It was a southern summer. Sun was sliding down rooftops and knocking at doors.
We were working on a floor, peeling back old linoleum. Brittle, it broke into pieces beneath our fingers. We pulled, scraped, broke, piled. Old linoleum, pattern unrecognizable, was discarded in a corner; looking for a home that would never be found.
Floor bare, we carried over the roll of new linoleum. Knife found to be deficient for our task, I went out to the truck to find a new blade. It was then that I heard it. I heard it as the heavy white door marked with a cross swung open on its hinges.
Stifled sobs. Around the corner of the house, just out of view, she sat on the porch. The sun smiled warmly, the dogs frolicked, and she cried.
I heard her and froze in place, my hand on a box of new blades. I wavered with indecision. I was a volunteer with a Christian organization. I was here to serve this woman, this child of God, in any way that I could. And, in this moment, I couldn’t help but feel that a good volunteer would walk over to this sobbing woman and offer her kind words.
But the truth was, I was sick of her. I was sick of her slothfulness, her poor life choices, her addictions. I wanted to be done with this place. Done with her.
So I quietly pulled a new blade out of the box, shut the truck door, and went back into the house. Back to bare floors and homeless linoleum.
I wish I was better…
I wish I could stop turning my back and retreating to comfort zones; and really and truly love my neighbor as myself.
Maybe someday, I will.
“I am poor, in that I do not know how to love people just as they are. I am poor, in that I do not know how to love myself if I am not actively giving something. I am poor, in that I do not know if I have the strength to see the kingdom of God as it was meant to be played out…
And only when I recognize how poor I really am do I start to understand that I am right where I need to be.”
– D. L. Mayfield, Assimilate or Go Home: Notes from a failed missionary on rediscovering faith