I went walking around seeking street friends to connect with (or to reconnect with) yesterday, and it has been so long since I was out there that I felt out of place. I was a bit bewildered thinking: Where do I start? Will I meet new people? Will I meet old friends? Will they be friendly?
But there was another deeper dread haunting me as I went. And I ran into Walmart to use their bathroom and purchase some smokes to share, and as I went in I felt a heavy feeling like I was being watched.
Yeah. Spooky feeling. I looked up, but I did not see any spy satellites or black helicopters, so I kept on going. I was serving God, right? Nothing will stop that – surely! And just then I looked over to my right and saw the security vehicle parked there, and the guard monitoring all the people passing by. I felt sure I would fall under his scrutiny.
As sooooooooo often happens when I enter a Walmart, the bathrooms at the front were barricaded for cleaning. Glad I wasn’t hurtin’ for it. I made my way to the back restroom. I “did my business”, which I wouldn’t normally publish (and thus spare my readers the mental image), but as I moved to the sink to wash my hands (YES, I wash my hands!), an employee entered suddenly.
Now this should be rather unremarkable, and really, maybe I was just being paranoid, but when the employee saw me, he suddenly turned to wash his hands too (he never did his business). Without a word spoken, he finished before me (I did tarry a bit), and walked out. Shortly after that, I followed, and as I exited the restroom, I saw the man standing in the doorway to the backroom glancing back my way as I came out.
Surely there is NO WAY this guy thinks I was stealing. Roll footage! I never even stopped to touch any merchandise on my way in. Surely there is no way this guy knows my agenda, to minister to the homeless that mob this particular store daily – many of whom this guy and his colleagues monitor closely and sometimes run off the property or call law enforcement to tend to. Surely (I know, leave Shirley out of this) he just happened by me, and didn’t even notice me at all!
As I left the store with my purchase, I reflected on my creepy feelings a bit. I am mindful that I am down in the district where the Premier Homeless Pseudo Church (not it’s real name) does most of their work. There is a sense in which I was on their turf! And even though I was not on their property, I am certain that anyone I minister to down there also utilizes their ministry as well. And, well, the thing is, I am unwelcome there – officially banned! They don’t like the service I bring for Jesus! And just the mere sight of me in that neighborhood would speak volumes.
I felt scrutiny with every step. Judgement against me. And when I met Agent Tex on the corner, as we stood there talking, I recognized that the difference between panhandling and talking on that street corner will be a judgment call, the difference between loitering and talking there will be a judgement call, and I must work hard to be “above reproach” as I do these things. I will not be welcome to take this conversation back down to the church – they have it locked up, and if I take it there, we will be trespassing!
I was feeling it.
But then you gotta face it if you are going to love the poor and homeless at all. There is always some monkey out there saying not to. Not to give your money, not to give your time, not to care. These bums aren’t worth it. Or maybe all the care for them should be left up to the professionals, and you could send them your money instead.
Whatever the case, you know…, don’t serve these people. Keep them in their place, and you stay in yours. If somebody sees you caring, there will be scrutiny. You might be breaking a law. You might be breaking a norm. You might be breaking a taboo.