I posted on social media last week about a woman name Deb. I met Deb when she was sitting outside Manly Wharf.
I passed her on my way into Aldi to buy chocolate before I went to babysitting.
She was crying.
I got that initial gut wrenching feeling you get when you first see someone in distress – you know when your whole body responds to their pain? That. My spirit was pulled over to her and I almost stopped…
And then the doubt kicked in…
What if she’s fine and doesn’t need anything?
What if she gets offended if I ask if she’s okay?
What if she gets aggressive with me?
Someone has probably already tried to help her.
I give enough already in this world, my ‘service’ is through my clients…
Do I even have anything to offer her?
FUCK. THAT. I stopped my thoughts dead in their tracks.
I don’t want to be the kind of woman who intellectualises and rationalises herself OUT of service; the very thing she’s here to do. I want to be the kind of woman who ACTS on the whispers of Spirit when it tells her to help someone on the street, who doesn’t try and numb her compassion or dull her empathy. I don’t want to downplay my desire to make a difference anymore.
I stop on my way out and ask if she is okay.
She sobs as she tells me her story (which in the interest of her privacy I won’t share here) and how she’s been stuck on the street because she can’t afford the train ticket back home.
She’s been sleeping at a nearby oval, and she’s just about had enough.
I chat to her for a little while.
I see my bus pull up and drive away.
“What do you need?”
“I’m so hungry. I haven’t had anything to eat. I can’t afford to buy anything for lunch.”
I hand her my chocolate bar and ask how much she needs to get home.
I don’t have cash on me and there are no ATM’s around so I ask for her mobile to do a bank transfer.
I am human enough to admit that while I was doing all this there were doubts running through my mind.
What if she’s playing me?
What if she’s going straight to the bottle-o?
Am I enabling her co-dependency? (Ouch)
What if I give to her, and there’s not enough left for me?
What if she’s actually fine and she just needs someone to notice her?
But like I’ve always said to friends who give me shit for handing money to people on the street (I don’t like to assume they’re homeless because you just don’t know someones situation), if you have reached a point where you are begging for money – where you have dropped all your pride and ego to ask for help from complete strangers – then that’s enough to warrant it from me.
I put her on the ferry and tell her to msg me when she gets to the train.
“I feel like God’s forgotten me,” she sobs.
“He hasn’t forgotten you,” I smile, “He sent me.”
I’m at the mall with my boyfriend later that afternoon when I get the text that the money I sent hasn’t gone through in time and she’s back at the oval.
I try to act like nothing’s wrong but he can see I’m upset.
Bless his heart.
“Want to go get some food and take it down for her?”
We grab a bag full of food from Coles and take it down to where we know she’ll be.
She thanks us and says the money will clear tomorrow and she’ll be able to go home. I give her a hug and tell her God loves her. That she’s making the best of a bad situation and that everything is going to be okay.
The whole time I’m walking away I’m going,
Fuck I could have done so much more.
Why didn’t I just get cash out when I first ran into her?
Where could I put her up to sleep for the night?
This shouldn’t be happening. This is Australia for God’s sake. Why the fuck is this world so messed up?
I’ve built relationships like this before. I met a guy named Mark a few years ago, who lived in the park by my house. We struck up a conversation one day after – quite literally – running into each other on the street. I’d visit him every few days, take him books to read and food for us to share. He loved to write, he’d written out the entire dictionary on a stack of post-it’s he’d taped together to form a notepad.
He got Government support but in his words, ‘having a house was too stressful’. He was saving up to buy a van with a fridge so he could stay at campsites and go fishing. He had a photo of the fridge tucked away in his backpack that he pushed around in an old pram that doubled as a walker because his legs were giving out. He smoked while we spoke, and drank VB out of a thermos so he didn’t get done for drinking in public. If he could do anything in the world, he said, it would be build a house.
One day I asked him what he wanted more than anything. “Human touch,” he replied.
I felt the same with Mark as I did with Deb, like I had no idea what to give and even when I did it never felt like enough. And for so long I would ignore and rationalise and try and suppress that undeniable pull I felt that was telling me to just do something because I was scared and unsure and angry all at once.
And that’s the thing with giving, it’s messy and uncomfortable and awkward. Especially at the beginning, there’s a lot of self doubt and second guessing. You don’t know if you’ll say the right thing or do the right thing. There’s the fear that you don’t have enough to give; emotionally, physically, financially – or that you’ll give and it won’t be near enough. You wonder if you’ll insult or disrespect the person in front of you by assuming you know what they need more than they do (Hint: don’t assume, just ask).
There’s no social contract for this stuff.
The same fears and questions that came up for me when I was walking out of Aldi that day still come up for me every time I walk passed someone on the street.
But here’s what I know for sure… when we let the opportunity pass us by, when we look down or walk past, they’re not the ones missing out, we are.
God is always looking for ways to give to us, by providing us with opportunities to give to others. By withholding from them, we are withholding from ourselves.
It’s so easy to brush off the cries for help – in our society, and in our world – because we don’t feel we have the capacity to give. How can I give money when I’m struggling to pay my bills? I can’t stop and talk to someone, I use up enough emotional bandwidth sorting out my own family drama. How can I offer encouragement or support to someone else when I have no idea what the fuck is going on in my own life? And yet, it is in giving intentionally to those causes and humans God puts on our hearts, that we open up energetic channels to receive what He has for us. That’s the whole point, that’s why we’re here.
I’m not going to rationalise my way out of service anymore, or ignore that longing, pain and frustration in the pit of my stomach that’s part of what makes me human.
And that’s why I do this work, why I take care of myself first, why I free up my mind and feel my emotions… so I can give back …
If there is any incentive to do this inner work; to practice self care, to cultivate self love, to put ourselves first, then let this be it.
That in showing up for ourselves, we may show up for the world.
And then relax and trust, that it will show up for us.