Monday, January 24, 2011

Unhospitable Christian to Burn in Hell

Good Lord, I'm back. And I've missed you terribly. As you may realize, I went underground for a few months, after being warned by the elected arbiter of discretion herself not to use the "f" word so freely, lest I lose all chance at future clients. (I refer to the "f" word that ends with "t." Much more taboo, as it turns out, than the one that ends with "k.")

Then I stopped writing.

I tried, Lord I tried, to figure out whether I could continue to send you a password-protected blog by email, but finally after much research, discovered that one cannot do that.

Fine. Public it is.

I'm here to tell you today about hospitality. I attended church yesterday. The guest minister spoke about the nature of Christian hospitality. She listed a hundred things that define hospitality.

Hospitality is inviting the hungry to your dinner table.
Hospitality is not getting mad at your kids when they interrupt your reading.
Hospitality is not getting annoyed with your spouse when you're really mad about something else.
Hospitality is inviting friends over for dinner. (Thanks, I get that.)
Hospitality is not giving someone the finger when they cut you off. (Well, she didn't literally say that.)

After ten minutes in which she used the word hospitality so many times that I thought maybe it's not a real word after all, I was torn. Option 1: Schedule a post-sermon editorial meeting with her to explain the limits of repetition and parallel structure. Option 2. Run out of sanctuary screaming.

I should have done the latter, because I sat through that sermon and dropped into the coffee hour to be immediately confronted by a homeless woman I once knew when she rented a room next door. She said hello and asked for a ride to exit 5.  I cursed my attentive ears. Hospitality. Okay. I'll take you and your heavy black trash bag to exit 5, you complete nut job alcoholic.  How uncompassionate.

She immediately launched into a diatribe of non sequitirs about all the people who were in conspiracy against her, who'd stolen her million dollar inheritance, her Cumberland Farms, her million -- no half million -- dollar laundromat business, and to top it all off, her Sprint phone. Then she asked if she could sleep on our couch.

It was to be the coldest night of the year. Minus-5, they said in the papers. I had just listened to a sermon on how Jesus took in the cold, the hungry, the dispossessed. I looked at her. And guess what I said?

No.

I suggested that she consider the town shelter. She continued the story about the man who beat her on Court Street and her lost cell phone and the evil of people who turn their back on those in need.

I dropped her off at Micky D's, near the bus stop, and gave her $5.

Good, she said. That'll get me to Boston.


No it won't, I thought. It won't even get you on the bus.

I ask you now the same question I would liked to have asked the minister: Would YOU have given her a ride? Would you have upped the $5 to instead give Crazy Lady the entire contents of your wallet? Would you have felt comfortable with her in the car talking about how they abuse children in South America, while your four year old sits in the back seat?

Would Ms. Minister have let her sleep on her couch? And how about the OTHER 99 people in the congregation that day? Hmmmmm? And do you agree that I'm lucky she didn't have a knife? Just checking.

There are limits to this Christian hospitality thing. Do you agree? Good. I'll see you in hell.

7 comments:

FLRG_28 said...

Have to say, you were decidedly more Christian than I would have been. I would have probably given her the $5 and a suggestion to find the nearest shelter (Father Bill's in Brockton), but not the ride. Do I feel bad about that? I do. But self-preservation also must be considered.

What is interesting is seeing your child start to have feelings of wanting to help people in need (just as we teach them to). My son is very sensitive and feels everyone's pain, and when he sees a homeless person he gives every cent he has to them. I can just see him inviting someone to our house to take a bath and spend the night! I'm hoping it won't come to that. It's a delicate balance. For him and for me.

Susan Gedutis Lindsay said...

Delicate balance indeed. Soul Fry and I discussed it the whole way home. She wanted to know what poor is, and where the woman would sleep, and why she can't just get a job and then a house.

While I didn't question my decision to not let her sleep at our house, all I could think of was, "I had two fives in my wallet. Why did I give her only one?"

Keep your son out of Boston; there are a lot of people to give all his money to!!!

B said...

I commend you Sue. I may have given her ride to the bus stop, probably even given her the $10 in my wallet - IF I didn't have any of my kids with me.

Not knowing what was on her person, her bag, drugs, colds/flu's/virus, etc I wouldn't have let her that close to them. There is certainly no way she would be allowed in my home.

