Saturday, December 6, 2008

And then he walked away...

Years ago, I learned a very important lesson that this week, I forgot completely.

I tend to look at all of life through the filter that is my life. I have a home. Clean clothes. Healthy food. Facilities. I assume everyone desires the same, and that if they don't have it, they want to be rescued.

Martinez proved me wrong today--and freed me, too.

I had gone downtown on an errand this morning, and when I returned, there was Martinez--hunched over, head down--on his bus bench. I pulled up and handed him another 1000 calorie pack. This time I showed him how the zipper worked.

When I got home, I implored Jim to call a Spanish-speaking friend who could translate over the speaker phone on his Blackberry and drive down the street to meet Martinez for himself. While he's at it, let's bungee roll a bedspread, a pair of jeans, socks, shirt, and offer him a coat Jim's not using anymore. Before we head out, I wash a couple of tangerines and a pear and place them in a paper sack.

But now Martinez is not there.

Jim and I duck into the nearby fast food restaurant and ask the people there if they know Martinez. They do. They don't know him by name, but they know who I'm talking about. They tell us that they give him water and sometimes they sell him food with the money motorists hand him. That's good. I feel hopeful.

We decide to hang around for a few minutes and see if he turns up. At the end of my grilled chicken sandwich, he does. He's back on his bench and so we drive over, call our friend, and ask him to explain to Martinez the options he has for shelter and care. Does he want to go?

Oh, and can he use this bed roll and clothing?

No?...Is there anything he needs?

He tells Jim, "socks." Just the socks. So we give him the socks.

After a bit of one-way conversation about the shelter options, Martinez apparently says yes, he would like to go. But he makes no motion toward that end. He just sits, dipping bread chunks into a can of black beans. Jim and I hang up with the friend and begin to discuss our options. Should we request a Spanish-speaking police officer to come transport him? Should Jim drive him over? Where is it? The main shelter isn't answering the phone today.

Meanwhile, Martinez doesn't actually seem interested in going. Did he even understand what our friend was telling him?

As we spoke to one another--Jim and me--Martinez inexplicably picked up only one of the few food bags that had accumulated on his bus bench, and walked away. He didn't look back. He didn't say bye. He just...walked..away.

I think we were uninvited guests who wouldn't he did. Which is kind of funny and embarrassing all at the same time.

So, I am relieved to remember this lesson. Not everyone wants what I have. Some folks choose their unenviable circumstances purposefully. They do not want to be rescued.

And maybe that was the catch this week. Maybe it wasn't a lack of selflessness that kept me from taking in Martinez--maybe it was a lack of calling.


Pam--in Jerusalem said...

Great insight! I'm so glad that Lord revealed this truth to you.

Terry @ Breathing Grace said...

Your love is indeed great.

Madeleine said...

What a great story. Though calling it a story is such a grave injustice.

We have been working with a shelter for about 20 years. The "what I perceive" to be heart ache that we saw when we first got there, actually for a couple of years, was sometimes unbearable.

Do you want to know what broke me free from pitying them, when in reality, they didn't need my pity?

My children. All 3 of them. They have been going since 2 months of age and grew up amongst them.

They accepted them as a natural way of life. THEIR life, not ours. The kids treated the homeless or destitute like normal people.

When this realization happened, I started talking to the like humans, not like projects. And then one realizes that they are not looking for OUR life, they are looking for help to live their lives. And maybe thats what Jesus meant by we will always have the poor among us. Not to rescue them, but to help them in their journey.

Our job is to have the willing hearts and ready hands. HIS job is to change them.

I am thankful for your willingness and readiness. :)
Thank you for sharing.

Joyful Days said...

Good words, much needed. Thank you.


Melanie @ This Ain't New York said...

A whirlwind of emotions here.

I keep thinking, "It isn't about what I can do. It is about what He can do." When I lose sight of that, I am just plain lost. Sometimes what I can do is only a small part, not the whole.

Thanks for the lesson!!!

Brenda said...

"Not everyone wants what I have. Some folks choose their unenviable circumstances purposefully. They do not want to be rescued."

How true! Many reject the Savior for that very reason, but we are still called to bear witness.

God's blessings for our obedience are not dependent upon whether the hearer/recipient accepts what we have to offer. Great lesson!

Robin said...

This phrase: "maybe it was a lack of calling", is what struck me. How so very often do I get stuck on what I think is right and wanted and miss what God wants.
It is hard to believe that people would choose to want to live like that, at least to us. But like you said we don't know their story, what caused them to be like they are.
The message from your post and the responses to it are very sobering: acceptance. Not tolerance of a sinful nature but acceptance of where each of us are in our walk, physically and spiritually.
Great post!!

Mc Allen said...

what an awesome reminder!! I havbe gone through that with my very own family. thanks for the perspective!! LA

Emily said...

What a great post. Thanks, GB.

MiPa said...

"...maybe it was a lack of calling."

THANK YOU!!! Totally different circumstances. Totally different perceived need on my part. Totally same unwillingness to do the "sacrificial" thing or even repent of not wanting to do it. I have had no peace that I needed to act, but yet strangely disturbed about that. Today your words caused a quickening in my Spirit. God spoke and reassured. Bless you!

Dawn said...

You did what you thought you needed to do, now it's up to him and the Lord. Great posts. Awesome picture of your husband ministering to Martinez.

karly said...

I've learned so much from this series of posts. Thank you for sharing, GB.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for bearing your heart here. I have pondered your words.

deb meyers

Barb said...

What a wonderful series, GB, with a huge lesson for all of us at the end.

Jessica said...

Thanks for writing this post. I've been there, not everyone wants what we have. It's hard to understand and to just walk by without trying to 'save' them. Either way, the world needs more people like you! Have a great Christmas. BTW - I love the pic of your husband and daughter by the tree.

Katherine said...

Yup. Years of working for the Salvation Army taught me that lesson while young...there are many "lifestyle" choices!

Melissa said...

I have often thought about that too, sometimes people don't want help. What an interesting turn in events. Thanks so much for sharing this story. Thanks for doing your part :D

Melissa :D

staceyhoff said...

I totally know what you mean, there have been times that I have experienced the call being the only thing missing, but of course it is the most important thing- just today I went around this mountain again; I went ahead and did what I thought was right without stopping to pray, or seek my husbands thoughts, and then when I realized what I'd taken on was a lot harder than I'd thought it would be, I only had myself to blame. I had to call the person I was serving and tell them that I had changed my mind, that I can't do it anymore.*Blechhh* Luckily, someone else stepped in- another of many reasons I love my church.