Karen suffered unthinkable tragedy in 2014 when her 12 year old son was murdered at a nearby park.
The news circulated on a national level and Karen fell into deep depression. She soon became homeless and showed up at Midtown Commons. As we got to know her more, we recognized her affliction and heartache. Some of our café regulars reached out to help her survive on the streets and Karen soon lived the harsh realities of homelessness.
Last September I noticed Karen sitting on a parking block in our parking lot. I hadn’t seen her in months. I sat down next her. Her affliction was palpable.
“My son’s memorial is coming up.” Karen started. “Next week will be one year since his death.”
I didn’t know what to say, what to offer by way of condolence. I simply put my hand on her shoulder and gave a sympathetic look.
“I don’t have anyone to go to the memorial with me.” She continued. “My boyfriend is in jail. My parents won’t have anything to do with me. I’m alone.”
At this point, tears welled up in Karen’s eyes. She vocalized her anger and sadness in a way she hadn’t done before. She wanted justice. She wanted the murderer to pay for his crimes.
Tears were now gently streaming down Karen’s cheeks.
She was alone.
Then Lisa rode by on her bicycle. She glanced over and recognized Karen. Lisa hopped off her bike and sat next to Karen on the parking block.
“What’s the matter, honey?” She asked.
Lisa is older than Karen, maybe by 20 years. She has been homeless before but recently found stable housing. She has a wise, gentle spirit and is a great listener. She leaned in close to hear Karen’s story.
“It ain’t right what’s been done to you.” She told Karen. “That killer is going to face God one day.”
Karen told Lisa about the upcoming memorial service. “I don’t want to go alone,” she told her.
Lisa put her arm around Karen’s shoulder and said, “Well, I’ll go with you, dear.”
“You will?” Karen asked in disbelief.
“Sure!” Lisa confirmed, “Of course I will. Let me give you my number.”
Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4, ESV)
During Karen and Lisa’s interaction, the kingdom of heaven was near enough to touch. A true friend comforting her sister.
Why didn’t I offer to go with Karen?
Because I’m busy. Because my schedule doesn’t allow for spontaneous gestures of love and compassion. Because…
We can all fill in a host of reasons. Many of these reasons are perfectly valid. I mean, boundaries are a good thing.
But there is something to be said about the freedom of the poor. When you have nothing, you don’t have to drop anything to help a friend. Your hands aren’t bound.
And that freedom lends to relationship. To kingdom love.
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the Kingdom of God” (Luke 6:20b, ESV)
I’m telling you, it’s true.