She came into the church on a Monday afternoon. I was immersed in my work, and at the same time knew I should go home for some lunch. “There’s a lady here who needs to talk to someone,” our church secretary told me. “She’s crying.”
So I interrupted my work and went to see what was up. The woman was in her sixties, looked a bit disheveled, smelled like she badly needed a bath, and was indeed crying. I asked what was going on.
A litany of needs poured forth. Money, housing, people who would listen to her, help of any sort—she needed all of these. In the midst of reciting her woes, she mentioned that she had tried to kill herself the month before.
I tried to get a handle on where the problems began, and which local agencies she had already contacted. Something reminded me that the suicide attempt was significant. “Are you still feeling suicidal?” “Oh, absolutely,” she replied.
It was clear that she needed more than the usual food voucher, gas card, or quick referral. With her okay, I verified that the local residential crisis management center, the Hope House, would see her. And the quickest way to help her get help was to drive her there in my car.
At the Hope House, she began the process of registration. With each requisite step, each form to be completed or intake question to be answered, there was a wait. We filled the waits with conversation. I asked her about the happy days of her childhood, and told her stories of my naughty but cute cat. A nurse came to take her vital signs. Her blood pressure was very high. She told the nurse the details of her suicide attempt—she had taken several weeks’ worth of medications all at once. It didn’t work, just made her sick as a dog, and now she was out of blood pressure pills. The nurse asked us to wait a little longer while she consulted with another nurse. They might not be able to admit her; she might need to go to the hospital emergency room.
I made more conversation, changing the subject each time she began to fret her many concerns. By now it was the middle of the afternoon and I was hungry. It was the third week of Advent, I had important things to do, and there I sat, debating whether I should encourage her to take off her coat or let the body odor stay within the multiple layers of clothing. I wondered, “How do I get myself into these situations?”
And then I remembered the poem I had read in worship on Sunday. It concluded a sermon exhorting us all to live with hope and share that hope with others. The poem was written by Steve Garnaas-Holmes, a reflection on Matthew 11:11, slightly abridged from the original. (see http://unfoldinglight.net/?paged=3, 12/06/16)
When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?”
Someone you may not have noticed is waiting,
longing for healing, for justice, for hope.
You only mean to be passing by,
but they see you.
And even if they don’t know they are asking,
they are asking.
“Are you the one?”
Not necessarily the Messiah,
but perhaps one to bring hope,
to be a light in the darkness.
There may be someone in some kind of prison
looking for some kind of encouragement,
someone longing for healing or appreciation or forgiveness.
Will you be the one, or should they wait for another?
Will you be the one to shine light in their darkness,
or are they to wait for another?
Sit still in the grace of God.
Let the light that is dawning for the world
dawn in you.
Let that light grow and radiate.
Bear it with you through the day.
You will meet someone who seeks grace,
who longs for a sign of hope.
And for them
you will be the one.
There we sat, waiting together, at the Hope House. I got it.
When I finally made it home for lunch, my husband offered sympathy. “I heard you were out being a social worker. You must be starved!”
I smiled. “There’s no need to feel sorry for me. I got to be the one today.”