Just when I think I’ve got a situation figured out, life’s GPS fails and I find myself navigating a scenario without a soothing, English accented voice giving turn by turn directions. My plans suddenly don’t work. Ever had that experience?
A couple of weekends ago I was working out of town at a trade show. One of the perks to travelling is breakfast at Starbucks. They offer a yummy bacon and Gouda sandwich and Earl Grey tea that begs to be savoured like fine wine!
It was Sunday morning. There wasn’t a huge line up; just a couple of people in front of me. I noticed a slight, stooped woman in worn clothes standing off to the side. She seemed to be studying the menu posted behind the counter.
After a few seconds a customer behind her asked if she was in line. The woman didn’t respond but moved ahead.
“A homeless woman,” I thought. “I wonder if she has enough money for coffee and food to keep her warm in the rain this morning.”
I watched covertly as she shuffled forward and thought “If she doesn’t have enough money, I’ll pay for her sandwich and drink.”
Her turn came. She was still scanning the menu. Without making eye contact with the cashier she asked, “Do you have alcohol?”
I stood rooted to the floor. I wasn’t prepared for this. The cashier indicated they didn’t have alcohol and I watched dumbly as she stepped out into the rain. I’d been ready to quietly move forward and buy her food but that’s not what she wanted.
While she stood on the street corner waiting for the light to change, conflicting thoughts jostled along the treadmill in my mind. “Should I buy some food and give it to her? She doesn’t want food. Would she be offended? Does she have a safe, dry place to go? How can I help?”
I completely lacked inspiration. I ordered my breakfast and tea and stepped outside. Angels’ tears poured down all around me in the form of heavy rain.
My mind screamed in frustration at the disparity of it; my tea, my breakfast, a woman looking for alcohol to satisfy an addiction to escape the reality of life, and my epic failure to take action.
How can we respond in these situations? I thought about Jesus and wondered what His response to this woman would have been. He ate with the dregs of society, He talked with outcasts, and He had compassion for invisible minorities.
My heart was filled with compassion for this woman but it failed to make it into my hands and feet. Even with good intentions, quite often we respond in ways that aren’t satisfactory to us or to God. What frustrates me most is, given the same situation, I’m not sure I’d do any better.
How do we grow? How do we learn to reach out with a gesture that makes a difference in someone’s life right now?
Is being aware of our failed response and evaluating our judgments, assumptions, and pre-conceptions enough to open our minds to new ways to react?
Back in the car I prayed that God would protect her and take her somewhere warm and dry for the day. I prayed for insight into how to respond in a Christ-like manner. I prayed I would do better next time.
What are your thoughts? How would you respond? Please share by clicking on “comments” below.