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.