Saturday, September 24, 2011
At the age of 5, I understood the meaning of poor. I understood that just getting a good meal on the table was sometimes the best my parents could provide and focused first to provide for me and my siblings. Somehow, I understood that my parents were beginning a new life in a country they felt was blessed with promise. Somewhat spellbound by their hopefulness, I was under the impression that those already living here had literally everything they needed and wanted.
One of my first memories of kindergarten was the moment I felt a real sadness that this was probably not true. Not really comfortable around other kids, I wanted to pick a secluded spot to eat my lunch when I noticed a boy by himself with no food at all. I’m not sure about any hesitation to change my plans of being alone but it was a strange sense of compassion that pushed me over to him. I asked if he brought any lunch. He shook his head no. I looked inside my lunch bag and offered to share half of what I brought. Once he accepted, I sat next to him, and we ate together quietly…
I said the only thing I could come up with.
“Can I touch your hair?”
I think I’ve learned the art of conversation since then, but I learned some 25 years ago about true compassion. That being blessed means assuring blessings on others. Now in Memphis working in the downtown core where I see so many of those needing help, I see that their need is beyond a few dollars for a sandwich or a night in the shelter but also the value of my time and honest concern for their well-being.
When I met Andre, he asked if I could spare 50 cents for bus fare. I told him I would have some change after I picked up my lunch, and I would look for him then. Assuming he probably hadn’t had lunch, I made sure to order a large sandwich I couldn’t finish by myself. I headed back to Court Square to nestle on a bench to keep my eye out for him. Once I saw him, I pulled out my change and showed the half of the sandwich that was his if he wanted it. He genuinely was satisfied with just the bus fare but gave himself time to identify my sincerity. Just like the first unintentional lunch date I had in kindergarten, I offered my company while he ate his lunch but, instead of quiet stares, we talked. About how he had been to Cambodia during in his years in the army. About how he loved to cook. About how he really could use the internet to find the photo I took of him whenever his sister would let him.
I have always felt a calling to do mission work, imagining a return to Cambodia to help, but recently, through the leaders of my church Fellowship Downtown, I understand that I’ve been positioned every day at work purposefully, where a mission trip is a only few steps out the door.
I recently did graphic layouts for Fellowship’s new outreach program called Downtown Neighbors partnering with the existing impact of the Memphis Union Mission and Habitat for Hope. It was such a reminder to me that I needed to do even more than just sharing a meal. Prayer is powerful.
This Sunday at 9:30am, Fellowship Downtown under the Downtown Neighbors banner is hosting a prayer walk to pray for the transient community, the city leaders, and the kids and families in the hospitals. Read more about it here. Fellowship’s Ricky Jenkins is definitely more articulate than I am.
Film photo by Sophorn. I was still trying to figure out the Nikon F camera settings.