"a saint is just a sinner who fell down and got up"
On my way in to Davis Square this morning, I encountered a woman asking for a dollar for a cup of coffee. I opted to be generous, and as I pulled my money out of my pocket she asked for "a dollar and a quarter" -- escalation of commitment, "foot in the door," yes I have absorbed some terminology in my years in my workplace. It turned out I didn't have any small bills on me, but since I was going to Starbucks anyway (yes, I am perpetually Errand Girl) I invited her to just come with me and I bought her what she wanted on a separate tab. She was talking to me as we walked from the Tedeschi to the Starbucks and I was engaging only minimally -- answering her questions in a kind tone, but not asking her any questions or anything. I was very conscious that I felt pressed for time and would have been slightly more generous if I had been on my way home. This is also why I wasn't like, "Hey, let me buy you a sandwich or something."
I thought about this encounter a lot throughout the day. I felt like "ideally" I should have engaged the woman in conversation and found out what her deal was and worked to provide tangible help. But on the other hand, I gave her what she asked for, and who am I to say that I was just throwing my money away in that act of generosity because I didn't feed her something more substantive or probe for what she "really" needed? I do think that Jesus calls us to reach out to people and to not just give them what they explicitly ask for, but I'm also pushing back against that idea that we're "wasting" our money by giving it to street people, that we should instead give them things we know are "good for them" like a sandwich. Part of me is really really sympathetic to that idea, and to the related ideas that our money does more good when we invest it in systems and institutions like homeless shelters and soup kitchens and places that help people find jobs and transition back into the workforce and all those good programs. But part of me pushes back at this paternalistic "we know what's best for you" which has rankled me since my time at Smith (in that instance it was the idea that the conservatives that weren't evil were just misguided/ignorant and if only they knew and understood what we knew and understood they would see the light and be on our side). At SCBC a couple of weeks ago, we were discussing how we engage or refuse to engage with the homeless people we encounter on the street, and David made the argument that sometimes people ask and you give and they just end up back in the same place and the cycle repeats and never gets better and so you stop giving, and this argument makes a lot of sense, but something about the way he said it (I'm paraphrasing the gist of it from memory) made me react really strongly with the idea that, hey, we do that to God all the time -- throwing away gifts both tangible and non, and yet God keeps on being generous to us.
I met up with Michael Z. from The Crossing at Diesel tonight for about an hour and a half. They were out of cider for the season, so I got a loose-leaf (herbal?) mint tea, which grew on me.
We talked about our various different church communities, and early on we talked about what a good place church is for making friends, and it occurred to me that the structure of church is such that it allows you to slowly get comfortable without having to engage beyond a very superficial level -- which we agreed is a feature not a bug, but it can be problematic when it stays this way, when you want to talk more deeply about how you're doing and people just want the superficial. This also connects with the idea of church being a place we go that's comfortable versus a place we go that challenges us (admittedly, both are good and important to some extent). I thought of Rev.S's "this is not the place we pretend to be well" and some stuff a friend had said recently about CWM.
We talked about a bunch of other stuff, too, but I should really head to bed.