Rector's Rhetoric - July 2014
Life has a way of teaching us things that are sometimes hard to accept, but at the same time terribly important. One afternoon, following a doctor’s appointment, I was stopped at a convenience store in Midwest City to get some drinks. On my way in I noticed a man out of the corner of my eye who had all the markings of being homeless. Notice that I said “out of the corner of my eye.” Direct eye contact could have created a situation that I’m all too familiar with in dealing with homeless men and women at the church. Anyway, I stayed inside longer than I had intended because I couldn’t locate an item that I’d been looking for. While searching the aisles, I couldn’t help but hear an ongoing conversation that was taking place between the clerk and this homeless man. He would come into the store and ask her a question, she would answer his question, he would leave, and a few seconds later return with another question. They didn’t seem to be terribly important—What time was it? How much is that hat? What can I get for two dollars? But what struck me as significant about their interaction, and believe me this was a busy place with a lot going on, was how kind she was to this man who was obviously on the edge of acceptable behavior and more than a little scary-looking. She didn’t brush him off as a nobody. She took the time to address his needs, real or imagined. He seemed to matter to her as much as anybody else she was serving. And she was nice in a way that really got my attention. Observing her, I didn’t get the feeling that she was a Sunday-go-to-meeting kind of girl either. Even though she was still young, she looked as if life had always been hard for her, but there she was showing a kindness beyond what was required and in that moment I think I might have witnessed something important.
Sometimes people get this dualistic notion that there are two realms in this life and that God can only inhabit one of them. There is a holy realm in which the church thrives and is led by Christ to do certain things, and then there is a secular, profane realm, often spoken of as “worldly,” that we’re in no way to be a part of. I understand that there are perhaps places we shouldn’t go and things we shouldn’t do, but we should not be so closed in our thinking to discount where God is able to go and what God can do in the one realm that is neither completely holy nor profane, but still filled with divine Presence.
I always seem to think of good things to say after the fact. I wish that I would have whispered “thank you,” to that woman. “Thank you for being nice, thank you for counting him as somebody, for your courage and compassion. You really made my day, and gave me something important to share with some good people who are sent into the world each week to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving their neighbors as themselves, respecting the dignity of every human being.”