Another Sword

I’m too far from town to walk to shopping now, but panhandlers occupying busy corners all over town remind me of a few summers back and

Sword from July 24, 2016

underpass 1

On part of my walk to the local strip mall I go beneath an on-ramp underpass rather than cross the busy highway above it. Somebody lives there – possibly a few people. I always look carefully, but never saw anyone. Still, each time I approach I pray; for safety, strength, wisdom but mostly for insight.

I step cautiously along that rocky, eerie path littered with bedding, clothes and rubbish; mostly empty alcoholic beverage bottles, cans and fast food refuse. I once crossed to the other side but it is dangerously narrow along the blind curve. So – no.

For most of my life I’ve carried a small Swiss Army knife, complete with handy tools – way before anyone heard of L.J. Gibbs or NCIS. I taught my sons to practice the same. Days after describing one of my mostly lovely walks to son Quinn, I found a package at my door – a note insisted I carry the content on my walks.

flipknife

My son didn’t send a tool – it’s a conspicuous, lightweight, gruesome-looking weapon, with a lever to quickly release the serrated blade. I grew up with overprotective brothers and I’ve been through police training. Even with my training I felt uncomfortable about the ominous looking thing – not about carrying it, but having to use it in self-defense.

A few days later as I approached the underpass I realized I typically palm my little knife inside my pocket as I approach. Feeling the new bulge on my belt I distinctly heard from somewhere deep inside,

“…Those who live by the sword will die by the sword.*.”

I kept walking, but thought about the scenario Jesus addressed in that passage. He reminded his apostles His Father was in control and the coming events would actually fulfill prophesies in the coming hours.

underpass 3My walks are hardly prophetic, but I understood the meaning. Shoulders squared, back straight, my empty hands casually at my sides, I began whistling, announcing my presence to whoever might have been hiding in the shadows. The smells were oppressive, the noise from traffic overhead deafening, so I was glad to return to the sunlight uneventfully.

Delighted to find some of my favorite produce and nuts on sale, I filled my canvas bag. But I kept thinking about the people sleeping on the rocks of the underpass.

By the time I finished shopping and set across the asphalt lot toward home heat already rose in waves.

Gazing up the path before me I ran the rules I’d learned over the years through my mind; maintain a safe distance, know where the shelters, soup kitchens and food pantries are in my area and never give strangers, panhandlers, money – “it ultimately prolongs their problems.”

But I also remember being homeless. Stuck by circumstances, I didn’t trade or abuse substances. Still, I doubt I’ll ever forget being sick with worry about my kids, the judgmental looks of people as I sought employment, the desperation, the longing for someone to give a care. More so, there was the reality that I too could be a paycheck away from homelessness again.

Feeling the weight of the bag on my back, perspiration beginning to form, I stopped beneath a shade tree in the middle of the parking lot. I put apples, carrots and some nuts into a separate produce bag and knotted it so it was airtight. Gazing ahead, once more I asked God to go before me and then started walking.

Approaching the underpass, I called out (in the most rugged voice I could muster), “I’m just passing through. I don’t want anything and mean no harm.” As I stepped around the dirty bedding I set the bag of fresh food on it without stopping.

Cars whizzed by yards away, oblivious to my presence as I stepped back into the sunlight.

Sleeping Butte

When I arrived home I was glad Ellie was there visiting with Erin. As I put the groceries away I described the scenario leading up to the first crossing beneath the underpass. Then I asked for feedback. Ellie thought for a while and then said, “This may sound cliche, but I would ask what Jesus would do.”

She confirmed what I felt. Peace returned and I went on about my work.

The state of our society continues to disturb me, but my primary purpose is to pray, pay attention and obey the Master.

I’m not entirely ludicrous. I asked God about a stun gun. No answer yet. So, I carry the knife. But once in a while I tie up a separate bag of fresh food, take the short-cut beneath the underpass. As I walk along the highway side I place the bag on the wall and announce, “I’m just walking here. I mean no harm…”

 

“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’” Matthew 25:40 (NLT)

 

*Matthew 26:52 (NKJV)

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21 Comments

Filed under Notes from the Apex

21 responses to “Another Sword

  1. What a beautiful thing to share. I was worried when I saw the photo of the knife, but so relieved that you turned the experience completely around and made it not about fear and danger but about kindness and compassion. Wariness is smart, but compassion can change the world. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That’s a very difficult one. When I am in frightening circumstances, I give up and trust God to do his will–life or death, his choice. But, when it’s my kids, I insist they arm themselves!

