The Heartbreak of Seattle

>> Thursday, April 21, 2011

He sat on the sidewalk, leaning against the traffic light pole. I walked within touching distance and could easily read his sign … “I have colon cancer and am taking chemo. Have lost my job. Can you help?”

We made eye contact. I didn’t mean to. That made it all the harder to step down from the curb and walk across the street … not looking back. My heart was heavy. What kind of a Christian am I?

And they were everywhere. Men … women … skinny as rails … dirty … ragged clothes. Some had a dog by their side. If they are starving, why do they have a dog to feed? But what if that is the only companionship they have? How is it my place to judge?

They nagged in the back of my mind as I spent several days in Seattle, enjoying my husband’s company, staying in a nice hotel, eating in the restaurants of our choice and just basically having a wonderful time.

I’ve heard the stories. For some of them, this is how they earn their living and they go home to a real house with a real family. They are the fake homeless ones. How do you know which one that is? Others have mental issues. How sad. I want to put them in my car and take them home.

How do you know what to do?

There is a story in the Bible that talks about helping your neighbor.

“………How would you define 'neighbor'?"

Jesus answered by telling a story. "There was once a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. On the way he was attacked by robbers. They took his clothes, beat him up, and went off leaving him half-dead. Luckily, a priest was on his way down the same road, but when he saw him he angled across to the other side. Then a Levite religious man showed up; he also avoided the injured man.

A Samaritan traveling the road came on him. When he saw the man's condition, his heart went out to him. He gave him first aid, disinfecting and bandaging his wounds. Then he lifted him onto his donkey, led him to an inn, and made him comfortable. In the morning he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, 'Take good care of him. If it costs any more, put it on my bill—I'll pay you on my way back.'

"What do you think? Which of the three became a neighbor to the man attacked by robbers?"

"The one who treated him kindly," the religion scholar responded.

 Jesus said, "Go and do the same." Luke 10:27b-37 (MSG)

I didn’t.

I’ve felt this way before. I never want to go to Mexico again … little children begging at my feet. They haunted me for months. I want millions of dollars and then I can fix it. Or can I?

Even though it is hard to believe, this is the life some of them have chosen. They have no bills. No boss to please. But the ones who didn’t plan this way of life … who lost their job … their home … and then their family … those are the true tragedies. They want to pay their own way … and feel humiliated by the life they lead.

And so I ponder.

“Treat others the same way you want them to treat you.” Luke 6:31 (NASB)


Marijo (Mary Jo) Phelps April 22, 2011 at 9:19 AM  

It touches our hearts - you are right - how do we know which ones are really in need. We have "solved" this by contributing to several ministries which help children and knowing the workers personally. It is still a heart tugger to be approached at Wal-Mart and asked for money... sometimes we give - mostly we do not. GOOD post!

Joy Bach April 22, 2011 at 10:30 AM  

Thanks, Marijo. Yes we do other contributions too, but it is so hard to just walk by. Sometimes I can't take it and give. Thanks for your kind words.

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