We can volunteer at the shelter, we can go as a family to soup kitchens to help, work the streets, etc. 'Alone' with an unknown person of questionable character, sanity and function - no fucking way.

There is that F word again, one of the most versatile words in the English language and protected by free speech. :)

I worked at Rosie's place back in High school. I had thought I figured it all out, by looking at the people, listening, helping I had the eye for which ones were truly in need and there trying to make it better and which ones were there cause they were crazy. It was shown to me numerous times in my 'final' week there, I had no clue, everyone has a breaking point, a crazy line...I truly am grateful that you are who you are, and that you did what you felt you should, sermon or otherwise, you are a good egg.

Susan Gedutis Lindsay said...

Thanks B. I love your message. AND I love your adjectives.

pgmulvaney said...

Had an aquaintance once who was a Buddhist monk --he'd signed a pledge to never give alms to the poor(!)as that's the job of government. I guess he wasn't a Republican.

It is a dogma of Christianity that "the poor you will always have with you". To me, that's like saying "you'll always have polio" or "you'll always have bad drainage along Rt 128 between exits 7 and 9". I just don't buy it. The community can and should take care of the unfortunate. We as individuals can do very little.

Social problems require social solutions. (Margeret Thatcher famously called society "a myth". Scary woman.)You showed compassion above and beyond the call of duty and wisdom -- but duty and wisdom have their calling too. You drew a line where you needed to, intuitively perhaps, but a line nonetheless. Don't beat yourself up for not inviting a mentally ill homeless person to live on your couch! You're simply not qualified to provide that sort of care.

I know you to be a decent and kind person. That is why you are bothered by your own limitations.

I have been poor, desperately so. And I live in reasonably middle-class circumstances now, in a place where not everyone does, as you know. I have been both the recipient of charity and its source. We do what we can. As a community, we can do so much more.

So rest assured, but get a little "fired up", as The Man says.
The writer Harlon Ellison once said that the three most important words aren't "I love you", but "Let me help." I think him correct in that assertion; you did that.

pgmulvaney said...

Had an aquaintance once who was a Buddhist monk --he'd signed a pledge to never give alms to the poor(!)as that's the job of government. I guess he wasn't a Republican.

It is a dogma of Christianity that "the poor you will always have with you". To me, that's like saying "you'll always have polio" or "you'll always have bad drainage along Rt 128 between exits 7 and 9". I just don't buy it. The community can and should take care of the unfortunate. We as individuals can do very little.

Social problems require social solutions. (Margeret Thatcher famously called society "a myth". Scary woman.)You showed compassion above and beyond the call of duty and wisdom -- but duty and wisdom have their calling too. You drew a line where you needed to, intuitively perhaps, but a line nonetheless. Don't beat yourself up for not inviting a mentally ill homeless person to live on your couch! You're simply not qualified to provide that sort of care.

I know you to be a decent and kind person. That is why you are bothered by your own limitations.

I have been poor, desperately so. And I live in reasonably middle-class circumstances now, in a place where not everyone does, as you know. I have been both the recipient of charity and its source. We do what we can. As a community, we can do so much more.

So rest assured, but get a little "fired up", as The Man says.
The writer Harlon Ellison once said that the three most important words aren't "I love you", but "Let me help." I think him correct in that assertion; you did that.

Susan Gedutis Lindsay said...

Thank you PG. You and one other person pointed out that there are "programs" in place to help people like this.

To a degree. I know from experience that often the people who need the help most are unable to actually ask for it--they don't want to deal with "the government," to navigate the beaurocracy, to sift through an automated answering system, to not get angry and defensive when the social worker asks them questions and tells them that they really have to stop drinking.

Once they get the help: Well, from what I understand in talking to those who work with the homeless, most of them truly are beyond rehabilitation and, as my friend who works with the homeless, "lifers."

In this town, there is no publicly-funded shelter. All we have is the kindness of churches. Each week, a different church in town provides shelter and a mid-day meal. People from the congregation volunteer to sleep over each night, and my guess is that there's no policeman on duty. Those people are to be commended.

It's a difficult problem and it doesn't feel like there's all that much systematic effort being made to solve it.