Here’s the deal. I live just outside the city described as having “the highest share of citizens living in poverty in the nation” and “the country’s largest share of residents living in poverty, barely edging out Flint, Mich” and “41.3 percent of its residents living below the poverty line, Reading,Pa., is the poorest U.S. city.” And it’s impossible to step out of my home and not be bombarded with the side-effects that accompany such depravity. My initial response is to ignore these people. To esteem myself higher. To reason away their situation with excuses like “it’s consequences of their own actions” and “they should be making better choices” and “my hard-earned tax dollars are already supporting you, isn’t that enough” and “I don’t want to put myself in danger” and “I don’t have the extra means” the list is endless!! I couldn’t be bothered having dealings with these people. I knew these people needed Jesus. I knew someone should show them love. But that wasn’t my responsibility. That wasn’t my calling. This was my heart attitude toward. I acted like a Pharisee.
Andy and I began praying for compassion. Praying that our hearts would be rid of our prejudices. Praying for opportunities to be Jesus. We were headed to Olive Garden with company and there was a man on the side of the road holding a “will work for food” sign. Discretely I said to Andy “We should invite to dinner with us.” and Andy replied “If he’s there when we’re done we’ll take him to Burger King or somewhere.” And both of us cringed at our passengers remark regarding the man’s situation. We missed an opportunity to show Jesus to this man as well as be a testimony to our companions. But this was the first time I noticed a change of heart in my responses. A few months later, Andy and I had been given a little gift for a much needed date. We were headed into Barnes & Noble for some coffee and light reading, when a shady looking wagon rolled down their window and gave us a sob story about a long trip, and almost home, and running on fumes, and asked for money. We gave them a couple bucks and continued on our way… “We should have followed them to wawa and bought them a full take of gas.” Was mentioned a few minutes later. Another missed opportunity.
Which brings me to last night… I slipped out of the house for a few quick girly errands leaving Eli at home with Daddy and Granddad. Weather was beautiful! Car windows rolled down. Listening to a favorite song on the radio… waiting for the transit bus to pull away from the stop-sign, so I could back out of my parking spot… a lady started waving her hands at me. Ready to get home to my boys for a little bit of family time before bed, I was hoping all she wanted was directions. She asked for a ride, she had missed the bus. And I hesitated. I didn’t know this women. I didn’t want to be put out. I mean, what if she’s dangerous?! I started to assess the risk and inconvenience which was silenced by a tugging on my heart. “Amanda, she needs Jesus.” So I agreed, to give her a ride. Half way to our destination she asked if we could make a stop… and we did. And headed out to different destination, and she asked to make a second and third stop… and we did. And then she said “Since you’re not too busy can you just drop off at home, I don’t want to put you out, but I don’t have a car and you do, and I’d have to catch the bus and it’s already so late.” At this point I was feeling like I was living the book If You Give a Mouse a Cookie but the Spirit was leading me to continue to show love to this women who very desperately need it.
I dropped her off downtown in the City of Reading, where I am completely and extremely uncomfortable. As I pulled away from the curb and began navigating my way home, fear started to creep in. I didn’t know exactly where I was (not lost tho). What would people think or say. I felt a good bit crazy and like I’d had a lapse in judgment. Wow, I can’t believe I put myself in such a dangerous situation. No, picking up a stranger was not my wisest decision by any stretch. But honestly, it was the right thing to do. I’m very grateful that his hand of protection was over me last night, and that Jesus has not yet asked me to give my life for the Gospel. But more than that, I’m awed that Jesus gave me an opportunity to willing share him regardless of the potential consequences it could have had on me.