaJ said...

What a great post, Hannah. You have such a wonderful blog, and I am just catching up on reading it now. I especially appreciated this post, because it shows how Christ can be lived out through us even in simple, yet compassionate ways. I was the mom with the toddler and infant not long ago and know how much it means to be shown kindness.

Jennifer (Therisod) Green