The Haves and the Have Nots–Thoughts on a Saturday Afternoon

Money cash

Money cash (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

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.

Goliath’s Mama

pic of david and goliath

A couple of years ago my little guy, when he was about four, became very fascinated with this story.  David and Goliath–only he called them David and “Cletus.”  Ahem.  Anyway, he loved all tales of good vs. evil, and he still does.   Thus the current fascination with all things Star Wars.  The thing is that he loves the bad guys.  I was really worried about this until I was assured by more than one grown, law-abiding adult male that this is a normal thing.  Ahhh.  Huge sigh of relief.

So the story of David and Cletus.  I had to tell it many times until he had it memorized himself.  I thought maybe he had forgotten it until about three weeks ago.  He came up and with a serious expression on his precious little face, he asked, “Mama, who was Goliath’s Mama?”

Wow.

Once again, I had to answer that I didn’t know.  We talked about it again today, and he said he just wants to know who she was.  There is no reason why, “I just want to know.”

I’ve been thinking about this question a lot the past two days.

{Warning–no nap yesterday or today (and it wasn’t for lack of trying) so my filter is once again broken.  I’m just going to say what I think.   I respect your right to disagree, and I even appreciate hearing your thoughts on the subject.  But respect is the key factor here, okay?}

I follow Confessions of a Funeral Director on Facebook.  I know, an interesting choice.  And Caleb Wilde is interesting.  I first became acquainted with his writing when he wrote about “The Homeless Man and the Scone.”  Powerful.   Really good stuff.  Sometimes he posts questions, like he did yesterday.  I am sure that many of the folks who responded were also funeral directors, but still, it made me think.

He asked: Graham Putnam & Mahoney Funeral Parlors accepted the body of Boston Bomber, Tamerlan Tsarnaev.  But, the cemeteries in Mass. refuse to accept his body.  
How would you feel if Tsarnaev was buried in a cemetery with your relatives?  
Furthermore, do we believe that EVERYONE is entitled to a respectful burial?

Oh boy how the responses varied and how passionate they were.  Y’all may have seen similar conversations.   I was so upset by many of the comments that I talked with my Aunt about this yesterday.  Let me preface this by saying, I did not lose anyone in the Boston bombings, and I cannot say how or if that would change what I think.  Having said that, I do not see how refusing to care for the body or to provide a burial will accomplish anything.

Except more hate.  Yeah, there’s that.

I was raised by a Mama who told us, “Two wrongs don’t make a right,” at least once a day.  Seriously, with four of us, we needed reminding rather frequently.  In later years, she would add, “I know you’re all very bright, why do you constantly need reminding? TWO WRONGS DO NOT MAKE A RIGHT!”

What this young man is accused of doing is horrible, tragic, heartbreaking, and irreversible.  People will be broken from this, by this, for a long, long time.  I wonder though, what good can be served by perpetuating the brokenness beyond his death?  What good can come from returning evil with anger?  I’m just asking.

Because there is that book again, the Good Book, that holds so much good in it.   Many folks whom I know love this Book are forgetting some of the guidance about how to deal with evil and those we call enemies.    My Mama used to talk about heaping coals of kindness on people who had hurt us or made us angry.  It was something she expected us to do, and she empowered us to do it.  I guess she was paraphrasing (or misquoting, who knows) Romans 12:20:  “On the contrary, if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.  In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.”  (Okay, Mama’s was a bit different but I think she got the gist.)  Proverbs 25:21 also tells us to feed our hungry enemy and give our thirsty enemy something to drink.

Here’s the whopper though.  In Matthew 5:44 we are told to “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.”  Really? Love? Seriously?  What if I don’t want to?  What if they were really, really evil?

I don’t think there’s a clause for that.

So I thought about this situation last night, and then today Confessions of a Funeral Director shared this:

Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s body has been offered a cemetery plot in a Mass. cemetery.  Paul Keane, the owner of the plot (and Yale Divinity graduate), wrote in his blog “The Anti Yale” that he would like to “donate a burial plot next to my mother in Mt. Carmel Burying Ground to the Tsarnaev family if they cannot obtain a plot. The only condition is that I do it in memory of my mother who taught Sunday School at the Mt. Carmel Congregational Church for twenty years and taught me to ‘love thine enemy’.”

Wow.  Again.

I am moved to tears by Mr. Keane and his generosity and kindness, just as I was moved by a video from a young man in his last days saying that those two things are what count, what it is all about–being kind, being generous.  What a beautiful tribute to his mother.  I wish I could have met Mr. Keane’s Mama.  She raised him right.  I wonder if my Mama has met her and shared stories with her yet.  I think they might just be kindred spirits.

So Goliath…..and his Mama.  I am not sure of the connection, or if there is one.  Maybe just how my mind wanders.  Or maybe I would like to think that this could be a compassionate side coming out in my little guy.   Wondering about Goliath’s family, if anyone was upset about what had happened, if anyone missed him after he was gone.  Because I came across this picture by a Russian artist–and something in David’s face makes me think about Goliath’s own story…..and that maybe David is wondering some of what my little one is wondering lately…..

David and Goliath by Arsen Kurbanov

David and Goliath by Arsen Kurbanov

I really can’t be sure, but I can be sure of this.  Two wrongs don’t make a right.  I know it.  Mama said so.  Heapin’ coals. Hard as it can be, it’s the right thing to do.