Friday, December 28, 2007

Not Helping

I help people.
I am a natural assistant: If you are stuck, ask me. If you need encouragement, come to me. If you want advice, my door is open. Oh I know that this is all about my needs – that altruism fills a space inside of me, and that the smile on the face of another is good for my own fragile self-worth. So I help people.

But I am unable to help Joe.
Joe lives on the street. He has spent some time in his life in the navy; and some time as a shaft sinker on a mine. But now he chooses to live on the street outside of my church. I have tried to help him. I found a place for him to stay off the streets. My colleague Lynn found a job for him. Which lasted for most of 2006: until just before Christmas...when the alcoholic lure of the festivities was too much for him. And he lost his job and his accommodation. I had hoped that he could make a new start in 2007. And again found him a place to stay. And employed him for various jobs around the church. When he is contrite and sober he works with great care and skill. And is gentle and kind. He had a wonderful work opportunity at the beginning of December, and on the basis of his work was offered further work in January. But Christmas fever has again seized his blood.

And here is where my helping nature tried to step in.
I knew that he was carrying a large amount of money around with him – money that would turn to liquid down his throat. So I offered to keep it for him. All of R500. And he gladly asked me to lock it in my safe. Then the day before Christmas he arrived, inebriated, and demanded his money. I tried to temporise. And eventually gave him R50.

But today I admitted my failure. Joe arrived on my doorstep and demanded all of his money. “If you do not give it to me I will go to the police” he stormed angrily. And even though I knew he would go directly from my house to the bottle store, and even though I know that he will be hungry and out of pocket by the weekend, I gave him his money. After all – it is his money.

But my need to be a helper is left deeply disturbed. I am unable to prevent Joe from being a drunk. I cannot exercise life-choices for him. And I cannot prevent the consequences of his actions....even when I can see that they are destructive. And in this I understand something of how God must feel about humanity’s freedom to choose. We are free to choose our actions – and trapped by their consequences. The good news of our faith is that God does not abandon us to “face the music” alone. God chooses to accompany us as we cope with the consequences of our actions. And God helps us to learn and grow from our experiences of life.

And so I will not give up on Joe. When he returns in the New Year and asks for work – I will help him.....again!

1 comment:

digitaldion (Dion Forster) said...

Heck Pete, that is a tough one! I sense the great struggle that lies behind this post!

I have wondered from time to time whether there us a 'correct' response in such a situation? Sometimes, I guess, rightness is not possible - what is required is the courage to respond, even when there are no 'correct' choices. That is what proves your pastoral heart! Anyone can respond to a 'correct' option!

As always, you inspire, challenge, and encourage me!

Love from Durban,