Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Schooled by a Four Year Old

"What I love about the ministry of Jesus is that he identified the poor as blessed and the rich as needy... and then he went and ministered to them both. This, I think, is the difference between charity and justice. Justice means moving beyond the dichotomy between those who need and those who supply and confronting the frightening and beautiful reality that we desperately need one another." - Rachel Held Evans

Every single Sunday, I and the family that I sit with at church are given presents by a homeless gentleman who attends our church. I'll call him Todd for the sake of this story. Without fail, he has a gift for us every. single. week. Sometimes it's clothes. A lot of times it's food. One time it was a tv. I sometimes keep the presents that I receive, but mostly I put them in the donation pile for when I take things to Goodwill. I don't need the presents he gives me, but that's never stopped him. I'm a giver of gifts and receiving gifts (even from family) makes me really uncomfortable. It embarrasses me to get gifts from a homeless person. They are usually dirty. They smell funny. It feels weird to be handed presents in crumpled up bags when I walk into church every single week. 

This past Sunday, MM, the daughter of my friends, looked at me and said "where is your cousin?" I, of course, have never brought any of my cousins to church, so I was confused. I told her I didn't know who she was talking about. Exasperated, she said "Todd...your cousin...where is he?" She hadn't seen him in the back of the church and was concerned as to where he was. And apparently, she thinks he is my cousin. I pointed him out to her and after we took communion she ran to the back of the church and gave him a hug.

And I've been thinking about that interaction since Sunday morning. MM gets gifts from Todd every Sunday too. And she receives them with joy. She actively looks forward to the presents that he brings. She doesn't need any of the gifts that he brings her, and most of them aren't age appropriate for a four year old. But she gets excited. And her excitement of receiving the gifts ministers to Todd. He has nothing and yet he goes out of his way to give us things. I've been schooled in humility by a four year old. She identified Todd as family. And I'm embarrassed by him.

That same Sunday, an elderly lady in front of me, turned to suggest that I join the choir since I sing so well (I cannot confirm that I sing well, I thought my singing was awful). When she turned back around, MM wanted to know her name. When I told her, she asked, "is she your sister?" I told the lady that MM wanted to know if we were sisters. She got quite the kick out of that and responded, "well, I guess we are sisters in Christ." And isn't that true? We are all family. And we all need each other. And I need to climb down off my high horse. I'm not so wealthy that I can't also receive gifts, even from a homeless person, with joy.