    I like your solution and hope it keeps working.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Your life has many dimensions! That’s amazing that you served people you never saw.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The government has $12 million dollars to spend on a parade for a draft Dodger. Millions for a ridiculous space force that we don’t need yet no money for homeless Veterans and no money for developmentally disabled people. Workers in McDonald’s make more money than the staff who care for my brother. You know what that means. Americans are apathetic, deaf, dumb and blind to those who need government assistance. Shame on America. God’s judgment is on the way.

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    • Many of these people are getting government assistance. Government assistance requires nothing; what they need is people help – people who care enough to give hands-on help. When I worked breakfast in a food kitchen, there were always noticeable fewer there just after the social security checks came in. Within a week they were all back in the food line. Some might not have been homeless; maybe they spend the check on rent then used the breakfast line as an assist. Don’t know. But I do know many, probably most, got government checks. What would Jesus do? He would touch the people. I don’t think he sent them to Herod. You came as close to “touching” the people as you could. Someone knew an actual human being cared for him/her.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Yes. They need more than just a check. People in this situation need social services and many need mental health care. Even though they live in the shelters they need a wide range of services. Perhaps caseworkers or social workers but begging is so common place in the streets and on the subways that mostly people who fall between the cracks stay there never to rise again.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Oneta dear, I can hardly wait to finish the post about what I learned talking to the local law enforcement officers, the shelters and food pantries in that town about the situation. Bottom line: free will can be like two-edged sword.

        Liked by 1 person

        • In former times families had to be responsible for their family members. At least that was what “polite society” required. This is one of the reasons I regret the loss of an extended family unite in our age of transient workers. Also in the past (before taxation for such) churches fulfilled the command to “feed the widows and orphans” with more seriousness. I admit to thinking “well, I pay my taxes, which is my duty.” Looking out for the poor should be so much more than duty. Another thing some homeless are homeless because they don’t want to obey the rules required for community living. It is indeed largely a moral problem by givers and receivers as well. I look forward to more of your discussion of this subject, Roo. Thanks, dancingpalmtrees for your input also.

          Liked by 1 person

          • I appreciate you both, Deborah and Oneta. Politics mostly serve to divide, and often the clergy stumbles just like any other human. I believe our best hope to resolving our problems begins with such civil conversation.

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      • I’ve also been caught up in the mental health system. I spent two weeks in the psychiatric hospital back in March 2015. A fate worse than death. I saw firsthand why the system doesn’t work. Being hospitalized was a preview of hades with the doctors and so called therapists demons sent to drug patients into either psychosis or turn us into zombies. I count myself lucky to be alive and able to function in society.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. 💜 thanks for sharing that 💜

    Liked by 1 person

  6. New York city is filled with homeless people. Many of those homeless are Veterans. My neighborhood including the subway system is filled with homeless people, beggars and panhandlers. The city is divided into the very rich and the very poor. Even though I have worked for over 40years I know what it is to be evicted. As a Veteran I know that I’m not gonna get any help from the government even though I retired early due to disability. Eventually I might wind up in the shelter system. Being a Christian and believing in God doesn’t protect you from becoming homeless or being disabled.
    New York city now looks like something out of a Charles Dickens novel and things are getting worse day by day. My neighborhood is undergoing gentrification which means people like me are being pushed out. Eventually you’ll no longer here from me. I will be just another nameless faceless statistic. Another down on her luck Veteran.

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    • I’ve been homeless in my life too, Deborah and by the grace of God have a tiny home. Our little town has its fair share of problems, but as far as I know this community takes care of it’s veterans, better than any I’ve seen anywhere in the country. You are all the more in my prayers, my friend.

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      • Thanks. I know that panhandlers and beggars can be annoying but I always remind myself that there for the grace of God go I. Many have mental illnesses and or no family. Thanks again for your prayers.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Basically where I live Brownsville Brooklyn is a working class and poor neighborhood. There are two homeless shelters down the block, a halfway house across the street and of course public housing aka the projects. Most people who live in public housing do work. They have jobs it’s just that those jobs don’t pay much.
        To see luxury housing going up with apartments renting for over $2K per month is disgraceful. The poor, working class and those on fixed incomes need clean safe reasonable priced housing too. Being poor or underemployed is not a character fault but an economic one.

        Like

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