Monday, January 31, 2011
I have started giving to the poor.
It started on Friday. On the way to work, I noticed a man sitting outside the Chong Nonsi Skytrain Station.
He had a sign around his neck, written in Thai. He sat in a wheelchair, with stuffed toys for sale in front of him. A cynical voice in my heart started listing off the injustices: how the disabled are exploited by begging-rings, how money you give never stays in the hands of the truly needy, how the public system should provide care, etc. And so, with all that in my heart, I walked past him.
When I got to work, I found out that my condo had sprung a leak and was causing damage to the condo beneath us. I had to go back home to let a guy in to fix one of our showers. It took three hours. I read a book and waited for the shower to be ripped apart and resealed.
As I walked home, past the man outside the Chong Nonsi Skytrain station, I noticed that someone had moved him to the other side of the street. He still looked listless, focused on some distant place, unable to make eye contact. I walked past him again.
After the shower had been fixed, I walked back to the office. I passed the man for a third time. By then, it was sweltering hot. I was very thirsty. I went into the french bakery by the station and ordered a guava juice. The man behind the counter grinned at me, as I paid too much money for a little drink. And that's when I heard the Holy Spirit say, "money I do not have... but what I have, I give to you". It's a quote from Peter. He said it when he healed a beggar.
I left the bakery with my guava juice and a straw. I walked over to the man. As soon as I got down onto his level, kneeling in front of his wheelchair, I realized that he has cerebral palsy. A man named Richard lived with my family when I was ten years old: he had cerebral palsy and always had to drink from a straw. My eyes filled up with tears as I put the cup in this stranger's crippled, clenched hands and unwrapped the straw for him. I remembered how much life and laughter Richard had brought to my family, all those years ago - and the depth of his pain, as he struggled to reconcile the love of the Father with his daily suffering. The man grinned at me... wildly. He drank the whole thing, saying thank you between sips.
That was the beginning of something. Since then, I have been responding to the needs of the poor. It is a simple response. I am not expecting to alleviate all the poverty of Asia. But I am choosing to give, when and where the Spirit leads me.
On Saturday night, I left a few baht on the stomach of a sick man lying on the street, outside a hospital: enough to pay the fee to see a doctor. Tonight, I walked an hour to find a woman and her two year old daughter sitting on a street corner, begging for food. I gave a bottle of water and 100 baht to a man who was sitting beside a pile of garbage. He looked like a Thai version of my younger brother.
I am going through this funny thing: I have no words for the gospel of peace. My offering is silent. I nod. I get tears in my eyes. I put my hands together in a namaste bow. I smile. I cry. But I have no words for what is stirring inside of me, no words for what a saviour means.
I give because I have been given to, on a very deep level. I give because I know that the resources of heaven are at my disposal. I give because to those who have, much is required. I give because it is in my heart to find beauty in the ashes. I give because I see truth in the dust. But I have no words for it. I have no way of saying, "it is because of this that I give". I am also aware of my desire and need to learn how to respond. I want to give out of obedience, not compulsion. I want to expect miracles, not just the quick fix of money.
My parents taught me to give, to sow in the spirit, from a very young age. And I think about them whenever I touch the shoulders of the untouched, or leave two coins in the basket of the abandoned. So, I want this to be my offering, my legacy, my true wealth, my inheritance.
You have to understand the context of this for me: I am in excessive debt right now. I have bills back home that need to be paid. And yet, I am living in a luxurious condo, working at a prestigious law firm, dining with world travelers and able to pay for whatever I want in this country.
It is in this context that the desire to give is silently leaking out of me. It is a heart attitude that can not be explained: a deep desire to raise from the dust what is seen by heaven as precious and worthy.
I read this scripture when I came home tonight, after seeing that man - my brother's Thai twin - sitting in the garbage. It resonates in me.
"The Lord sends poverty and wealth; he humbles and exalts. He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor. For the foundations of the earth are the LORD’s;
on them he has set the world. He will guard the feet of his faithful servants, but the wicked will be silenced in the place of darkness. It is not by strength that one prevails...” ~ 1 Samuel 2: 7-11.
And so: I am giving to the poor. I want to see these men, women and children set with princes and inheriting a throne of honor. But I also just want to be faithful in the little things... to quench the thirst of my spirit, the misunderstood longing inside of me to see the life of the kingdom of heaven. And I hope that - somewhere beyond my lack of words - heaven is seeing, hearing and responding with me in this.