So I’m trying to not eat for energy or pick up my favorite coffee drink at The Coffee Shack. I have done pretty well at The Coffee Shack – only one in a month and that was after the New York trip before I went to a wedding rehearsal so not bad. Anyway, so I’m terrible at this don’t eat for energy thing and I remembered that in the Wesley kitchen we found some melted chocolate from the New York trip. I know it’s a pretty low standard if you’re looking at melted chocolate from a road trip. Anyway, again (I’m digressing a lot here), I got a Coke Zero that someone left here and I found a melted bag of Reese cups (jackpot!) and I’m walking back to my office, when lo and behold I’m walking by the front door and I think I see out of the corner of my eye, a figure at the door.
At first I keep walking down the hall and then I think, wait a sec, I think that really may be someone at the door. Sure enough it’s a guy. He’s pointing at our picture that sits on the table in the entryway that says, “I stand at the door and knock” and then he says through the glass – “See, I stand at the door and knock.” I open the door and of course he’s asking for assistance and if we’re a church. (I must say that I love our Winthrop Wesley sign and the symbol of the cross and flame that is now big on our wall outside, but no one ever stopped by and asked for assistance before we had that new sign. I guess they didn’t think we were a church with the words “The Wesley Foundation” on the outside, probably thinking we were a bank or insurance company or philanthropy or something.)
I explained about our college ministry and walked him around the corner pointing out HOPE, Inc. an agency down the street that many of our churches support, I point out the churches in the area, I give him directions to some, tell him about Dorothy Day, etc. All this time saying that I personally can’t help him, but holding my Coke Zero and bag of Reeses cups in my hand. As I walk back into the building and I look at the picture and I see what it says, “Behold I stand at the door and knock: if any hear My voice and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me.” Hello, conviction as I walk in the door.
By the time I caught up with the guy after grabbing the cash from my wallet to help him with his bus ticket, he’s at the Presbytery building on the corner. He looks at me and says, “See, I’m trying. I’m doing the best I can asking these churches to help me.”
It’s tough. I know that HOPE only helps people every certain amount of days/weeks and they had helped this guy when he was in the hospital last week. I know that certain folks that he had talked to only give utility bill help or food or they give all their money to HOPE to distribute. I know that none of us want to be taken advantage of or to enable. Heck, enable is pretty much a curse word these days.
I know I am one fiesty woman, but also alone in the building so I didn’t want to invite the guy in and I somehow didn’t think handing him spagetti sauce and uncooked pasta from our pasta lunches would actually help anything. I could have driven him somewhere and I thought about it, but the whole woman alone thing – sometimes I’m okay with that, and sometimes not so much. So yes, I ended up doing something that I actually don’t usually do and I sometimes even say we shouldn’t do – I just gave the guy some money.
It’s such a hard issue – to give or not to give, enabling or accountability, erring on the side of grace or of caution. What would you do? Do you go with your gut? Do you listen to the Spirit as you discern?
How is our church inviting people in as they stand at the door and knock? Do we just give them some money or do we actually invite them in and build relationship with them? What does the world see about a church that says we want to clothe the naked and give homes to the homeless and yet we have nothing to offer? What does the world see in a church that just gives hands out and not hands up or real relationship?
Questions to wrestle with and ponder.