When I was a kid, I had excuses for everything. Why I didn’t do a chore, why this or that wasn’t my fault, etc. Maybe it’s growing older, or maybe it’s my military experience, or what I don’t know, but I really don’t care for excuses anymore. I feel ashamed for giving them, and so really I am more likely to just say, “I didn’t do blah blah blah,” or “I’m sorry I did blah blah blah,” than either of those followed by an excuse. Why? Because I’m an adult. I have responsibilities. If I gave my word, I gave it. If I couldn’t keep it, I shouldn’t have given it. There are plenty of reasons.
So what about being a follower of Jesus, and not just a fan? (I didn’t think of this, my priest wrote something like that in last Sunday’s bulletin.) What excuses am I going to say to the Lamb of God when he asks me why I turned my face away from the poor? Am I going to lie and say, “I didn’t know what you meant,” when he asks me why or how I was hard-hearted enough to look past people as though they weren’t right there?
There are many, many instances in my life in which I did one of those things. Arguably, my entire lifestyle is evil because I don’t give all that I have. I do live in excess. I don’t always give even when I have the ability. Sometimes people have called me generous, but I’m not; it’s just that a lot of people have a low standard for generosity.
Today I didn’t want to go to school. I was tired. It’s ordinarily a gym day (after school), but I decided I wouldn’t work out after all, or if I did, it would be this evening. There wasn’t any question about going to my math class, but I did consider more than once just skipping my speech class so I could go home early… but I didn’t.
Then I was hungry. It didn’t help that I drank coffee at school, which sort of gnarled up my stomach… but after all these things, I eventually decided to just go to both classes, then go to the grocery on the way home. Was it fate? Was it the will of God?
I don’t know, but — and I don’t feel like I’m boasting, because nobody I know in real life actually reads this — when I went to the grocery store, I saw a man with tattered clothes, and a bike with bags on it. You know, almost certainly a homeless man. What do I do? Always I think this. I don’t always have cash, and when I do, I still can’t say with certainty if it is better to shell it out or not (I do believe in giving money to charities, for example, but I think doing this sometimes allows us to utterly ignore people who need, perhaps more than money, to be regarded with dignity by Joe Middle Class).
Anyway, I parked, and went in Albertson’s. Now, I’m not a poor person. First thing I grabbed was some veggies and organic bananas. Organic because the regular bananas weren’t ripe, and I figured, Hey, I can afford organic bananas. It’s worth it to me. I’m buying them. Then I go get a pound of salmon — not at all the cheapest meat.
Then I was moseying over toward the big packs of chicken because I actually do try to shop frugally. I get the big packs of chicken breasts because they’re cheap, lean, easy to prep, and will provide my husband and me with several meals. But… just a few yards down, looking at some prepared meats or something, was the homeless man I’d seen outside. “Can I buy you some food?” I thought immediately. Was it the Holy Spirit? Because it’s not like I reflected on that. The idea just came up, and seemed overwhelmingly right and necessary.
But I guess I am somewhat — SOMEWHAT — shy, so I decided, Okay, I’ll go get the last thing I need, then I’ll ask him. And I went to get my tortillas, then stood in that aisle for a minute to psych myself up. I went back to the place where I’d seen the man, and he wasn’t there. Oh no, I thought, I’m not going to say, “Oh, too bad.” I looked for the man, and found him, looking at something else, with nothing in his hands. No doubt he had little money, and wanted the biggest bang for his buck. I’ve been in that situation before. So anyway, I did approach him, ask if I could buy him some food, and did so. I tried to talk a little by offering my name, but he only said his name back, then averted his eyes. You know… there are those people in the world who just take and take and take, shamelessly. One of my friends has a sister like that! But many people find it extremely difficult to ask for or receive what they need from other people — because “charity” is like a dirty word. My dad is like that. I think part of it is that many generations of men have been conditioned that they don’t have needs, or they’re not to be acknowledged. Anyway, the man’s name was Aaron.
I bought him food. I went my way, he went his. And now I’m at home, and I totally forgot how hungry I was when I went to the grocery store. I totally forgot what a pain in the ass I think it is that my school would schedule a class over 10:35 until 1 pm — which covers pretty much every American’s lunch hour, and then some. (Ten minutes to change classes AND use the head AND shove food down one’s throat is really pretty stupid.)
Now I’m thinking… I did something small for Aaron. I didn’t know what else to do. He doesn’t have a fridge (I asked), so buying him a week’s worth of chicken wouldn’t help. I can’t bring him here because even if I really were faithful enough to do such a thing, I’m pretty sure my husband would… well, I actually don’t know what K. would do because I’m sure it’s just totally unimaginable to him. He wouldn’t be happy or comfortable, and I don’t think it’s okay for me to just do whatever I want in a place that is not MINE, but OURS. I can’t give Aaron a job. I don’t even know where homeless people can go for food or counseling or shelter. I’m sure there are places, because this is southern California… but I’m pretty ignorant.
I don’t know if there’s a point. I guess today, reaching out a little to a man I saw who looked like he was in need, you know, maybe that sort of thing does more good for my spirit than it does for the man. Or maybe the whole thing was part of a plan God had. Maybe by saying Aaron’s name, telling him, “I NOTICED YOU!” that did something for his heart. I don’t know. God knows I hope so. God knows all of my complex feelings and hopes and questions and doubts.
But I was just thinking that we shouldn’t make excuses not to help people. We shouldn’t say, “Most homeless are drug addicts,” as an excuse not to help them. Even if 100% of the homeless were drug addicts, does the love of Christ not extend to them too?! I can say little with assurance, but I can say that much! It does! The love of Christ extends to everyone, and indeed, transcends every evil idea so many of us humans have of who is deserving or not.
We have to love everyone, and it has to be a walk, an action, not just a word. Isn’t that what the epistles of James and John say? BE YE DOERS OF THE WORD, NOT HEARERS ONLY. And FAITH WITHOUT WORKS IS DEAD. And so many other things. Not to mention Chapter 28, I think, of Matthew’s Gospel, where Jesus separates the sheep and the goats, and explains why.
We have to love everyone, and we do not decide who is deserving or not. Either everyone is deserving of love, or no one is. And considering that Christ died and was resurrected “while you were yet sinners,” I think God’s message is that EVERYONE is deserving. If the Creator, Maker, and Judge of all chose to also become the Savior of all, then where do we humans, who can’t even stick to our diets, let alone live without sin, get off saying one of our brothers doesn’t deserve love?
God is so amazing, really. And I can understand why people who don’t believe can turn away from the needy, but I can’t understand how we Christians can turn away. Our God does not turn away. He did so many miracles, came and saved us for eternity, and then he said, “Okay, you guys do it until I come back.” He did! That is what he said. You feed my sheep. You comfort those in prison. You care for widows. You shine my light in the world.
I feel ashamed if I imagine giving excuses for not doing the simplest things to care for my brothers and sisters, because think of the Judge. It’s Jesus. Someone who did much more than provide food and water. Someone who did much more than perform miracles, actually. How can you offer an excuse to someone whose love was so great that he accepted torture, ridicule, and death for us?
Last Sunday at Mass I prayed for help to DO what I WANT to do. Paul talked about that. I do what I don’t want to do, and I don’t do what I do want to do. I am better at not doing what I don’t want to do than I am at doing what I believe in and want to do. But today I did what I wanted to do for Aaron — well, much less than I would like, but as much as I knew how to do — and… may it bless Aaron, may God bless Aaron, and may it please the Lord.