Forgive me, if you’ve been following my thoughts in this particular trilogy of posts. It’s been many months since I’ve had the freedom to write a blog post. This week, however, it was impressed upon my heart to finish telling you the story. I must add, that there is one more lady who I have known since my first year of university whose story I would like to tell. We shall call her Fay. Furthermore, since I last wrote, my efforts to do justice by the homeless people I see in my day to day life have had some successes, some uncertainties and some failure, perhaps, though I can’t say I know for certain. I will mention a few of these briefly before coming to some kind of conclusion, though I don’t think the problem that the presence of the poor presents to the heart will ever leave us.
For the sake of chronology, I am happy to tell you that I have since run into Avril (Part 2/3) twice since our chance encounter on the main road where he first told me his story. The first time was after a friend gave me smarties after coming to tea (she forgot that smarties and sweets in general give me a sore tummy). Anyway, I thought I could treat one of the homeless people on main road with them. After walking another friend who had come to tea and stopping off at a shop for some reason or other, and out of the corner of my eye, I saw a homeless man enter the shopping center- I could tell by his dress. I was distracted with talking to my friend, but then remembered the smarties and since I had only seen him out of the corner of my eye, I didn’t notice it was Avril until I had already offered him the smarties and he had said yes with a wide and toothless smile. There I was thinking oops, I did it again. Last time I offered him an apple, a man with missing front teeth. Now, I’m offering him finicky little candied bits. It took me a moment to remember his name (which is only Avril for the purposes of this blog) and as my friend slowly pulled me away (he was concerned for me) I asked him how he was and referred to him by name. His face lit up. It was beautiful to behold, the beauty that the human spirit imparts upon the face when a little love touches it. “That’s me!” he exclaimed, “That’s me! You remembered!” Unfortunately, I lost the tug of war to my friend but I did run into Avril again about a month later.
After having referred him to U-turn Claremont on our first meeting, he somehow found his way to U-turn Kenilworth. There he found food and dress as well as counsel from social workers who seem to have given him hope. They put him on a list to find work and he has clean clothes to wear, a bed to rest on and a place to clean himself until he finds a job and can look after himself. He told me that even though his wife was filing for divorce and she didn’t want him to return to KZN, he felt that the Lord had plans for him in Cape Town and he was happy to be hear now that his basic needs were being met. Joy Hallelujah! And although this time he didn’t shower me with scriptural blessings, he was heartily glad to see me and thank me and tell me of the favour he had found since we met. What a privilege it was to listen!
As for Fay, hers is a story that she told me many years ago now, and I hope I get the details right. Effectively, she worked at UCT as part of the cleaning services until UCT outsourced all their workers to other companies. With this she lost her pension. Not long afterwards her husband died and she discovered that he had married another lady according to Muslim law and all of his belongings would go to his other wife. For some reason, her daughters had left to go to Johannesburg and had never returned. As a coloured lady, she spoke as though until that point she hadn’t had much exposure to black company. When fast approaching the age of retirement, she lost everything. However, she said she found tremendously kind family in the community of black people living in the townships. She can sometimes be seen on Rondebosch main road trying to sell recorders and bubbles which she has acquired somehow and asking if anyone can perhaps buy food for her and the five children she takes care of.
She has been by far the most understanding and considerate person I’ve met on that road. She understands that I’m too broke to give very often and blesses me anyway and trusts that when I have I will give, and so I do. I have had moments of doubting her. Once when I walked past her smoking and muttering in a frustrated manner to herself, a ways off along Main Road from where she usually stood. She didn’t notice me, I wondered if she abused substances. I think I was exaggerating the cigarette in my mind. The product of a conservative mindset (which in and of itself is probably OK), being that if you smoke you must d other addictive things that are bad for your health. I must say since then, I was a little worried when she approached me but she also gave me space when I asked for it, because she knew I would also give her a chance to be heard.
Just the other day, I saw her again. Just after I’d come into an allowance. Apart from the fact that I was getting her and the children a little something to eat, she seemed able to perceive a change in me that when I said was a result of ‘spending time with Jesus,’ she dreamily nodded saying ‘sitting under the blood.’ She was exactly right, of course, I could feel in myself a change in the past few months but specifically weeks, the effect that ‘sitting under the blood’of that Revelations 19:13 robe of righteousness. She commented things I had prayed to Jesus alone. She blessed me further and brought tears to my eyes. I thanked her in an attempt to honour her in a Leviticus 19:32 manner. She spoke of how people often pass her by, but she knows that Jesus has a way of softening people’s hearts to give by no strength or merit of their own. I am certainly not a heart-warmingly good person all the time, but the best thing about the Good News (what ‘gospel’ means) and the struggles of deciding who to give when and how much, is that when one sit’s under the blood, Jesus helps us decide and act. Jesus makes us more than an ordinary good person. We choose to believe that his way is good and he keeps us believers in Good, by, in His never-ending mercy and kindness, showing us.
Moments before I ran in to Fay, a feeling of distrust informed by some interaction I’d observed of another lady on the streets stopped my heart from being willing to give to her. If I had agreed and given in to the lady pressuring me to give out of a heart that wasn’t willing, I would have had to walk past Fay, who I’ve known for so long and had to tell her that I had given my word to the other lady who I distrusted. Now I’m not saying the other lady didn’t deserve to be helped. I’m just saying that the Bible counsels us to give out of a glad heart. I was glad to help Fay, and so I did. Where we’re not glad to help anyone, perhaps there we should not discriminate between who we give to, but always with care for safety and in reasonable proportion to our means.
As I said at the beginning, there would be some conclusions of sorts which you can read between the lines above. Some friends have asked me what I think about the beggars on the street, basically: what do we do? Ultimately, I think we listen to them and look at them in the eyes and in so doing we dignify their humanity and the lives they have lived; and then we pray. We pray about our prejudices, we pray about our capacity to give and then we give. How much, or how frequently I do not know, but when we give, we give gladly, of that I am sure.