Monday, July 19, 2004

so i'm working late at the office. it's around 5:45 and i'm printing up flyers, then cutting and counting them, just like a good little missionary. i'm in my office playing on the computer while i wait for the ever-so-slow-printer to print when i hear multiple knocks on the window in the conference room. i don't do anything at first, because usually it's just someone who's confused or a kid wanting to be annoying. but then it happens again. so i go to look and i see a slim-figured woman with overalls and a baseball cap turning away. i assume it was just a high school student having fun and go back to my office. then the doorbell rings A LOT. whoever it is, has decided that laying down on the button is the proper way to announce themselves. so out i go to see who could possibly want in the office at this hour.

to my surprise, i see a little old lady pressing her wrinkled face against the glass. she's got a blue jean baseball cap and yep, overalls. obviously, she is pretty insisent on being heard. i open the door a little and she says, "thank you for opening the door for me," in a definitely not American accent. english maybe? australian? "i walk for the Lord and i was wondering if you might help me find a place for the nite."

crap. what do i do? everyone has gone home and i know that we can't provide what she is looking for. we're not a church, lady!

"well, everyone's gone home, so i don't think we can help you."

"but pastors usually help me. there must be SOMEBODY you can call."

so i tell her to come inside and sit down. i call my boss's boss and tell him the situation. at this point, i'm really freaking out because i've let a strange bag lady into the office, a big no-no. and on top of that, she is NOT going to go away easily. so he tells me to calm down and basically to just send her away. he explains that we can't help her and that's there's nothing we can do. i hang up, take a deep breath, and go out front.

"i'm sorry, but there's nothing we can do to help you. our churches are the ones who can assist you, we're just an association."

"i don't want to be given anything. i just need a place to stay. or a ride to a church that could help me."

of course, my mind goes completely blank. there are A ZILLION churches around here and i couldn't think of ONE. she seemed very insistent on staying and i was growing more uncomfortable by the second. couldn't she see that i wasn't able to help her? i didn't want to call the cops, but at the same time, there was NO WAY i could let her sleep on the couch all nite. all i wanted her to do was LEAVE. and leave RIGHT then.

"i'm really sorry, but i can't help you at all."

at this point she looks down puzzled. she is both bewildered and saddenned. "oh. my persecutors must have gotten to you."

persecutors? persecutors? who was this lady? "could you please leave? you just need to go."

"it seems to me that you are making all that you do for naught. if you don't help people, then what good is it that you do here? you know, if you turn away the poor, Jesus will turn you away."

yeah, she got me. she threw out the Jesus card, so i felt seriously guilty. but at this point, i was desperate. what if she never left? what if i had to call the cops or be mean to her? i wanted to cry and hide in the bathroom until she left. i fel so horrible, but i just couldn't help her. what else could i do?

"let me see if i can get you a bottle of water."

"no thank you," she got up to leave,"i've already had water. it's not things i'm looking for. it's a good heart."

i watched her walk away and helped her unlock the front door. she started to say something as she left the building, but i closed the door hard and fast before i could hear it. i didn't need anymore guilt.

so during the moment, i thought i had done the right thing. she was just some crazy homeless lady who i couldn't help. i'm just a 11-day-left-missionary who's job rite now is to be a secretary. i mean, at this point, i'm basically working for free. it's not my problem, rite? it's my own stupid fault for coming in late and having to stay late.

but after she left, i couldn't help but think. and i'm not sure i did the rite thing. sure, i did what my boss told me to do. and it was certainly the "safest" thing for me to do. but was it the RIGHT thing? i don't know. all i can think of now is this passage. and that makes me think that i screwed this one up BIG TIME...

maybe not, maybe she was a gun packing granny. maybe there was poison in that green knapsack of hers. maybe those tan hands and tired eyes were a lie.

but, what if? what if she had been my grandmother, wouldn't i have wanted someone to take care of her? what if she had been my mom? or cousin? or aunt? or worse, what if she had been my Christ?