“To be rather than to seem”
Here’s the thing: it’s easy to say stuff. It’s harder to follow through. It’s easy to say you believe certain things; it’s harder to live them. These are a couple of uncomfortable facts of being human.
Everyone has the middle of the night moments, and sometimes those in need will call you. She might call you because she fell off a ladder and broke her heel. He might reach out to you because he is stranded and sick in a foreign land and needs to get home. She might email you because her child’s counselor refuses to file for accommodations on the ACT, and you know how to make that happen. He might text you when he needs Wednesday afternoon motivation to get through the essays and readings associated with a tough college schedule. Law enforcement might contact you because she’s in the hospital, and your number was the last one dialed in her cell.
If you are being and not seeming, you will show up. Help. Put out. Support. Hang out. Pray. Talk. Cry. You will be there. A friend recently suggested to me that planning for negative contingencies is a way of living in fear. This same friend has also suggested that being generous with someone who isn’t also generous is stupid. I say: being as ready as one can for any contingencies is being steadfast. I say: being generous is a way of loving others whether or not they return the favor. Being able to offer to be there and then actually being there is esse quam videri.
I had a spirited internet discourse several months ago with a person I consider a friend. She is a well-traveled, well-read, educated Christian woman. She opposed any immigration from the Middle East to our country. Remember the few minutes when almost every governor was saying, “We won’t allow immigrants in MY state”? Yeah. She supported that.
I asked her if Jesus wouldn’t embrace those different from himself (thinking: tax collectors, prostitutes); she said not if they were threatening. I said immigrants are not threatening. She said they were. I asked her about Hebrews 13:2, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” She said it didn’t apply if you needed to protect your children. I wondered if Matthew 25:45 applied, “‘Lord, when did we see 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 say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me. These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.'” No go. She wasn’t having it. None of it. If Jesus’ stranger-angels couldn’t convince her, I wasn’t going to get there either.
Not only did this make me sad; I was confused. If we claim to believe something, we really should follow-through. Fully. In religion. In personal manifestos. In neighborliness. If we say we believe something, are we not supposed to act on those beliefs? You know, the whole walk the walk thing? If we offer to be there for a neighbor, shouldn’t we be there when they call?
Adding it All Up:
I know it’s hard. Even in little things – maybe especially in the little things. Being prepared and being willing to help those in need has been something that I have tried to do with consistency over the past ten or more years. I am imperfect in this: sometimes everything works great, but other times I follow through only begrudgingly, complaining the whole time. Other times, I fall short – way short. The deal is: I have received such kindnesses in big and small ways, and I don’t know what the future holds; so, I am going to keep trying.
I remember the time when I had emergency gallbladder surgery as a result of a horrible gallstone attack (something I didn’t know I even had) while I was chaperoning a school trip. Let me say that again: I was hospitalized four hours from home for surgery while chaperoning a school trip. The number of people who leant cars, drank energy drinks, stayed with me in the hospital, cared for my children, and brought meals to my home after this event was enormous. And that’s just one example. (That’s me in the bed and my friend who kept me and my son laughing despite the pain and misery and fear.)
You see, it really doesn’t matter if the person in need is your own child, a former student, or a colleague. We all need help, love, and support in this life. From a TGIF text to sitting at the hospital to making a meal to staying for the whole visitation. It is not living in fear or being weak to be prepared to live our values. We should be doing the right things for people. The right thing to do is not the same for everyone, but the right thing to do is: esse quam videri.