West Texas, like much of the western American states, suffers from drought. Risking failed crops, wildfires, and water shortages, us conservative Christian types sometimes face ridicule in the national media when we pray for rain. But pray we do! And we thank God for every little sprinkle that drops to us, and you can bet, that includes me.
But as I wake up early and step outside to pray in the backyard, as I am apt to do, I watch the dawn take hold of the sky over Lubbock, and we get a light sprinkle. And I think: Wow! How grateful am I? That is not enough rain to make any positive difference, and in fact, it will cause many of us to rush down to the local car wash and use the precious little water we have to make our cars look good. And I am not sure just how thankful I am, really.
It occurs to me that even if we get a good, soaking rain (or better yet several), rainfall, for all it’s blessing that I will not deny for one second, is a hardship on those who sleep outside. And as I join God in prayer there in the yard, these people are my real concern.
A little rain. It’s not the worst. No. And in fact there are far bigger problems for the street homeless than facing rain. But if my church were to host “the least of these” in our vast, empty facilities through the night, then I would not have any conceivable reservations about the blessed rains. And lack of empathy, at root, is behind our obstinate refusal to open the door to them.
We prefer to content our souls with the idea that they suffer justly for their poor decisions and behaviors, and hope that these natural consequences will lead to good discipline.
But I ask for empathy. And I suggest this:
To the door keeper at the house of God… to whom God warns “STAY ALERT”, how about you set your alarm clock for 2 a.m. and get up and move to the guest room and sleep there? This will simulate just one aspect of the struggle to sleep when cops or other neighbors come and roust you and make you move along. Then set up a water hose with a sprinkler on it, programmed on a timer, to spray a brief blast of water on your bed with you in it at 4:30 a.m. to simulate that deceitful cloud that promises so much but delivers so little. (No. Really! Just run a hose in through the window. I am sure it seems odd, but of course, no more odd than God’s people leaving “the least of these” to sleep outside when there is so much resource available and just sitting there empty anyway!) Yeah! Just 10 or 20 seconds of water sprinkling on you in your bed will suffice! I bet you dry off and then finish the night on the couch!
But then when the dawn finally comes, get a shower, eat a quick bite for breakfast, run down to the bus stop, and catch a bus taking you to a job interview. (Or for those interested in advanced empathy, run down to the local soup kitchen and take a spot in line and wait your turn to eat hoping they don’t run out of food first! Then catch a bus….) Don’t be late to the interview! Look your best, and try not to stink! Just see if you are prepared for that dreaded question: “What do you consider to be your weakness?”
Keep in mind that you, a white, middle-class American with lots of support network, typically don’t suffer mental illness, war-related PTSD, or low-functioning alcoholism. I can’t think of how you will simulate that, but you can surely just imagine…
I don’t suggest (at the end of all this) that you actually accept the job offer, assuming you get one, I just suggest you walk this mile in those shoes before you criticize. Just see if you CAN land that job with these experiences being your morning routine.
Thank God for the rain!