How lonely sits the city
that was full of people!
How like a widow has she become,
she who was great among the nations!
She who was a princess among the provinces
has become a slave.
She weeps bitterly in the night,
with tears on her cheeks;
among all her lovers
she has none to comfort her;
all her friends have dealt treacherously with her;
they have become her enemies.
There’s a homeless woman that I’ve talked about in a few of my posts that I have gotten to know pretty well since I’ve been here at Coral Ridge. I haven’t had the chance to really talk to her in the past week or so because I’ve been so busy with everything, but I had the time today. And although I didn’t accomplish anything productive at work in terms of working on the proposal I’m doing or whatever else might have been on my plate today, I think that today was perhaps the most powerful day I’ve had the entire time I’ve been here.
I saw her sitting in the Outreach office so I went and sat with her and we just talked more about her life. For the life of me I haven’t come up with some kind of a plan to help get her on her feet. Everything just seems so insurmountable. How does one get from the point of sleeping on the streets to having enough of an income to be able to get into a house? And what the heck will happen to the 62 year old woman living on the streets who is never able to get into a home? What kind of an existence is that? And what do I do to make that happen?
I don’t have a solution for her, but I am terrified for the alternative. This sweet old woman only has so much fight in her, and I can see that fight fading from her even in the short time I’ve known her. And the thing is, I can’t just pretend that she’s not there. I can’t go to sleep in my bed anymore without knowing that she’s out there on the rainy summer streets of Ft. Lauderdale trying to find a place to rest her head for a few hours. I don’t know if there’s something wrong with me that I can’t seem to move past any of this, but I have the greatest suspicion that this is what we all should be feeling. I just can’t think that it’s okay that so many just seem to walk by her each day without really engaging with her.
But maybe I’m just the young idealist who doesn’t really have a grasp on the way the world works. On the other hand, I don’t want to be anything else than I already am because I’m in a place where I can’t bear to see things stay the way they are—not in her life, not in any life.
I was faced today with the horrifying realization, unlike any other time I’ve talked with her, that maybe there won’t be any solution found for her situation. Every other time we’ve talked I was almost annoyingly optimistic about the situation because I believe that God can do the impossible. I know that He can do whatever He pleases. He can turn anyone from a slave to a king in the span of a day. And it’s with that in mind that I saw her situation. Nothing and no one is too far gone for God to fix.
And yet, after walking with her the last two and a half months, I can’t shake the feeling after today that maybe she won’t be able to get on her feet. Maybe she will die on those harsh and unwelcoming streets all by herself—and when? In a month? A year? 5 years when she’s so beaten down with years of sleeping on pavement for a few hours a night?
And what can I do to stop that? She can’t come live with me in California—I don’t have the money to support even myself living alone at the moment. I have more desire to help than I know how to contain, and yet I don’t feel like I really have any options.
After we talked for a while in the office, we walked across the street to get lunch at the Olive Garden right across the way. We had a very angry waitress and ate fairly mediocre fettuccine alfredo, soup, and salad. But we talked for two hours while we were there. She asked me all these questions about my life, since it seems like I’ve only ever been asking her questions. I told her about my absurdly loving mother who seems to make friends everywhere she goes, the school I go to, my romantic hopes (she loved talking about romance, and she had some pretty insightful advice), where I grew up, what I hope for in the future.
I loved hearing all the things she had to say, and I was smiling the whole time.
In the end, I don’t have a clue what to do. I want to just be able to fix everything as I’ve said a million times before. But I have to believe that, no matter what happens, the opportunity I have been given to love this woman and show her that I truly love her just as she is must be worth it. And yet, even that seems to totally fall short. So what if I got to love her—if she dies on the street, it will all seem horribly insignificant.
And that’s the one thing I don’t know what to do with. What will there be left if, at the end of everything, I can’t really do anything to make her situation change? I know that’s not the attitude I ought to have. But, quite frankly, I’m sick of the patronizing platitudes of the church that don’t really seem to engage the true suffering we are faced with, whether it is our own suffering or the suffering of others. I’m glad I’m in a place where I don’t believe just loving her is enough. I’m glad that I’m in a place where I won’t ever believe that there isn’t more we could be doing. And my hope is that this anger and brokenness I feel will provide the kind of indignation that will lead me to truly sacrifice on behalf of other people.
I don’t know how this relationship is going to affect my life, but I know that if this were the only thing I had to confront as an intern here it would still have been the most powerful learning experience I’ve ever had. This woman has changed my life, and I don’t know where this leads next. My only prayer is that God starts to make sense out of all my confusion. I need Him to. I’m lost without Him.