Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Hospitality.

My minister often urges us to show kindness to those we avoid. And every time I hear him urge us to approach the unapproachable, to friend the friendless, to speak those which we'd rather go away, I think of this woman on my street.

Let's call her K.

K has been a hot mess in the past couple years. She may have been addicted to something or in the midst of mental illness or simply a disaster. K is a mother. K lives with her parents and her two children.

Last year, I saw this young mother whisked away on an ambulance, twice. And each time, I prayed for her--her son is Lily's age.

Despite all the mess, she always swings by Lily's lemonade stand--puts a small donation in and says "God Bless You." and moves on. She's left Christmas cards in my mailbox.

And I've completely ignored her; despite my minister's advice, despite my husband with the sweet midwestern heart, and despite that voice in my head that told me to stop being such a snob.

After all, the Bible tells us over and over again to love thy neighbor, to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked and to always show hospitality to strangers.

Hebrews 13:2 says:

"Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it."

I finally spoke to her last week. And I liked her. I thought, hey, maybe she is an angel. 

So, today, when she knocked on my door, I was all high in my Christian goodness. "Look at me! I am answering the door to this person I avoided! I am living the Good Word!"

And then she asked me for money. 

Money. My stranger neighbor asked me for cash. For a prescription. Or something. Apparently they were low on food. But she needed cash, like "a twenty," she said. 

Like I am an ATM machine. 


It is hard to be a Christian, when your neighbor is a hot mess.

I did not want to give her a dime. I wanted to shove her out the door. But, instead, I invited her in (out of shock, I suppose), gave her two frozen chicken breasts and a taco kit.

She responded: "Yeah, can I still have the cash?"

I gave her $8 and told her if she ever needed food, I'd have it. But $8 was it--I know her type, I think. My half-sister is her type--always hustling for cash--always with the sob story--always with the excuse. I know her type from my Temple U days-- asking for money for a cheeseburger; but never actually wanting the cheeseburger.

Or maybe, maybe she knows my type--the one who desperately wants to do good, but can't always quiet figure out to do it. The one who never answers the door.

It really burns me--to be asked for something I feel obliged to give; but don't want to give. It inflames me that my kindness was repaid with a request for cash.

But, kindness is not something that should be repaid. And that is the difficulty in it all--the hard part about following the good word--it often defies logic.

I don't want her to knock again. But, if she does, I'll have the frozen chicken ready, because who knows, maybe my hot mess is an angel.


4 comments:

  1. I can't believe you gave her frozen chicken, hahaha!!

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  2. I have a really simple rule that I very strictly abide by. I never give money to anyone on my actual block. I have given money to people who needed it elsewhere in the city. But never on my actual block. It's a steady rule for me and it has served me well. Maybe I am missing angels, though, but I seem to find them in abudance anyway...

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  3. Trish;
    It is admirable that you tried to help. Hospitality compassion and generousity doesn't have to require an outlay of cash. Trust your gut instincts that she has a problem. If there is a problem, throwing cash at it can make it worse.
    I "obviously" support certain charities including ones that feed the hungry and clothe the naked. However, I don't give money to panhandlers out of concern that I'm enabling their drug/alcohol use and encouraging continued panhandling. I've declined to loan money to people I know. Unfortunately, one died with a needle in his arm shortly after another person gave him cash. Needless to say, a friend that did lend him money has regretted it for a long time.

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  4. This is a tough one, especially when you like the hot mess. I try to abide by the "If a neighbor asks, give" rule, but you're right: it's so hard to do what's asked of us sometimes.

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