Everyday I am reminded about how much I do not know and do not understand. I am privileged to have a wide variety of friends, and thanks to the wonders of the internet, I am lucky enough to keep up with most of them. I have friends in Africa, I have friends in the “909”, I have friends who live on the street in San Francisco, and I have friends who live in million dollar homes in Rocklin, and it seems like every day I talk to one of them and realize how little I understand about life. The people in my life that I consider friends come from all walks of life, and everyday i struggle to relate to any one of them.
I had a two minute phone conversation more than a month ago that has come to haunt me. I have thought about it everyday since. Over the summer I lived and worked with the poor and homeless in San Francisco, and one of the friendships I made was with a family that lives out of a bus. I gave them loaves of bread, and then insisted on given me stolen ties. A friendship was born. This past month I went back to try and visit them, and when I could not find them at their usual spot, I tried calling the phone number they had given me. To my surprise, someone picked up the phone with a questioning “hello?”. Once I had explained to Dina (the mother of the family) who I was, she asked how I had been, and then asked me “do you have any food?” In my pea-sized brain that question was translated as “Luke, do you need any food because I understand that you’re a struggling college student?” I responded by laughing a little and telling her that I was fine. Not understanding my response, she then asked, with noticeable strain in her voice “no, do you have any food?”
She was asking me if i had any food for her and her four kids. Once I realized what she was truly asking, my heart sank. I don’t think I’ve ever felt more ashamed by my own ignorance than I did in that moment. I had been away from the city for less than 3 months, and my brain had already begun to forget the daily struggle my friends went through to find simple things like food. I was so unaware that I had interpreted her question as a question about my own well being. I hate myself for that. I hate the fact that it took less than 3 months to forget the struggles of people that I consider friends. That it took less than 3 months for the pebble sized problems of mine to overshadow the mountain sized problems that my friends faced.
I’ve spent multiple nights this past month sitting somewhere quietly with a close friend of two, mulling over my increasing dire financial situation, my increasingly frustrating academic situation, and any other item off the laundry list of problems that cause me stress. As much as those things may weigh me down on any given day, I am increasingly reminded of how lucky I am.
In this past week I’ve had multiple conversations with people about problems that greatly overshadow my own. high school girls dealing with an abortions, friends locked up overseas, losing a brother and friend to cancer.
I don’t know what to say, except that I am sorry. I think in His day, people loved Jesus because He met them where they were at. He hung out with the poor and the losers, the people that everyone else hated, and simply met them where they were at. I am sorry, that as a follower of Jesus, I do not meet people where they are at. I am sorry that as a church, we do not meet people where they are at. we expect people to meet us in our buildings, at our time, and under our circumstances.
I’ve become so used to my own tiny (but magnified) problems that when I am approached by a friend who needs food for her kids, not only do i fail to meet her where she’s at, I cannot even see where she’s at….
and for that, I am sorry.
As a human being, I want to adjust my perspective. I want to meet people where they are at, because I’m really bad at seeing past my own problems. I want to adjust my perspective to the point where my problems seem as minuscule as they really are and big problems are at my eye level. someone wise once said that poverty, from the perspective of someone begging for food is much different than the perspective of someone giving away free food.
In every aspect of my life, as an individual and as part of church community, I hope that I can quit giving away free food and start feeling the rumble in my stomach. Maybe then I can meet you where you’re at.
“Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation, and this means we must develop a world perspective”
-Martin Luther King Jr.
“The mind has exactly the same power as the hands; not merely to grasp the world, but to change it”