In bringing about a community act of human love and compassion, we helped our neighbors take part in a genuine move of kindness that prevented the imminent homelessness of a single woman in our neighborhood.
It all started with a post in the local Neighborhood Digest, an online publication — you probably have one in your town — where neighbors can talk to each other over shared concerns, buy and sell stuff, find a room to rent or warn about a recent burglary or coyote sighting. This particular post was a moving one from a woman who would be out on the street if she couldn’t come up with $900 for her landlord by the end of the weekend. Marti, always sensitive to the needs of single women, decided to do something about it. So she answered the post with one of her own — a thoughtful piece on single women and homelessness that received numerous positive comments in and of itself, and suggested that as a neighborhood, we should rally together and help this woman. Marti ended her appeal by committing $50 and agreeing to collect the money at our house for all those who would like to participate.
It is difficult to express how much courage it must have taken for this woman to come out like this and admit her weakness and her need. You know beyond a doubt that when you do this, you will receive condemnation, and believe me, the rest of us won’t let you down on that. And if not condemnation, it will come in the form of accusation as someone who is trying to con us out of $900.
Marti’s admonition to everyone was to reach out and touch this woman in some tangible way. To touch poverty — to touch need — is to in some way embrace that poverty and need in yourself, because in so doing, you always find out there is little separating you from the person in need. We are drawn in, and it becomes harder and harder to remain aloof. You can hand the guy on the street some money and wish him well, and still remain relatively separate. Touch him and everything changes.
There is a homeless man who sits next to the sidewalk in front of my bank, right where I have to practically step over him to get to the ATM machine. He has some kind of awful cancerous growth from the side of his mouth to where it covers almost his whole cheek like a thick scab. I could ignore him; I could hand him some money (which wouldn’t be much different) or I could bring a cup of coffee or a lunch and sit down next to him and find out who he is. That would be touching his poverty, and I know my view of him and myself would never be the same. I wonder how cancerous is the growth of sin on my own body that Jesus has to endure to walk with me.
In the end, we were able to deliver the woman’s rent to her in time, but even more than that, numerous people also reached out to her with resources, job opportunities, advice and local laws about landlords, and some are going to follow through with her. Should she turn out to be a con artist and this whole thing is a scam, will that take anything away from what this community gained by reaching out to her? Not a thing. And ask us — we would do it again in a heartbeat. Giving always wins in the end.
It was terribly ironic in light of our upcoming Catches for this week that one of the woman’s final posts was, “Prince Charming. Where are you? Do you exist?” To which Marti replied, “No. Prince Charming does not exist. Come down from your tower and deal with your life.” Which is exactly what she did by making public her situation. More on that tomorrow …