There are some things that make me sad. Sad in a way that settles deep down inside. Things that seem so pointless. So empty. Things that make me wonder who life can get to this point. How do people end up in these situations? What can be done to change them. Who am I in the face of these tragic life stories.
There is a woman who wanders around town in a constant state of decay. Her mind has long been fried. She stumbles through the streets, haunts the train station. There is little left to identify with. Last night she tried to talk to Laura and me as we were walking to the grocery store. We hurried past, hoping she'd give up quickly. Thinking she might just as well be talking to herself. We couldn't understand her anyway. She would only have asked us for money. But Jesus loves her. She is one of the least of these...
I see so many pictures of people I know or have only seen. Snapshots of desperate lives. Some seem unaware of their plight - Sweet Marketa smiling so cheerfully as she says, "I'm and Atheist so I don't believe in that." Others become so entrenched that they are constantly at war with themselves - Patrik, slamming his head on the table in his drunken state in an attempt to make some pain in his head go away. And then there are the people I only pass in the street. The prostitute standing so confidently and tragically beautiful on the street, waiting for someone to come by...Or the prostitutes that look so dried up and dirty in their tall boots and short skirts, pledging their experience to passers by. Or the little girl who couldn't have been more than 8 who I saw nonchalantly smoking a cigarette last night.
Sometimes it is all just so overwhelming. Usually I push it to the back of my mind. What, after all, can I do. What but pray. While I know that praying is the best thing of all, there are times when it seems lacking in the action I wish I could be a part of. How can I help the young mothers learn how to love their babies? To give them the chance they need to break free of the vicious cycle that will lead to further sorrow.
This afternoon I sat out on a bench in the sun, writing in my journal. It's a lovely day. Everything felt fresh and clean down by the river. I wrote about Poland, about being satisfyingly behind the wheel of a car again. My pen, however, was being ridiculous. For whatever reason it decided to die constantly, even though I know it has plenty of ink. On one part of the line it would write just fine, but at the end it would act empty. After half an hour or so of battling, I decided to go home and change for a different pen. As I started to walk away I heard someone calling in my direction. Thinking I might have dropped something I turned around and saw a woman looking at me. She was an outdoor worker who had been busy in the garden while I was writing. Her skin was dark, leading me to believe she was likely of Romany background, and her curly hair flew wildly around her heavily lined face. I couldn't really understand her, so I started to walk away again, but she seemed quite intent to call me back. I turned again, and saw a flower in her hand. I was uncertain. Still, I felt compelled to see what it was she wanted. I walked back toward her and a toothsome grin split her face, hideous beautiful. She was wearing a boldly patterned black and white shirt under the green overalls that signify her working class. As she walked toward me she said something I didn't really understand, but that sounded something like charity. She extended a delicate purple iris toward me, and I wondered if she was expecting me to pay her for it.
Somewhat flustered I mumbled, "Nerozumim Cesky" (I don't understand Czech) and she seemed surprised, but not deterred. She changed her speech a bit and I was able to make out that she was offering me the flower as a gift. Here she was, one of the least of these, giving me a gift. Humbled, I took it from her with words of thanks and smiled as I turned to walk home. My irritation over my pen had been quelled and I felt so blessed.
How can I better serve? How can I better love? How can I better give of myself to the people God has put in my path?