I was told to leave early from work (3PM) since there wasn't anything for me to do. I checked out a couple of things on my computer prior to leaving-- one of the things I found was that there's a National Museum of Health and Medicine in Silver Spring, MD. That looks incredibly interesting, but by the time I saw the webpage for the museum it was too late to grab a train and get there before closing time. Oh well. Roommate #1 had invited me to come to Silver Spring to an ice cream social (and paper making party!) that her internship site was hosting, so I spent the remainder of my free time before I had to leave walking around Dupont Circle. At one point, I poked my head into Kraemers bookstore because I had been told it was a great bookstore..... I thought it was a waste of time. :/ Books a Million across the park has a better store, I think. Live and learn!
As I wandered around Dupont, a homeless man asked me for a few quarters to buy himself a sandwich. He stood outside of a Subway sandwich shop wearing dingy clothing and holding several quarters in his hand. He extended them towards me, the question hanging in the air. "Would you give me more?"
This is a sight that is common in DC, although sometimes people perform in some way to "earn" the donations. (This evening on the way home, a man sang loudly in the metro car my roommate and I were riding in.) People here seem to have three reactions: ignore and walk by, give change, or acknowledge and say "Sorry, no."
He was standing outside of a Subway sandwich shop, and not carrying any change I offered to buy the sandwich. What good will a few quarters do, really? He walked in ahead of me, asked for a soda cup and the bathroom key, and that was that. He didn't say thank you, which honestly I didn't really care about. What struck me was that he didn't order a sandwich. He didn't seem to have any need for it. If I was in a tight spot, and someone offered me a sandwich, I'd at least get one and save it for later. I shake my head when this happens and the desire not to help people who ask for it grows a little bigger because I know the reality is that while there are homeless people, there are people who make at least $400-$500 a day pretending to be homeless. That's not a desire I want.
I'm not sharing that story to give myself a pat on the back ("Look at you, you offered someone a tuna sandwich. What a great person you are!" [insert eyeroll here]), but so that I can share the revelation that I had later on: it made me think about how we sometimes approach God. "I need this!" I can see myself saying that, holding out hands with nails that are dirty from all of my human sin. This is something inconsequential, something that won't last-- like the fifty cents in the anecdote above. Or, perhaps, things like "I really need them to accept this past-due application!" "I really need a good grade on this test I haven't been studying for." "I really need them to like me." "I really need ..."
I've been there. Those have been the hurried prayers I've whispered while multitasking and focusing my mind on my to-do-list rather than remembering the power of God.
We ask God for more.... but more of what? More of unimportant things, and less of what we really need. Then, when God says, "I know you want fifty cents, but I can do more than just that. Come on.", I think sometimes we go along with him just for a little while-- and then go after what we wanted anyway. I say that because I'm that stubborn-headed sheep that just doesn't get it some days. I was ready to buy the homeless man (was he homeless? Who knows.) whatever he wanted, but he just wanted a sweetened drink full of carbonic acid, aspartame, and salt. God wants to give me (us!!) the world .... so why don't I find myself in a place of continual faith with this revelation that I could ask for anything?? I know my track record, and I know God's track record -- and I know which one isn't looking too good. Even still, I ask for small favors. "Help me remember all of these hormones, at least until after my test!"
Is it that I'm afraid to dream big?
Is it that I'm afraid to trust God enough to give Him complete control?
Is it that I don't trust that God can handle my "big prayers" or the goals that seem way too big to ever come true?
That's the opportunity for a turning point, though... isn't it? That moment of realization that you can live recklessly, abandoning real faith, or abandon the safe, faith-atrophying comfort zone?
Among the immaterial things in my life that I treasure most is my comfort zone. My personal bubble. It's a place where I know what will happen. I know what to expect, and most importantly, when to expect it. If I were to list the activities that happen inside my comfort zone "leaving comfort zone" would not be among them.
Yet that's been precisely the place I've been for the past month. Outside of my happy little bubble. The longer I spend outside of it, the less fondly I look at the prospect of going back. It's funny, isn't it? I fought God so that I could stay in my comfort zone, but DC is the vehicle God is using to permanently evict me from my former home.
There are people who really need help. You don't have to look far to see that. Whether it's homeless people, or the prostitute and the man who think he's not seen following her into an alley, or the empty, tired eyes of the stranger you stand next to on the metro.. people need help.
Walking by and turning a blind eye, whatever their intentions and stories are, doesn't seem like a good way to continue.
Homelessness seems to be a bad issue here, and a part of me wonders who the people are that really need the help, and who is just wanting to take advantage of an easy way to get some kind of income. There's this heartache that I feel because I've become so coarse and unaffected by poverty in my own backyard- I feel jaded because of so many experiences that I've had similar to the one from earlier today. It's a war in my heart that I've been battling lately-- Do I care? How do I show it? Who needs it most? Who needs it at all?
I'm struck with something my mother told me once. "It's not my money." We're stewards of everything God has given us. What I've found is that being a good steward is difficult sometimes. The conclusion I've come to, though, is that what others do with any money or objects I give them is really between them and God. It's not my money, it's God's. I usually don't give money since I rarely carry cash- I try to offer to buy food, since most people cite that as what they're trying to get money for. It seems to be a lie, more often than not, but it is what it is. I'm not called to pass judgement on their choices.
Clayton from Arlington Church of Christ told me that he's beginning a summer campaign in DC to serve the homeless here on Thursday nights. I'm really hoping that I can help with that because I'm so tired of trying to find ways to help and getting shot down. I feel burned out, and sometimes I find myself in that place where it's easier to turn a blind eye and keep walking. That little voice says "They just want it for alcohol. They're making a ton of money off of everyone else." That's not where I want to be.
Brandon Heath has this song, "Give Me Your Eyes." That's been going through my head this evening.
Transformation is not easy or comfortable on any level. God's been working on my heart in so many ways since I got here, and not just in the way that I view homelessness. The walls I've built around my heart and through my mind have been steadily cracking for the past few weeks. now they're staring to tumble like Jericho. My comfort zone is changing. It's scary. It's exciting.