The other day Steve and I were eating at our stand-by, home-away-from-home Mexican joint down the street, and a homeless woman wandered in. She wanted to use the restroom but of course they wouldn't let her since she was not a paying customer. She smelled so bad that her mere presence immediately cleared the place. Two families and a single guy all exited pronto. The homeless woman left soon after them but her musk lingered.
The only patron left, aside from me and Steve, was a woman standing at the desk waiting for her take-out order. Ms. TakeOut kept making eye contact with me in an attempt to bond over facial expressions of disgust and repulsion. As we went up to pay for our meal, I made a small comment about how sad that poor homeless woman's situation is. "After all, she is a person. She is someone's daughter." As we exited The restaurant, Ms. TakeOut said, "I'll pray for her. That's all we can do, right?"
It was a good thing for Steve that I already had momentum in the direction of the parking lot because what I really wanted to do was turn on my heel and say, "No, that is not all we can do. That is all we are willing to do."
It left me kind of pissed that this woman evidently thought she was such a wonderful Christian and yet, what would Jesus have done? Wouldn't he have taken the hand of the smelly homeless woman, given her a chair and some cool water and washed her feet? Why didn't this "Christian" woman do as Jesus would have done? Why didn't she offer the homeless woman the opportunity to come home with her for a shower, a glass of water, or a meal? Why didn't she at least reach out to the homeless woman, convey to her that she is recognized as a human being, a child of God, maybe order a little something for her to eat or quench her thirst?
Don't get me wrong. I realize I didn't do anything either, but at least I'm honest about not stepping in because sometimes if you bring a homeless person home with you and offer them a shower and a meal then you might Never Get Rid of Them. (I know this from personal experience.) It's just that it struck me as such a cop-out to say "I'll pray for her because that's all I can do."
This week I attended two funerals. Or maybe it's more accurate to say I crashed a funeral for two dead guys.
I RSS the obituaries in my area and when a homeless vet dies without family the funeral home publishes the details so the public can attend if they so wish. I so wished.
They had both served in the Vietnam war. They were both homeless. We do not know if they were drug addicted or had struggles with mental illness, but an assumption can certainly be made.
The funeral home was crawling with American Legion and VFW members and bikers bearing huge American flags. Those two homeless heroes got their official military send off, complete with the flag ceremony, Taps, Amazing Grace played on bagpipes, and three rounds fired into the air.
By chance, I sat four chairs away from a woman who rocked to-and-fro in her seat, held her open hands skyward, praying under her breath and saying "amen" in all the right places. It made me think about our experience in the restaurant and I wondered how this crowd would respond if either of these two homeless men walked into this clean, nicely appointed funeral home (while they still alive), covered in filth and smelly from living on the streets.
Homeless or not, veteran or not, why do we wait until someone is dead to treat them right?