October 18, 2013

In Over Your Head

A guy walked in today looking disheveled and asking for help with getting an ID. "He needs Jesus," a woman says under her breath as he walks by. Don't we all? 

Some things are difficult for me to do. If I had to do work on a car, say replacing the water pump, I would have a hard time. Truth be told, putting together an IKEA bookcase is hard for me to do. Whether it's God's perfectly imperfect design or my lack of trying hard enough, I'm terrible with my hands. I don't really do three dimensional work. If I couldn't ask Cliff or Tim for help, I'd be screwed. It just gets overwhelming to me. 

For some of our neighbors, getting a hold of an ID or a birth certificate or a social security card is a nightmare. Asking for help with food stamps could be a daunting process, especially when you don't have immediate access to a computer or phone. Not having a stable address is a huge hindrance, too. Whether they are limited by how much skill God gave them at birth or by the effort they put into it or by the effects of a rough life, some things are really hard for them to make happen. 

When I ask one of my friends for help with something handy, it's embarrassing. I have to swallow my pride and acknowledge that I just suck at this, at something that I'm supposed to be able to handle. I have to accept any jokes they might make, because they're right--I am comically incompetent at some things. But I don't care, because I'm grateful for the help. But I have (usually) kind friends and brothers, who often don't even give me grief over it. 

In other things, I get to be the one who's good at something. Finding information that's publicly accessible is pretty easy. I have a computer, and I'm good at filling out forms. I can make a phone call and navigate through the menu, ask the right questions to find out what I'm looking for. It's no big deal, really. I just gotta remember to be gracious about it and not seem bothered or judgmental about it. People have put up with my incompetence so many times, and they've been gracious about it so that afterwards I don't feel like a piece of crap, I feel cared for. I really need those moments of grace, and so does the next guy. 

You don't need to be a social worker to help someone out. You don't need to be a pastor to care for someone. You don't need to be Jesus Christ to be open and kind. But if you are open and kind, you will be like him. And that may be just what that man needs right now.


  1. Interestingly, some very highly educated people have problems filling out forms too. It's not relegated to the poor. You should see the applications MDs and PhDs try to fill out. My job had to hire someone to fill out paperwork for these people so they could just sign to get their licenses or credentials.

    1. Good point, Kalleria. I don't think any of us have our ducks in a row across the board, sometimes with surprising gaps in our competencies. And yet there's this tendency to judge someone more harshly for failing to maintain a veneer of having-it-all-together.