Friday, September 6, 2013

If you see something, say something

As we walked into Kroger last week, my husband grabbed a grocery cart as I pulled out my list.  We just needed a few items for a meal for some last minute guests -- a couple of tomatoes, another package of hamburger buns, an extra can of baked beans, and a bag of chips.

When I looked up, there was a woman placing a bag of lettuce into her cart in the produce aisle.  As she turned, I saw a large black mark on her neck.  A red flag waved in my thoughts.  Has someone hurt this woman?  I wondered.  By then, she had moved into a different section of the store.

Just a few minutes later, our cart inadvertently collided with hers in the bread aisle.  "Oh, I'm sorry," Bill said. "No, no, no, it was MY fault," the woman said. "I am to blame. It was MY fault.  I am to blame," she repeated.  It was a bit of an overreaction to a very slight incident.  And at that point, I also noticed that she was wearing sunglasses inside the store.

As the carts were untangled and we moved on, I kept thinking, "dark glasses, a large bruise, my fault, my fault, my fault."  These elements fit together into a picture of some type of abuse.

And I had no idea what to say.

Everyone of us is surrounded by a great variety of suffering that others face.  It doesn't have to be abuse, but even the overbearing weight of loneliness or depression, overwhelming family conflicts or the desperation of unemployment.  As a friend of mine told me, "If you have the eyes of God, you will run into people with need."

What could I say that would be helpful?  What could I do that would show I care?  I do not think quickly on my feet.  But I want to know how to respond, so I asked several professionals.

*One counselor told me to make a personal connection with the person, giving them the opportunity to respond without being threatened.  "Phew, it's such a hot day.  Hope you are doing OK."  Any kind of personal attention provides the opportunity to open up conversation.  "Even if they don't respond, they won't forget it" the counselor said.  "It plants a seed that there are people who care and can help."

*Carry cards from local ministries who help people in need.  Offer to place a call.

*One friend also carries a little bit of cash, not for a hand out, but to transport the person in need to those who can help.  In one instance, she said to a homeless woman who was being harassed on the street, "I would like to pay for a cab for you to go to a safe place," she told the woman. "May I do that?"  She had the addresses of several help ministries.  And the desperate woman took her up on it.

*I once knew a woman who kept her minivan stocked with bags of snacks to provide a ready response to someone who just might need something to eat.

*Even a kind word in the midst of desperation may plant hope in a person's heart.  "You may be the only one to intercept," a physician told me.  Ask them, "Are you OK?  Is there anything I can do for you?"  Call the police if they are in imminent danger.

When our girls were younger, we used to "play-act" difficult situations with them, so that when a situation would arise, they would know exactly what to do and say.  I think that we need to do the same, knowing, preparing, thinking through what to do when God places on our path the opportunity to help someone.

If you see something, know what to say.  It may make all the difference in someone's life.  I think of those young girls in Cleveland who were locked away for a decade.  How many opportunities were missed to intervene and help them?

In God's eyes, there are no strangers.  Love God.  Love others.  There is no seam in-between.

"Which of these three, do you think,
proved neighbor to the man
who fell among the robbers?"
He said, "The one who showed mercy on him."
And Jesus said to him,
         "Go and do likewise."

                   Luke 10. 36-37

I'd love to hear how you have responded in situations.  It would be a great help to all of us.  Please click "comments."

No comments: