Friday, August 07, 2009


I stayed home from work today because I'm sick. Since I had the free time and the desire to infect more of humanity with my disease I went to Radioshack. And Walmart. Two of them. Each.


Well, first I went to walmart to buy some know, for the sickness. Just sore throat/stuffed face/dry cough/plague of death regular sickness. While I was there, I went to pick up some DTV converter boxes since we don't have cable anymore and the coupons expire in 2 days.


Fine, nuts to you walmart, i'll go to the radioshack in your "Parking lot strip mall."



Went home with my mucinex, called another Radioshack in town to see if they had any. Sure enough, they still have some! So I went and drove across town to another Radioshack which was in yet another Walmart "Parking lot strip mall." I saw Becky and her daughter Courtney walking into walmart. Courtney is now significantly taller. This made me chuckle.

Since I was already at walmart, and radioshack was bound to be more expensive, I thought i'd go in and see if they had any first.


Radioshack it is. Converter boxes purchased, yay!

(I don't know who that is, it just came up googling "yay")

Now, as the kids say, let us get down to brass tacks. I hate going to walmart. Why? Because there are people with cardboard signs in the parking lots that say "homeless" or "hungry" on them. And they are everywhere.

Don't tell me i'm a terrible person, you enjoy seeing other people in a state of despair and hopelessness? Didn't think so.

Why don't I like it? Because I feel convicted to do something. And more so I feel incredibly angry at myself when I try rationalize why I don't stop. Because I don't stop.

Why I try to look straight ahead, and see everyone else doing it too, to avoid "seeing" the person in need of help on the side of the road. Or in the parking lot.

Why, even though i'm not going to be able to get them back on their feet alone, do I not even give a dollar? Or a few dollars to give them some money to get something to eat?

And even if I had no money at all to give (which is a lie, we always have money to give) would I not even take a few moments to talk to them? To show a bit of decency. To express some compassion even if in word alone? Being treated like a person is a big deal to someone who spends all day watching people pretend they can't see them.

I try to tell myself that I don't have time to do this. That i'm in a hurry. That I don't have three minutes to pull over.

To further absurdify (yeah, that's right!) the situation, the thought starts coming in that if I stopped and gave money or talked to this one person, then I'd have to do it for everyone that I saw who needed help. The same way your elementary teacher would shame you into not eating candy in class.

Because if you don't have enough to share with everyone, you shouldn't share with anyone.

So, why do I do this? Because I AM terrible. I am a miserable and pathetic wretch on my own. And I feel superior. Maybe not by any sort of intrinsic trait, but by my not being in the same position. I tell myself that I've made good choices to not end up on the side of the road with a sign. And by doing so I immediately mentally judge the person who IS in that position as having "deserved" it.


What would happen if I took the time out to talk to someone on the walmart parking lot?

Would it destroy me? Would my wife leave me and child hate me because I was home 5 minutes later? Would my milk spoil because of the additional few hundred seconds in the car? Would my budget be devastated after now spending $100+ on groceries, I tack on an additional percent or two?

I believe that big acts of compassion start from small acts of compassion. I wouldn't be helping this person turn their life around immediately -- and who's to say we shouldn't strive to do that too -- but I might be able to give them money for a drink. Or a sammich. Or maybe my interaction would make them feel more like a person. Like someone that has worth. Instead of someone who people pretend to not be able to see.

I happen to believe a little bit of compassion shown to someone who needs it is better than none at all.


  1. Anonymous4:07 PM

    So, did you do any of those things today?

  2. That's not really the point. But yes.

  3. I've noticed that's a trend on your posts; few people are acknowledging the main point. I think your main points make people uncomfortable.

    Which is a good thing.

    When I was in Belfast, there was a spot down the block from where we were staying where alternately an old Romanian woman and a young Romanian man would panhandle. The woman was very old and looked like a genuine gypsy. She would sit on a window sill between an ATM and the Post Office with her hands held out as she repeated the word, "hello." what bothered me the most was when the whole of my class, a seminary professor, eight other M.Div students, and two Ph.D. students studying Christian ethics all walked past her, intentionally not seeing or hearing her. Not to toot my own horn, 'cause that's not my intention, one day I hung back and gave her a few pounds.

    I kept going back in my spare time to see if the guy was ever there. He didn't really play the guitar so much as he just strummed it out of tune without actually fretting an chords. I wanted to teach him how to tun and play at least three easy chords. He was never there when I went to find him.

    I try to keep a $10 dollar gift card to McD's in my wallet at all times to give to people asking for money or a meal. I've found that being pro-active about it has helped me avoid not seeing the needy. It's not much, but its a tiny step toward walking as Jesus walked.

  4. It's hard to present yourself as living up to what you're saying others should do without feeling like you're "tooting your own horn."

    At least it feels that way to me.

    I understand the necessity to live out what you call upon others to do, instead of just pointing and saying "yer doin' it rong!" While you're doing the same. It's much easier to believe someone when you know they can live up to what they say.

    But we can't live up to what we say. We are miserable, pathetic and broken. We can't toot our own horn, it's a logical impossibility because any good act that would merit it is surely not born out of our desires. But for a brief moment we merely allowed Christ to work in us and through us instead of shoving him into a closet, cathedral or systematic theology.

    The only thing we could possibly boast of is what God did through us.

    I think it's more than people wanting to ignore the poor as we both have echoed. When I do it, I know that i'm ignoring more than just the person who is looking for help. I feel that I am actively and directly ignoring God's will for my life at that moment. I am living out an act of deliberate disobedience.

    Others may feel the same. If they are, I'd be happy to wager THAT is why they're really deliberately not seeing or hearing those in need.

  5. Your anthropology is Lutheran with a subtle hint Calvin. Kinda like a schnitzel with a piece of Swiss cheese.

    I think you're right to start at total depravity of the human condition, but you're wrong to stay there. Because its not what Christ does through us--as if he were a puppet master--but the freedom he gives us through the gift of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and in the imputation of Christ's righteousness.

    For example, Paul writes in 2 Cor 1.2, "This is our boast, the testimony of our conscience: we have behaved in the world with holiness and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God..."

    Paul boasts in what he has done by God's grace. So be assured that God desires to change you, so that you may choose and do good, and that it is only by God's grace can you be changed.

  6. I do like schnitzel. I should try to make that sometime.

    I feel that often what I say fails my intentions/thoughts. I don't mean as if we were puppets, but more as you said that we are freed from our previous inability to leave our depravity.

    I still like the thought of God working through us, though not of us as puppets. And yes, of course God desires to change us so that we ourselves are that which is doing the good.

    I think what I was trying to go for with my previous comment was what you brought up of the imputation of Christ's righteousness. I had in mind the end of 1 Cor 1 while writing just didn't translate well from my brain to the keyboard:

    30It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31Therefore, as it is written: "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord."

    At least I do not think my anthropology ends at TD....I just don't think I appropriately transmit what I intend.

  7. Fair enough.

    Thanks for your clarification; your anthropology and soteriology most definitely do not remain in total deprivation.