Not a day goes by without someone calling, stopping by, to see if they can get some assistance. Word spreads like wildfire that there is assistance here, and that, as one person told me, “You’ve got a kind heart, Pastor; my friend said you’re kind.”
If only they knew, I often think, if only they knew that I sit muttering in my office, trying to gain the strength to face another person in need – another young woman with a baby, another addict trying to stay clean, another man who used to be somebody, another kid who should be in college but instead is trying to find a place to take a shower. “You’ve got a kind heart, Reverend.” Those words nearly haunt me as I go about my day.
I was about to leave the office for a minute this afternoon – grab a cup of overpriced coffee to get me through the day and evening, breathe some fresh air, take a break from my computer and to-do list, when my phone rang. “There’s someone here to see you about getting some assistance,” she said. I responded that I’d be there in a minute, and I heard the man take a seat. I sighed loudly in the privacy of my office, and prayed a not very holy prayer.
When I stepped into the hall he was sitting on the stool with one of the devotionals we have available, papers clutched in his hand. “Good afternoon, what can I do for you?” I asked briskly, my mind on my future latte. I recognized him from a previous visit, though I couldn’t remember what I’d helped him with before.
“We were here a few months ago,” he said. “And you helped us out. Well, my wife, well, she passed, and I have to bury her.” His words poured out and he didn’t cry; he spoke as if all of his tears were gone. He unfolded the paper from the mortuary company and explained that this was the cheapest he could find, that she would be cremated, and he had a portion of what they were asking him to pay.
“When did she pass,” I asked him, using the vernacular that he had used, buying myself time to breathe; this was a new request. “Last Tuesday, ma’am; the funeral is Friday,” he said, pointing to the line on the paper. “I can help,” I said, and turned back to my office to prepare the check.
Burial expenses, I thought, feeding the check through the printer. I shook my head and ran my fingers over the itemized list from the funeral home – Type of container: Cardboard box.
This story isn’t about me and my reticence and frustration. Now in the privacy of my office I cry the tears that he didn’t cry when he asked me for help. Mostly they’re tears of gratitude because I am able to help – that I am able to be the means of God’s grace and the face of generosity of God’s people.
I sent him on his way with a handshake and a check and a blessing of God’s peace to be with him. It didn’t seem like enough when he’s about to bury his wife. It hardly seemed like enough at all.