Friday, May 5, 2017

The least of us

Something has been bothering me for a few days, so I'm going to talk about it. 

The other night at my exercise class a lady who is not part of the class came into the building where the class is held. She was obviously having some issues.

She wasn't wearing any shoes, but more than that she just...looked unwell. She had apparently checked herself out of the hospital next door. She said she was waiting on a ride. After using the restroom she went back outside and then she sat outside talking to herself. One of the ladies in the class called the police and they said they would come check on her.

It was pretty clear to me immediately that she was mentally ill. I am no doctor and I'm not trying to diagnose anyone, but...I've seen this. Up close and personal. This lady was in the midst of something pretty awful and she was not handling it well.

When I left the building that night she was gone. I sat in my car and shed a few tears before I drove home. 

That night when I came home I went through my usual evening routine. Dinner with the family, after dinner coffee with my husband. We talked about the lady, because my children are grown up now and they've also seen mental illness up close and personal. The people I live with understand me and how I feel about this. They get it. My husband and I prayed for the lady together, but it felt like...I don't know. It didn't feel like enough, I guess. It felt hollow almost. I mean, I'm not a trained professional in the area of mental illness. I'm not a doctor, not a nurse. There is really nothing I could have personally done to help that lady and the person in my class who made sure she got help was doing the exact right thing. 


I couldn't sleep. I picked up my phone and thought I'd mindlessly waste some time on Facebook. As I started scrolling through I saw this posted as the status of someone I follow:

"Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.'"

Read that. 

Now read it again.

So many times so many of us look at what's happening in the world and we say something like, "Oh that's really sad for that person. I'll pray for them" and then we move on, go on about our business, and...nothing. We might pray, and believe me when I tell you that I am a huge believer in the power of prayer. Huge. I pray without ceasing for things big and small. Some people think that's funny or weird or whatever, and that's okay. Prayer for me is a dialogue and it's extremely important to me. I've become a bit skeptical of what many people consider religion, but Jesus? Oh I love my Jesus. I talk to my Jesus. I listen. I think. 

I pray. Oh, I pray. 

Praying is not enough, y'all. It's not.

I was put on this earth to do more than just pray, than to do more than just stand by. I was not put here to be a "Not me". Oh, that bill will affect millions of people? Well, it won't affect me so I don't care. Oh that decision will cause people who are already poor and the least of these to lose out even more? Well, I'm not poor so I'm not really going to worry about it. Oh, because of this kids won't get to go to college? Oh well, my kids are going to college so it sucks to be them. Not me. Not me. Not me.

Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.

We can't say "Not me". 

We simply cannot.

I know mental illness is a tricky issue, believe me. I know. I've been very open and honest about my own struggles with anxiety and depression, and while my issues are very different than what the lady in my story above is dealing with, they are still mental illness. There is no shame in me as I type this, it simply is a part of who I am just like my green eyes and my fabulous hair. There are other people in my life who suffer in far worse ways than I do, and I don't pretend to know what it's like for them, but I do know what it's like for their loved ones, because I am one of the loved ones who tries to navigate that slippery slope. 

I also don't know what it's like for some of the mamas in my exercise class, who send their boys out into the world every day and pray they don't get shot. I know these women, and they are good, hard-working, kind and loving women who have good, hard-working, kind and loving sons. It shouldn't have to be justified though, no one should have to worry about their child being shot in the street. I am currently able to pay for all my medications and not worry about also having food and shelter, but there were times in my life, many times, that I would have had to make a terrible choice. Not because I'm lazy or didn't work hard. I've always worked hard and I don't really think anyone who has ever met me would call me lazy. I was in a bad situation and that can literally happen to anyone. Literally anyone, no matter what color they are or if they are rich or poor or a Christian or not a Christian or any combination of literally anything. Human beings are complicated. Not everything goes according to plan, no matter how hard you try.

One of the best things I've ever realized in my life was that not everyone was like me. That seems really simple, I know, but I honest to God was probably in my thirties before I really "got" that. One day I was talking to a friend about something in my life and she looked at me and very bluntly said, "You know that's not normal, right?"

I swear to God, I didn't know. I really didn't. (Thank God for good friends who will tell you the truth, by the way)

Not everyone is like me, and that's really okay. Is it fair? Not really. Does it suck? Yes, sometimes. 

Listen, I know I am one person and can't fix all the problems in the world. I know you are one person and you can't either. I really believe though, that if we all would take a minute and start thinking about the least of us, then things could get a whole lot better. I don't care if you are a Christian or not, being a good person is not exclusive to Christianity (and, sadly, many of the people who loudly declare themselves Christians are not what I would call "good people" by any stretch of the imagination). We all need to do better, all of us. 

I honestly don't know what I could have or should have done differently for that woman. What I do know is that the next day I called a local agency for kids and asked if I could volunteer and they said yes. I cannot change the world and neither can you, but every one of us can do something. 

There have been times in my life that I have been very poor. I was a single mother. I was depressed, alone, and hurting. I look at some of the people I meet and I see myself in their eyes. They are alone, they are depressed, they are hurting. They may not show it the way I showed it, and that's okay. It doesn't mean they aren't real people who are deserving of a chance. It doesn't mean that I'm any better or worse. It doesn't mean anything except that if you are not currently depressed and hurting and in need, you should do everything in your power to show compassion and grace to those who are.

That lady who came wandering in is someone's daughter. She's probably someone's sister. Maybe someone's mother. More than all of that though, she's someone. She's a human being and she deserves every bit of dignity and respect that any of the rest of us do. Whether she is rich or poor, despite her health conditions, despite what she may or may not have done in her past. She's a person and she matters.

Please don't ever be a "Not me". 


1 comment:

Little Red Hen said...

Thank you for this!
I love and miss you so much!