When Other People’s Suffering Invades Your World

A challenging situation with a homeless woman in Fairfax, Virginia invaded my world on a Friday night. This is just a personal reflection on helping someone in distress and a reflection on the times that I have failed to help someone in need. Who in your life do you need to help? For those of you who are uncomfortable about facing difficult situations what do you need to do? This is meant to challenge people in a positive way while challenging myself the most.

“One thing you can’t hide – is when you’re crippled inside”  

John Lennon

“We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

 Matthew 25:35-40 NIV

I have a number of things that I want to write about. I had planned and am working on doing an analysis on The Village Church apology to Karen Hinkley. I would like to also write about what repentance is because quite simply many evangelicals don’t know what repentance is in all honesty. However, on Friday night something happened that gave me pause and before I write about anything else I need to journal about this and get it out of my system. It is going to uncomfortable discussing this and in reflecting upon this I realize that this is a draw back to pubic journaling. That said…I think others can benefit from this post as many people have found themselves in uncomfortable situations like this, or there are others who struggle to do the right thing because they are uncomfortable. The point of this is not to brag about giving or even boast of it. I am aware of verses such as 2 Corinthians 5:10 about giving in secret. I am trying to write about that today, but I am not trying to boast..instead I am trying to call myself out. Let me set the scene for you so you will understand what I am saying.

An Ordinary Friday Night…

So I finished working on my post and practicing more writing. With my post completed I published it and breathed easier knowing it was done. It was about 11:00 or so at night. I was hungry and didn’t have any fruit or cheese or anything to snack on as I didn’t hit the grocery store on the way home. So I decided to go to the local Dunkin Donuts and grab a donut. After weight loss surgery its not something I do regularly but I wanted to get something sweet. So I grabbed a donut and was sitting there in the restaurant. I was going through my Android and looking at Facebook and surfing the web. I was reading Dee Parson’s latest post on The Village Church situation. I am proud of my East Coast Mom for staying on top of that situation and doing outstanding analysis. I then got a message from my old biology teacher in high school telling me he was wondering how I was doing and that he would like to hear from me. So I smiled when I saw that and sent a quick message and got his email address. I find myself having a lot of people from my past contacting me more and more. Not long ago I had my football coach who I friended on Facebook. He wrote a post on my wall saying that coaching me in football was on of his joys in life. I cried…here it is 20 years later and I still love my football coach and think the world of him. So I finished up and planned to write my old biology teacher a long note to tell him about life, work, and about living in the Washington, D.C. area. As I cleaned up and threw away my trash I got back into my Nissan. I sat there for a minute reflecting upon things. I was so unprepared for what happened next as it left me profoundly uncomfortable and challenged me deeply.

When Others Invade Your Life

I was getting ready to start my 2012 Nissan and drive away when this woman approached the car. She knocked on the window and asked to speak to me. I was startled and couldn’t lower the window as I had the car off. So I turned the ignition and lowered the window and looked at her and found myself listening to her cry for help. She was homeless and in her 60’s and had told me that she had really no family. Her hair was a mess, and while the weather was hot and slightly humid she wore layered clothing. She was carrying a lot of bags as well. When she spoke I noticed that her hygiene was terrible. Actually she only had two teeth in her upper jaw and I never knew this but it slightly affected her speech a little bit. She asked for help and asked if I had money. I had none on me as I don’t carry cash at all. She asked me if I could take her to the Denny’s in Fairfax. I looked at her and felt really uncomfortable about giving a total stranger a ride in my car for several miles. I didn’t even know her story or her background. But I saw her being tired, broken and in despair and just couldn’t walk away from the situation. In the back of my mind I thought to myself, “Darn it Eagle…if you had stayed home and not grabbed the donut you would not be in this situation…” That said I looked at this woman and agreed to give her a ride. I cleared the front seat and opened the back door for her to put her bags in my Nissan. She got in the car and I proceeded to start driving.

