I had a bank errand to run this morning. I prefer to pull up to the window itself instead of going to a middle lane and sending my papers flying through the air over me and into the hands of the teller inside. I’m a bit odd like that. So I chose the longer line and settled in to wait. It was the rare occasion of being in the car by myself, so I was listening to “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me,” and I was laughing my head off. In the car. By myself. This is what crazy looks like people.
When I pulled up and placed my paperwork in the open drawer, I saw that there was one teller who was alternating between the two lines. She looked at my transaction and then walked over to the indoor counter for a couple of minutes. When she returned I really thought she was talking to me. It came out over my speaker, and it’s hard to see where they are looking anyway.
“I’m sorry but we can’t cash this check.” What? I didn’t give you a check to cash. “There’s insufficient funds to cover it if it’s returned so we can’t cash it. I’m sorry.”
Oh bless them. She was talking to the people in the old truck next to me. It broke my heart, and the wheels in my mind tuned out the game show on the radio and started turning. How could I help? Should I? For goodness’ sake, they had a check written to them, and they can’t cash it because they don’t have enough money in the bank? Shouldn’t the issue be whether or not the folks that wrote it had enough in the bank? So what I’m hearing is that you have to have money to get more money–is that right?
What. On. Earth.
A couple of weeks ago I was at the gas station up the road. While I pump, I tend to people-watch. I saw an old, rather beat up vehicle parked near the fast food side of the gas station. A woman walked over to the car and a man got out of the driver’s seat. She slid across and he got in as well. And they sat there.
I wondered if the car wouldn’t crank or if they needed gas money or if they were just meeting someone there. It got me to thinking of the days years ago when I had car trouble and wondered how on earth we would get by. When one of my cousins called saying she didn’t need my Granny’s Mercury Grand Marquis anymore and would I want it, I got down on my knees and cried my eyes out. So fortunate.
I was talking with my Cousin the evening after seeing the folks at the gas station, and we struck up a conversation about the haves and have nots.
“Isn’t it ironic that the folks who most need transportation to get to and from jobs to make a living, to survive, are the ones who can’t always afford dependable transportation? ” It’s a crazy, broken world for sure.
The concept of haves and have nots is not a fixed idea. Compared to some, like those folks in Hollywood or some of our elected officials, I’m probably considered a have not. But I know better. I’m definitely a have. And I feel very lucky to be that. There’s no rhyme or reason why I was born in the country, state, area, family I was born in with the skill set I have. It just is. Oh I know it’s been up to me and my parents to make something out of what I’ve been given–believe me, I grew up with the whole “To whom much is given, much is expected” idea. And I’m raising mine the same way. But how to help those who are in need?
I’ve been there. Never without a roof, but in my previous life, when it was just me and my oldest, we ate a lot of spaghetti and I mapped out where and when we went places based on the gas in my tank. I remember one cold December my dear sweet landlord walked in the house and said, “Tara turn the heat up. I can’t stand y’all living like this.” And he said he’d charge less in rent that month if I would use the heat a little more. It was an old house with really high ceilings and it was hard to keep warm. I appreciated his kindness then and I still do now. We had a great friendship and his offer was borne from that–it was a beautiful gift.
It’s not that I didn’t have family who would have helped. I did and I do. It’s that it wasn’t their place, so I didn’t ask. They were already helping so much with my child. I couldn’t have them doing more. And besides, I still didn’t consider myself a have not. Just maybe a doesn’t have as much.
I’m not really sure where I’m going with this, but it’s been on my mind a lot lately. Especially since I’ve been spending time with my Sister Circle friends. When I hear their stories, I am almost embarrassed to get in my roomy, running vehicle with AC and a radio and drive back to my pretty nice house. Much has been given to me, what am I expected to do?
One of the people I respect and admire most, especially in the world of building relationships with and loving on people who are chronically homeless talked with me about this. She cautions us against giving that $10 for the room at the boarding house. Or the $5 for a burger. Or $3 for cigarettes. Once that money changes hands, we have changed our relationship–its has become one of have and have not. It becomes a relationship based on need. She’s right, you know. I’ve realized this in my years of building relationships with people who have such basic unmet needs.
Again, I ask, what should we do? What do I do? How can we help? In the case of someone being hungry, I know the best thing to do is not to give money for food, but instead, get two burgers and sit and eat with them–make it relational. I read a great post about “What I should have done” here about a year or so ago. In it Caleb Wilde writes and poses the idea that it’s easier to learn about what Jesus did than actually do it–orthodoxy being easier than orthopraxy. I’m thinking he’s on to something. I can sit and ponder all day what would be the right thing to do in a situation, just as committees and groups can meet themselves coming and going, discussing plans to make things better; but that doesn’t feed a soul or put a roof over anyone’s head or fix a blame thing.
Tonight I’m thankful for what I have, okay with what I have not, and wondering how to pull it all together and help someone else based on relationship without it becoming another case of the haves and the have nots.
Any thoughts? How do you live “To whom much is given, much is expected?” in your life?
Thanks for thinking about this with me.