Two weeks ago, I confessed I’ve not been obedient in helping the poor (see blog: Why I Ignore the Homeless) and I knew that needed to change. This week I learned the cost of change and how God has been preparing me for three years to come to a place of obedience to those in need.
I was listening to a sermon this week where Pete Briscoe was illustrating in the first person what it was like to be a leper in Jesus’ time. He described what it was like to have to say good bye to his wife and small daughter. What it was like to watch his skin rot off, to have a constant stench and how it felt not being able to hug or be hugged.
That’s when I lost it.
When we met Polo, the orphan we started mentoring three years ago, one of the things the state told us about him was he could only give “side hugs.” To protect the children and the people who work with them, the state appropriately regulates physical contact. The thought of a 12-year-old child who was removed from his home as a preschooler being only allowed to give and receive basically an arm around his shoulder (from the employees mandated to care for him), broke me.
What do side hugs and lepers have to do with me helping the homeless? I have wondered for three years why Polo came into our lives. We cried, lamented and prayed for three months before committing to the lifetime involvement the state asked of us. Then six weeks after we met him someone wanted to adopt him. Although we saw Polo at least once a week for the eighteen months leading up to his adoption (and still do), I always wondered why. What was the point? Why us? Why Polo?
When Pete talked about the leper not being hugged for five years I suddenly realized, “why Polo.” Before Polo, I thought about the homeless differently (when I took the time to think of them at all). I thought people living on the streets should find a job, live with a family member or they should quit using. I didn’t say that out loud or think it on a conscious level, but that industrious Japanese-American in me thought poor people should help themselves, know better or try harder. Before Polo, I didn’t have what I needed to help the poor.
I didn’t have compassion.
Before Polo I never had to look in the eyes of someone who didn’t ask to be born but whose mother abused them. I’d never had a meal with someone who was taught to hoard because they never knew when they would eat again. Before Polo, I didn’t know (or want to know) many children are never given the basic things every child should have. Yet those children grow up and are expected by people like me to “know better.”
Why did I have to help Polo? I didn’t.
Polo had to help me.