Proof of Children
I’ve already been at it awhile, asking to see ID cards. These moms, dads, and grandparents are waiting in line to get free Christmas gifts to give their kids. We need proof they are indeed the caregivers.
Almost everyone is gracious with our requests. They pull out Medicaid cards for their children or birth certificates or social security cards.
But occasionally someone argues with us. They say they didn’t know the requirements or they don’t have the cards with them or they can’t show us anything until next week.
We allow exceptions with permission; we give grace when we can.
The next young woman in line steps up to me. I get a bad feeling.
Are You Really Sorry?
I notice her stance before I hear her words. She is weaving back and forth, unsteady on her feet.
I ask for her children’s ID. She says she doesn’t have anything. I ask if she can come back Monday with proof. We’re giving away gifts then, too.
But she is furious with me. She says the cards are in storage. She doesn’t have the money to get them out.
I tell her I’m sorry, but we need to see some kind of paperwork.
I’m not ready for her reply.
She explodes: “Don’t tell me you’re sorry! You’re NOT sorry!”
I’m shocked. Instinctively, I say it again, “I really AM sorry….”
But I get no further because she’s screaming at me again. “I don’t want to hear that crap from you that you’re sorry! I know you don’t mean it!!!”
And I almost say it again. Because really I am sorry. I feel bad we can’t help her.
But I pull back. It won’t help to repeat it. She’s not hearing. And likely it would make things even worse.
I say nothing. I watch as she quickly staggers away from the crowd.
Feel Bad for Who?
I am stunned.
The people who had been near her in line tell me she was high. They say they feel bad for her children.
I feel bad for her children, too. Wherever they are. Somewhere safe, I pray. With someone safe.
But I also feel bad for me. I was just trying to help. I didn’t deserve that treatment.
The church lady in me rares up. I’d like to tell the woman that I don’t have to be here at all. I’m not getting paid. It’s freezing cold. I’m sacrificing my time and energy for people like her that I don’t even know.
She was ugly to me. Now I’m being ugly to her, if only in my mind.
Neither of us are right. We both are guilty.
I finally bounce back from my stupor, my anger, my offendedness. I feel less sorry for me. And more badly for her.
Because her attitude wasn’t about me.
I don’t need to take it personally.
Designed for More
Whoever I just saw, this wasn’t her true self.
In her original design, she was called forth to be loved, to have purpose, to live a life of value. Like each of us are.
But along the way, bad things must have happened. Then more bad things. And more.
And now here she is, not living out who she was made to be.
We all make wrong turns in life. Sometimes from our ignorance. Sometimes from our own willfulness. And sometimes because we’re knocked sideways so often that we lose sight of the path altogether.
I repent of my bad attitude. I pray for more compassion. I pray this young woman will find her way again. For herself. For her kids.
And I even pray for the people she randomly insults along the way. . . who, for the record, should not take it personally, even though we sometimes do.
But instead, we should take it prayerfully.
Sometimes I do, but not often enough, and not always as my first instinct.
Take This Personally
The night wears on. The line only continues to grow.
We finally have to call it, to issue rain checks for those who won’t reach the door tonight. They receive numbers to come back Saturday morning as first priorities.
As I start walking to my car, I see a smiling face look at me. It’s another woman who had previously been in line, a small woman with a child almost as tall as her.
She stops me to say thank you. She tells me she appreciates the smile on my face. She wants me to have a Merry Christmas. What a welcome contrast to the first woman.
The church lady in me again rises up. I want this to be about me, about my goodness, about my sacrifice.
But again, it’s not about me.
I can’t take this personally either.
If I didn’t earn the earlier criticism, I can’t take credit for this current praise.
Because neither is about me. Not really. It’s about life, about love, about heartaches and joys. About ups and downs and plenty and lack.
Ultimately, it’s about God.
- His mission for justice.
- His implanting of love.
- His invitation to light up the world through the humility of his Son.
We’re all in the same human family, fathered by the same divine being.
And we all need his mercy equally. Some for addictions. Some for pride. Everybody for something.
The gift of grace. I need all God has to offer. I have no ID card to prove I qualify for it. . . Except this: God calls me his child.
I shouldn’t take everything personally. Except grace.
I can take grace very personally.
* * *
Some things we should take personally. Like this.
And some things we should not. Like this.
How do you decide? Please share in the comments.
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