Getting into work usually entails riding a 79 bus and then hoping on one of inter-office shuttles to the Beacon Hill office. This morning, for the first time that I can remember, someone was waiting out front of the shuttles asking for money. She was probably in her late teens. She had short bleached hair, but it had looked like the streets had tarnished her youthfulness. Her request was small, “do you have a quarter?” Most everyone loading onto the shuttles walked past her. As I carry socks in my backpack, I asked her if she needed any. She said no, and that she wanted to her money. At this, I kind of shrugged my shoulders, gave her an “ok, well…” look, said good bye, and proceeded on the shuttle. A friend said, “she didn’t take your socks? She can’t by crack cocaine with socks…”
I was disappointed how I handled the whole situation. Sure, it’s good that I didn’t blow by her, but I can’t say I loved her. I know my response wasn’t how Jesus would have responded. I was even just reading the story of Jesus healing at the pool in Jerusalem in John 5. I love this story. Jesus intentionally goes to the area where the blind, lame, and paralyzed are hanging out on his way into the city. The city surely had other entrances. He didn’t have to choose this one if he wanted to avoid the sickness and filth that were surely present. A man who has been invalid for 38 years catches Jesus’ attention. He learns from some other fountain-camp local that the man has been suffering a long time. As a result, Jesus asks the question: “do you want to get well?” This is such a dignifying and practical question to ask. We’ve all heard that someone can only be helped if they want to be helped. Jesus makes sure this baseline is met. But it also shows his focus on actually getting the man well. It’s not a conscious appeasing question. It’s not a question that keeps the man in the same rut he’s been in for the last 38 years. Do you want to get well? Practical, loving, helpful.
So I wonder what would have happened if I had asked this woman if she wanted to be made well. She may have laughed at me for supposing that she needed to made well to begin with or that I could even do anything to help. Maybe she would have given an honest no. Maybe she would have said yes. At that point, we would have had to figure out what that looked like. It would have challenged me as I’ve never made someone well. It would have been a challenge worth taking on though. The same Spirit that lived within Christ, lives within me, and according to John the Baptist, “God gives the Spirit without limit” (John 3:34). Today that same Spirit didn’t seem alive in my encounter, but I’m sure I’ll get another shot. I hope that the Bible studying, praying, and reflecting actually make an impact, that I will actually do better.