This woman was talking to me and I listened, smiled and gave her the conversation. She asked if I was married, and I said, “I hope to be one day…” She asked about where I work and I casually told her. And I asked her a few questions and carried on the conversation. The woman thanked me for the ride and said her legs are in a lot of pain. She explained to me that she really had no family in the area. I looked and listened to her speak and I realized in some of what she said that she was mentally ill. She asked me again for money and I told her that I had none. I did tell her that if she needed food or a warm meal I would go inside the Denny’s and buy her a meal. She smiled and thanked me and I said that it is not a problem. I drove down Route 50 toward the Denny’s that I knew in Fairfax, Virginia. As I pulled up and found a parking spot I turned off the ignition. The woman had a hard time getting out of the car. I lifted her bag and was stunned by how heavy it felt. I mean I go to the gym regularly and swim aggressively. Plus I am also getting into weight lifting. But even for me at my young age this was heavy. But I carried it inside the Denny’s for her. Because of the woman’s poor dental hygiene she was limited in what she could order and went for mashed potato’s, pancakes and rice. I explained to the clerk on duty that I just wanted to buy her a meal and let her eat in a comfortable environment. I paid for it and the manager thanked me for doing this for the woman in distress. This woman thanked me and I gave her a hug and asked if she needed anything else. She said no, she got the ride, she got some food, and she felt comfortable. She didn’t need anything else from me. So I exited the Dennys and got in my car and thought long and hard about what happened.

One of my weakness in life is that I can get touched by other people’s needs. Is this the first time something like this has happened? No…I’ve found myself in other situations. I remember once living in Milwaukee years ago and after hearing my pastor preach a sermon about loving the poor being in abysmal weather conditions juts above zero and having a guy who could barely speak English ask me for a ride in my Honda at the time. I was nervous but I did so. Then there have been a few other times were people needed a place to stay and I let them crash in my place for however long they have needed. But I am not here to write about all that…what I want to draw attention to is all the times when I should have done something and I did not. I want to write about the times I have failed. That is what I want to journal about today.

For the Times I have Failed…

For all the times I have failed….God please forgive me.

There have been many a times where I’ve been in situations where people came to me needing help, and I did the unthinkable. I turned them away or ignored them. Why? It was uncomfortable. It was messy. It was difficult. I didn’t want to be confronted by another person’s pain as I would rather keep my head in the sand and be comfortable. Right now as I write this I have a difficult situation that I have been neglecting. I have a relative in a nursing home in the DC area. She came from part of the family that was cut off. I struggle with approaching this person for a couple of reasons. One she has some mental handicap issues and can be child like. She can be hard to speak to and can’t hold conversations. She can’t read as she dropped out of school and I’ve offered to take her to a movie or bring her DVD’s and all she likes is horror. The other problem is that when I have seen her in the past she has begged and asked for money. I have told her social worker about this. I get deeply uncomfortable when she begs for money. Her social worker calls me from time to time and I hear as to what is happening with her. So I have not seen her recently. I promised to take her out for dinner on her birthday and I failed her. So I write this to here to confess my failing in this area.

There are many people who have intersected my life and I was wondering how James Crestwood who lives in Salina, Kansas would have handled last Friday night? He’s been a missionary in Kenya and has probably seen things that have been difficult and hard for someone like me to comprehend. Another person who I love is a guy who has immersed himself in the homeless and broken of Kansas City, Missouri. Scott Van Sweringen deals with this issue day in and day out as a part of his job. As I was reflecting on this situation I wondered what would he have done?

Life is uncomfortable and I want to ask those of you reading this….what do you need to do? Do you have to work through some uncomfortable situations in your life? Do you need to pick up the phone and call that former friend, that estranged family member, former member of your military unit, old business partner or roommate from college? Are you aware of the suffering and pain in those around you? Do you know what is happening in the lives of your co-workers? From sick children, to aging parents, to hardship in life. How often have you gotten to know that member in the cube next to you? If you have a homeless person pleading for food or money and your caught unprepared what are you going to do? Each person in your life is there for a reason, I believe God placed you in their proximity. Why do so many people retreat and disengage? I write this not to challenge you but to also challenge myself. To challenge myself to be more open to the pain around me, and to know what is happening in those around us. James and Scott who do you need to reach out to and help? Andrew White as you read this from time to time…who do you need to reach out? What uncomfortable issues do you need to work through Andrew? If anyone reading this wants to journal about the times they have screwed up, please feel free to do that below.



3 thoughts on “When Other People’s Suffering Invades Your World

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