Today something very sad happened. My neighbor, we can call her Anne, was evicted. Anne was at work and received a phone call to come home to her townhouse right away. When she arrived, her belongings had been strewn across the lawn and people were rummaging around through them. Her television was stolen, to name one. Girls were spotted down the street wearing Anne’s clothes which had been basically dumped over the balcony.
I was about to take Liam and Laura out for dinner and I saw this pathetic sight–Anne kneeling on all fours looking discouraged and thoroughly exhausted from crying. Her friend Tamara was there. They were trying desperately to bag some clothes and important things up off the ground. How embarrassing it was for them to see thongs and bras halfway out to the sidewalk.
I parked the car and my whole family jumped into confused action. I sent Laura to get Glad bags and Liam helped me pick up some clothes off the ground. We spent an hour or so with Anne and Tamara. I used bungee cords to stabilize a mattress and a boxspring to the roof of my van. I drove their stuff to Tamara’s apartment.
Anne and Tamara are both black and seemed a little surprised that a white guy with a beard and longish hair came over to help. First they thought I was there to pick through their stuff and maybe steal it. They were hugging me and thanking me by the end.
Drenched in sweat, I said my goodbyes. Then I said to Anne, “My dad had a big heart. When I saw you there on your knees it made me think about my dad. He would have stopped and rushed to help. I guess I am the same way. We have to help each other and believe in each other during these tough times you know? My dad gave me that van in his will. He died a couple years back. I am glad that in some small way it’s like he was there helping.”
I called my mom and shared this story with her. She quipped, “did you tell the ladies he was a pastor?” Well, no. I had forgotten to. Or had I? Did it matter? I didn’t tell Anne I was an author. I didn’t tell Tamara that I sleep naked, or that I like purple Listerine. I don’t even know what Anne does, except she has a job. And two daughters who nearly saw the whole tragic scene in the lawn–from their school bus. They would have a hard time living that down, for sure. They might have been traumatized. Their sense of security would have crumbled as they saw their Disney-themed underpants lying on the ground next to their dirty stuffed animals. How sad that would have been!
So no, I didn’t tell them my dad was a pastor. My mom, bless her heart, loves my dad’s memory but she misses the point on this occasion, I think. My dad would have stopped his car and helped in his twenties and thirties. He wasn’t a pastor then. He might have done it for them out of a love for God but he believed that a person only loves God as much as he loves people…if that makes sense. It did for him. He had a huge heart full of love for people who deserved compassion and even some that didn’t.
If I drove back to Tamara’s apartment tonight and knocked on her door, I could imagine the scene. “I forgot to tell you, my dad was a pastor.” Who cares? If anything, that might make her wonder, “if he’s a pastor I guess that is his job to do that.” It means more to receive a kindness from an average joe, sometimes. I was just a joe in a beater van tonight. I stopped and helped with no thought of being compensated. Crazy thing–a friend of Tamara followed me to the van and slipped me FIFTY DOLLARS, which is a lot of money to me right now. I tried like hell to refuse, honest I did. She said, “you are a good person. I have a lot of money, please take it and live your life.” I plan to! I can get some healthy food instead of another 65 cent can of store brand Chef Boyardee knock offs. Times are tight on everyone it seems and my finances are in the toilet. Fifty bucks really puts a smile on my face and overall, it was a great night.
Anne faces a world of challenges now she has been kicked out of her home. When she was on all fours, I couldn’t help but notice that from between her breasts slipped an enormous cross on a silver chain. Her faith in Jesus may or may not be well placed but nobody in town stopped to help her–only rob her. The only one who showed up to help was me, the hard core atheist, my five year old son who worships Lego Batman, and my wife who hasn’t gone to church since I can’t remember. Dozens of Christians (based on the number of bumper stickers I saw) live in that building and throughout the day did NOTHING. I don’t mean to put myself on a pedestal but I am just a nice guy with a van. If we all open our eyes maybe we will think twice before speeding past people like Anne having a meltdown in a pile of bras and panties and broken furniture. People like Anne deserve dignity and our compassion. Anne is a human being, a mother and a hard worker. She fell behind, and she paid dearly. As a good humanist, it is my charge to love and take care of her. I hope she gets a good man in her life, maybe the father of her children (or someone else) to help her because it is hard out there. In any case, I cannot imagine the evening going much different if I had mentioned that my father was a pastor. I don’t revere his legacy as a pastor–but I revere his memory as being a great man. He stopped his car to help turtles cross the street. He drew pictures for kids in hospitals. He was a great guy and by using his van, I really did feel like he was there kind of doing his thing along side me and my son. I loved my dad and he loved me but no–his job had little bearing on how he would have responded to the scene I witnessed. *the picture above is not an actual picture from the scene and I use it with no intention of copyright infringement on someone else’s photograph. It merely reminded me of what I saw most accurately. Thanks.*