Let me preface by being vulnerably honest: I struggle, I mean STRUGGLE, to form hard-lined opinions about some of the things going on in the world. And to admit that feels, to be honest, like the most genuine, coherent statement I can make right now.
I’m constantly distracted by the barrage of viewpoints that all assert dominance, that all prove their supposed infallibility, that all claim this is the only way and it’s black and white and it’s really quite simple and so obvious. And as I navigate through my own thoughts and shift uncomfortably in the dark alleys of my own mind to find something, anything I can sit 100% comfortably with in my own head, I’m always wondering….but what if I’m wrong. What if I don’t have all the facts.
I’m frustrated that I don’t have enough hours to read it all. I can’t research it all. I can’t know it ALL. And yet, I’m cursed by an insatiable desire to dive deeply into all the articles and side notes and commentaries that slap my own initial premises in the face because, well, that process just feels for me like the only genuine way to really arrive at any coherent opinion I can hold on to with intellectual integrity.
And today, amidst my muddled, ever swirling thoughts about SO MUCH pain and hurt going on in the world, what to do, how to help, where to even begin, I got a swift kick to the gut.
I saw her out of the corner of my eye. The kids were fussing in the backseat and the big one wanted his water and the little one was screaming because he didn’t like the red cup and he wanted the blue one. But I saw her nonetheless.
She was slender, her hair was tangled, and she was young. Her sign read: Pregnant. Hungry. Anything Helps.
Nothing earth-shattering about this, nothing we don’t see everyday off Houston’s highways and u-turn lanes. We’re just used to it. Numb to it. We avert our eyes. They’re probably drug addicts. They probably have a cell phone nicer than ours. They could get a job if they really tried, right? On and on go the reasons. And some of it is probably true. Probably a lot of it is. But I mean, what can we REALLY do for them, right? We’re just turned off by the futility of it all sometimes, the ‘overwhelmingness’ of it all, the repetitiveness of it all.
She was across the street opposite my lane of traffic and I didn’t have anything in my car or purse that would help. There are always reasons not to, I find. And the kids are always hungry or grumpy or have to pee RIGHT NOW so we always need to hurry. Hurry home. Hurry to school. Hurry to the grocery store. Hurry home from church (the irony is stifling).
So I drove on. And I was undone. And the dried up crevices in my heart that often form as I throw my hands in the air, overwhelmed with all of it that needs to be done to help all of humanity—well those crevices suddenly cracked all the way down for some floodwaters to surface and slowly irrigate the whole mess. And it hit me.
I KNOW there are people all around me who are in pain. Who need basic food and shelter. Who crave to be seen. Who crave to MATTER. Who crave for someone somewhere to just stop for a moment and look them in the eye and say, ‘you matter, is there anything I can do to help?’. There are people all around me whose lives are falling apart quietly, who I could come alongside, if I put my hands and money where my mouth is. If I stop being so dang busy and full of my own agenda for the day.
I have no idea if that young woman was really pregnant. I have no idea if she was really hungry. But I decided in that millisecond as I drove off that sometimes it’s not about the degree of the need as much as it is about the degree of my heart’s willingness to LOOK and SEE pain and help the people right in front of me. Sometimes it’s more about the degree to which I’m willing to be a broken vessel for love to pour through to a hurting world in front of me.
I decided I would turn around at the next intersection and pull into the parking lot next to where she was, and roll down my window and just ask her if I could take her to Berry Hill across the street to sit with her and my boys over a meal. I was ready. I was going to do it.
But she was gone when I got there.
And I wonder what her story was. Where would she sleep tonight? When was the last time someone told her that her life had value? That she mattered enough to take a millisecond out of a day, a millisecond out of a lifetime, to ask a simple question: “What’s your story? Can I get you a meal?”
I wish I hadn’t kept driving the first time and had just pulled over right away. But I was scared and unsure and well, uncomfortable.
But this whole thing still got me thinking.
How often are their hurting people around me and I don’t slow down enough to notice, be brave enough to ask how I can help, be true enough to my beliefs and opinions about the value of all human lives to actually DO something.
The truth is: I don’t slow down enough. I’m not brave enough. I’m not true enough.
Because it’s a whole lot easier for me to just have opinions. To have ideals. To talk, talk, talk, talk. It’s a whole lot more convenient sometimes to spend time zoning out on facebook’s daily offering of political fodder , of sensationalism, of friends tearing into each other, of temptation to spend way too much time engrossed reading peoples’ comments and chuckle as if it’s just all been put there for our daily entertainment. Or alternatively, it’s a whole lot easier to sometimes throw my hands up in frustration and feel like there’s no truth because there seems to be enough facts on both sides to ever in a thousand years make a coherent case for whatever side one wants to take.
But here’s what’s getting me.
An opinion without actions never impacted anybody’s life. It never brought mercy, compassion, or love to anyone. An opinion alone doesn’t give someone a hand and say, let’s share a piece of our journey together.
It’s just that, there are SO MANY issues we must form opinions on right now. I’m not ever suggesting to shy away from taking a stand for something one truly believes in or taking a stand for what one truly believes is the path to preserves human dignity and quality of human lives.
One can be on the “correct” side of the argument and yet make zilch impact on actual human beings around them.
You or I can be on the technical “correct” side of the refugee crisis, and yet never make one iota of difference in their or anyone else’s lives this week. But we sure can become ardent arguers. We have become perfectly adept at fashioning convincing perspectives, yet deplorably ineffective at sharing our lives, being generous with our time and resources for people right here and right now in front of us.
And with many of us claiming to be Christians, claiming to hold fast to a worldview whose centrifugal force is dying to self so others may live more abundantly….well, it’s simply not a genuine way to live our lives sometimes.
I’ll be the first to raise my hand at being guilty of not slowing down to really look, seek out, and be inconvenienced.
But I don’t want to behave that way anymore. I don’t want to be a zombie going through the daily grind. I desperately desire for my kids to see someone who takes time to SEE PEOPLE. To serve people. I may never change the world, but maybe I can change someone’s day.
I’m still trying to wrap my mind and head around all of information and complexities of many, MANY of the political issues I see around me right now in order to arrive at opinions I can live at peace with in my own head.
But until then, I’m praying and hoping to be more observant of how I can impact actual people in my actual life in this actual week. I don’t want to get into arguments about the best way to reach all the hurting people in the world. I want to model for the kids that doing something right now, in real life, for one hurting person in front of me, is more important than having all the right opinions in the world about the best ways to help all the hurting people everywhere.
And for what it’s worth, I believe that sometimes it’s a whole lot easier to jump on a bandwagon and hold tight to an opinion about something before we even stop to really take time to sift comprehensively through the topic at hand, to even listen with open ears to ideas that might conflict with our tight-fisted belief system. We’re too scared to listen to any opinion besides our own. I know I am sometimes. The reality is that as grown ups, life is complicated, there are many, many ways to look at something, and to have an unswerving opinion about anything that just recently became a “thing” hardly gives us time to properly step back and evaluate why we believe what we believe, or even…..WHAT IF I’M WRONG. I truly believe that in order to have a coherent, well-reasoned opinion about absolutely anything, we MUST be willing to explore perspectives divergent from our own, with open eyes, open ears, and humility. We NEED to have well-thought out, cogent opinions in order to function, but once we cross over into the endless battle of proving I’m right and you’re wrong, nobody really wins.
I think the most coherent thing we can do is admit that sometimes there are a lot of nuances and complexities to the best policies and procedures for our laws and leadership to do what they should do to ensure a our nation’s future. Let’s take time to read and think deeply and form intelligent, reasoned opinions. But let’s also not just get so caught up in being “right” and having the “correct” view that we lose sight of the tangible ways right smack dab in front of us that we can love others and be true to our beliefs that human beings deserve love, dignity, compassion, and care.
So tonight, I’m refilling our car with the ziplock bags we try to keep filled with water bottles, snacks and $5 grocery cards, and I’m going to be on my knees asking for my eyes to be more open, to be on the watch for ways to extend meaningful kindness to those around me in the weeks ahead. Not from a place of pride, but from a place of utter humility that I have been given much, and my heart cannot afford to be a concrete oasis of mere “correct” opinions if it can ever be a place of offering love and hope to others.
Jesus, help me put aside my agenda. Help me give a cup of cool water to Somebody over having all the right opinions about Everybody and Everything.