I walked slowly through the mass of people, taking my time as I was pondering if I wanted carnitas or a veggie burrito. People were shuffling by, focused on their own priorities as the moved, dressed in their business suits that classify them has important people working within the financial district. Going against the flow was a woman, wearing a Ravens hoody and a loose pair of jeans, tears streaming down her face, pleading with people for a meal.
People kept walking by, not even bothering to acknowledge her, not wanting to recognize the pain that she felt. I can understand where they are coming from. Everyday on my walk to work, I pass by the same people who ask me for spare change. We have been taught as a society not to give them money, because they might use it to fuel a hypothetical addiction they may have, inadvertantly telling them that their lifestyle is acceptable.
As this woman walked by me, I was so tempted to just pass on by and get my burrito. I wouldn't have to bother myself with it, and it would be just all the other people I pass and ignore. But I couldn't. I couldn't look at her and just see her as a little blip in my day. I turned around and said "Sure, I'll buy you lunch. Where would you like to go?"
Immediately, she claimed "PRAISE GOD!" And went on to tell me that she has been praying for anybody to come by just to give me a meal, that she had to run away from her husband who had tried to kill her, and that she had a two month old. She was currently staying on the couch in a friend's apartment, but she hasn't had anything to eat in 3 days because all of her money has to go towards feeding her baby and buying diapers.
I was taken aback. The first words out of her mouth were "PRAISE GOD." Would those be the first words in my mouth in that situation? As we walked to 7-11, she told me about her church, about how she became a Christian, about how God saved her and her baby from the abusive situation, how she named her baby Anika because in Greek in means "very beautiful," and she liked that it meant something in the same language of the Bible. She told me about how she prays for everything, seeks guidance from God about all situations in her life, from what to name her baby to where she is going to find her next meal.
As we stood in the check out line at 7-11, I was struck with out friendly and personable she was, and how strong her faith in God is. I've been moping around, upset with my life because I'm not near any of my friends, grumbling about how sick I am of the food in my house. In my life full of stability and comfort, I have been refusing to lean completely on God. This woman relied FULLY on Him, even though her life was something I could never imagine, hardships that I have not come close to experiencing. How could she praise God through all of that, while I was having trouble praising God through just my miniscule trials? It all came crashing down on me.
As we walked out, she gave me a huge hug and said she was so glad that she made a new friend who believed God like she did, and I walked away. I've been kicking myself every sense. Why did I walk away so quickly? Was simply giving her a meal enough? I regret the way I acted, the way I handled things.
At work, we've been reading this book called "When Helping Hurts: Alleviating Poverty Without Hurting the Poor and Yourself" by Brian Fickett and Steve Corbett.
While buying this woman a meal may have helped her immediate needs, there was so much more I could have done to help her emotionally and spiritually. I could have found out her information so I could have made a long lasting connection. I could have contacted her pastor and found out how I could help her through her church. At the least, I could have told her how much she had impacted me and changed my way of thinking in just an hour. But I did none of these things. I gave her my resources without building her up emotionally and spiritually, without empowering her.
While we help people, we need to make sure that we are empowering them as individuals, through Christ. We need to make sure that more than just their physical needs are met. I wish I could have done the same for this woman and her baby, but I didn't. I'm hoping that she will run across someone that could give her more than I could.
Please make it a priority to empower people as you go through life, and see more than just their physical needs, but also their emotional and spiritual ones, if you attempt to assist them in any way possible.