My oldest child just turned 17, and both of our worlds are changing.
Our date nights at the gym have been replaced with me working out alone and my daughter going on real dates with…why can’t I ever seem to remember his name? Watching her ride off to her first prom and other firsts has caused me to look back and remember those moments, good and bad, that have now been burned into my soul.
About a decade ago my daughter decided she wanted a second American Girl doll. If you are not familiar with these idols, they are expensive dolls that either the U.S. Constitution or Leviticus, I think, says grandparents are supposed to buy for their grandchildren. I informed her that one was enough. She argued with me. Like always, she won…but with a catch. She was going to have to raise the money herself. The first $10 she raised she would give away. The second $10 she would save. And then she could save up for a doll.
She found odd jobs and eventually saved enough for her new doll. We drove to Chicago and told her to pick whatever one she wanted. About three hours later, she hadn’t decided yet. While I waited I walked to the cash register and began an over/under guessing game on what each person was going to spend.
I noticed out of the corner of my eye another young girl. She was holding her grandma’s hand but kept turning to look out the window. Finally, I heard her say “Grandma, what is that man doing out there in the cold?” Both grandma and I turned and looked to see a homeless man standing right outside the door asking for money. Grandma informed the girl that the man was poor and was asking for money. The little girl simply asked “Why?” Grandma then responded, “Because some people make bad choices.” She then moved to the register and spent over $500 on dolls and clothes.
Excuse me?! That is your answer to economic disparity in the USA? Now maybe this man had made bad choices. I have no idea. But I was fuming inside. I wanted to tell that little girl, “You have a nasty grandma.” I didn’t. Finally, my daughter, the one who was raised right, had made her purchase. I was half excited for her and half frustrated with what I witnessed.
At least I was until I saw the quarterback Brett Favre walk into a store on Michigan Ave. I sent my family ahead so that I could go and meet him. He was friendly enough. We exchanged a quick handshake and hello. I then ran to catch my family. I exited the store and made a hard right turn only to trip over something–I mean someone. Another man was sitting on the sidewalk asking for some change. I knocked him completely over. His hat when flying off his head, and the change from his cup flew everywhere. I did my best to sit him back up, put his hat back on and return his money with interest.
I hadn’t even seen him. Even in my self-righteous state, I was no better than grandma.
Acts 3:1-10 tells a story of Peter and John going to the temple. A man lame from birth was placed there to beg for money. Peter heals him. It’s a great scene. It reminds me that the disciples were and we are called to continue the work of Christ. We have a responsibility to participate in the healing ministry of Jesus. It also gives me hope. So often I am paralyzed by injustice and evil in the world that I do nothing. Peter and John had no money. They did what they could.
But what struck me the most the last time I read it was that verse 4 says that both Peter and John looked intently at him (NRSV).
How many times am I unwilling even to look intently to those asking for help? I stare straight ahead at red lights while those positioned on street corners ask for some change. How often do I ignore and avert my eyes to those who have need as if they will not see me if I am not looking at them?
But just as troubling to me is how many times though do I avert my eyes to the situation of those around me who are not placed directly in my path? Peter and John chose to look at a man in need. How often do I choose to keep my eyes on the easy path?
- Do I see those in my town who are struggling to pay bills no matter how many hours they work?
- Do I see that the vast majority of my day is spent in the company of white people like myself when the town I live in is becoming more and more racially diverse?
- Do I see others a beloved children of God who need to know and experience the saving grace of God?
If I don’t see them it is because I have chosen not to look. And it makes me sick to think that grandma and I are a lot more alike that what I thought.
Thankfully, I have been blessed with some allies, who continue to help me see, who continue to help me learn to see the world around me. Those who write regularly on this blog have helped me on this journey. I am thankful for you and only ask that you continue this walk with me.
That was a decade ago. I have to believe I still have two slightly used American Girl dolls available if anyone needs one.