Thoughts From the Porch: It’s getting a little warmer every day. The Saint Augustine grass is making its appearance amidst the winter rye. Each passing day reveals new buds, blades, and leaves. The birds begin their singing earlier in the morning. Spring is waiting to burst. I love the anticipation. All is well here in our little corner of Fort Worth.
Sitting here it’s easy to forget the world beyond our cul-de-sac. Margaret and I are blessed to live here. We have friends and neighbors who just show up at our door and make themselves at home with us. Our life is full: full of people we’re grateful to have in our lives, full of peace, and above all, full of grace. It’s easy to share this with you because I want to share the blessings. I’ve come to understand what is meant by “you can’t keep it unless you give it away. Many of you know what I’m talking about.
Despite the quiet of our “little corner”, there’s a great big world out there where peace, serenity, and grace are difficult to find at best. All I have to do is drive a few blocks and everything changes. When I come to a nearby intersection, I see the guy standing there with the sign “Lost Everything. Please help. God Bless.”, I’m confronted by the reality that, to paraphrase a Sturgill Simpson song, “life ain’t fair and the world is mean”.
All too often, I find myself looking past the face of the man on the corner. I sit and hope for the stoplight to change so I can drive off before he gets to me as he walks down the line of cars stopped at the light. I usually drive off feeling guilty because I’ve been there and did nothing to help. I try to rationalize my failure to see the man as another one of God’s kids and extend the same grace given to me.
I can’t solve homelessness, poverty, or any one of the world’s myriad of problems. I’ve tried and felt drained, tired, and worthless. It’s overwhelming and I suffer from the same problem many of us do. If I can’t do it all, I just won’t do anything. The problem is that the problem doesn’t go away, and I’ve become part of the problem. So, I feel trapped in an endless cycle of guilt, doubt, and helplessness.
One thing I’ve learned from the people God has put in my life is that guilt, doubt, and hopelessness lie to me. I can’t do everything, but I can do something. My friend Edgar often reminds me “the only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time”. Moreover, “the good news” tells me that I don’t have to do any of this alone. I have access to a spirit and a power far greater than I that allows me to do things differently today, even if the changes and the actions seem so small.
Several years ago, I was blessed with doing several community projects with a group of young people from a local church, The Hills. For one of them, the young people gave up their Spring Break to build a community garden for the residents in a transitional housing facility assisting members of the HIV/AIDS community. My friend Rusty, who helped coordinate the project, asked me to speak to the kids and their parents about the project: to alleviate any fears they may have about being around people with AIDS. There’s many misconceptions about HIV/AIDS. I know because through first-hand experience. I was a resident there… not that different form the guy on the corner I talked about earlier…
I addressed the group, telling them that sometimes people who are homeless, who have disabilities, or health issues, and live marginalized lives just want to be “seen”. They, or rather “we” just want acknowledgement of our humanity. Most folks are uncomfortable around us. They look away so they won’t have to see the disabilities or dirty clothes and unkempt hair. They hurry past us, reminding us that they’re not like us, and everything else is more important than the simple acknowledgement we’re there. Sometimes, the mere act of acknowledgement, to “see”, another is the greatest act of love someone can perform.
God has been exceedingly good to me in the years since I spoke to the kids and their parents. I’m in recovery. I have a relationship with God. I’ve been blessed with an incredible wife, a house, food to eat, and far more friends than I ever could have imagined. I have “enough”. My needs are met and usually exceeded; and I tend to forget what it’s like to be one of the unseen. If I’m truly grateful for the life I’ve been given today, then I can’t forget, nor do I want to.
I’ve got some errands to run today. They’ll take me by the guy at the intersection. I hope there’s a red light and my vision is clear…