An interesting thing happened to me yesterday, and by interesting I mean deeply profound and moving…
I attended an event called Rubicon this weekend. It’s aim was to gather people from all walks of life and faith and culture in Dublin and discuss the theme of Justice. What is justice? What’s God’s heart for justice? How do we live it out in the day to day? There were intelligent and heartfelt words shared from the front with honest reflection and discussion at our tables. The setting was purposefully intimate and informal and I appreciated every moment of it.
As I sat there absorbing every morsel and twitter-worthy quote, I remember thinking to myself, Lord, I want to be known on this earth for how well I love. I don’t want to be known so much by what I say or how well I say it, but by what I do. Wisdom from my favorite Franciscan sister echoed through my mind, “When you get to heaven, Jesus isn’t going to ask you, ‘Were you right?’. No. He’s going to ask you, ‘Did you love?'” This set me at ease again against the backdrop of self-limiting and deceptive thoughts trying to creep in — whispering things like you’re not doing enough or worse yet, everything you do isn’t good enough and actually causes more problems — all lies, rooted in fear, not love, but tempting nonetheless to believe. However, we must not allow ourselves to get paralyzed by fear and defeated by inaction. God’s love is unbreakable and unstoppable and we are the carriers of this Light!
I met up with a friend the next day who was treating me to lunch in downtown Dublin. We sat outdoors in the February sunshine sipping our fancy drinks and enjoying the quality time and conversation. All of a sudden I noticed a face peering at me just above the partition to my left. I turned a bit startled and said “oh! hello!” to the unassuming woman staring at me. She started mumbling, but couldn’t quite compete with the pop music and chatter in the background. I couldn’t hear her very well, but it didn’t take me long to put together that this woman was marked by that dreaded label: homeless.
She was saying she was so tired. So, so tired, and had slept the night before inside a telephone booth. She said she didn’t care about food, and no thanks, she didn’t want a warm drink either. She just wanted a place to lay her head. I asked her what her name was. “Therese” (What?! Another one! interesting fact: the name, Therese, Teresa, Theresa means “to harvest or reap”) I introduced myself and my friend and continued to talk to her. She shared freely and unashamedly. Her mother died 18 months ago. She has no home, no family, and no friends that are not addicted to drugs or alcohol. “God didn’t put us on this earth to do drugs,” she said. She doesn’t drink. She doesn’t do drugs. Her friend tragically died recently with her unborn baby inside of her. She tried to end her own life by an attempt to hang herself 3 weeks ago, and she just hoped God wasn’t angry or disappointed with her…
Clearly the €20 EURO she was seeking for a hostel was not her biggest or only need right then.
We prayed with Theresa and she wept. Right there in the open air with all the other restaurant patrons surrounding us. I asked her if I could give her a hug and she said yes. We talked about her loneliness and desperation, so I stood up and walked around the partition and embraced her. She cried in my arms and stroked my back as I held her for a few long moments. I spoke words of life and hope over her and prayed more silently, and then I sat back down. My sweet friend had been praying and taking it all in simultaneously. In silent accord, she handed Theresa a €20 note and a letter she had recently been given from a friend. It was a letter from God. Words of scripture and identity true to us all weaved into a personalized message. Perfect! Theresa dried her eyes and thanked us and said she would read the letter tonight while falling asleep in her bed once she checked into the hostel.
No one usually likes to admit the inner dialogue taking place when they’re talking to someone who is homeless. Or even just passing by a person with this circumstance on the streets because let’s be honest, it’s uncomfortable and awkward to stop and talk to these kind of people and we rarely do. But these kind of people are children of God too. He said when we do unto “the least of these” we are doing to Him. We are staring at the very face of Christ in these moments, and despite all of my speculations, critical mind and good practice, I simply decided in that moment that it was right to believe her and bless her in the only ways we could right then. Injustice and brokenness has robbed this woman of so much, but Jesus wants to give us the privilege of giving everything back…and then some. Just because his grace is extravagant like that. Our blessing may have only been temporary, but I believe she walked away from us a changed woman.
We must continue talking about justice. We must continue asking ourselves the hard questions and analyze and articulate the solutions. Yet, when the ordinary, every day opportunity seeks you out, how do you respond? Do you embrace the outcast? the lonely, messed up or awkward? Do you question why our world systems put people in these kind of positions in the first place? Or do you ignore her and change the subject to something a little more comfortable?
“One of the greatest tragedies of this world is not that we don’t care about each other. It’s that we don’t even know each other.” -Shane Claiborne at Rubicon 2014