302/366 - Sunday walk


We arrive at church expectant, and we are not disappointed. Full of the word of God and brimming with the love of Christ, we exit the church building as part of the blessed throng.

I'm thinking about my afternoon plans: I'm going to walk, take a nap, have tea and read my book. I'm feeling quite happy. And then a body moves into my path: heavy, solid. She has a sweatshirt tied around her head and layers of clothes to keep out the rain. It's hard to tell how old she is, but she's probably the same age as my mother. She's blocking my way forward and she has a hand out.

"Can you give me some change? Anything?" she says. "Please? I'm homeless."

We don't carry cash, so I already know the answer.

"I'm sorry," I say. "I don't have anything." And I hold out my empty hand to show her.

She looks at me intently. "I don't believe you," she says in a low voice. And me, I'm so astonished, I just let out a laugh. And the woman, she grumbles off to the next family coming behind us. And then we go home and I have my nap and my walk and my tea and my book.

But she won't leave me alone, that woman, with her hand out towards me and her disbelief. I want to go back there and tell her I didn't mean to laugh, she just surprised me, and I know it must seem like I don't care but I really do care.

I really do.

Don't I?

When I read in the afternoon, Willard buries me:

" God's order nothing can substitute for loving people. And we define who our neighbor is by our love. We make a neighbor of someone by caring for him or her. [...] Jesus deftly rejects the question "Who is my neighbor?" and substitutes the only question really relevant here: "To whom will I be a neighbor?" And he knows that we can only answer this question case by case as we go through our days. In the morning we cannot yet know who our neighbor will be that day. The condition of our hearts will determine who along our path turns out to be our neighbor, and our faith in God will largely determine whom we have strength enough to make our neighbor."

Come back, I want to say to her. Come back next week and I'll be ready and I will have something to put in your hand and I will look in your eyes and ask your name and I will not laugh at you, I promise.

Come back, and I will make you my neighbor. I will, God help me, I really will.