2:14 p.m. I’m wandering the craft store looking for yarn for a gift/ project.Not hot tea.... but this needs a pic...
2:22 p.m.I panic-I realize that if I don’t get out of here- I risk a way-down the line -parking spot during carpool-that will involve having to count rows to find my car…which is almost math. #fail.

2:24 p.m. I grab good enough yarn and take my place in line. I calculate my estimated wait time. It’s going to be close.

2:28 p.m. Still waiting. Starting to get annoyed. I’m not the only one. “Can’t they open another register?”  So many people are saying the same thing I wonder if it’s a line from a new viral video….

2:30 p.m. I’m next in line. I hear the very raw sounding voice  of the very pierced and creatively hair-colored girl at the register. Her nose is red and sore looking…. I’m convinced she’s a a walking influenza factory. She probably is. I try to calculate how many virus particles are floating around her register. I wish I had a surgical mask.

2:31 As she’s ringing up my purchase, I have sudden onset iced tea and shortbread cookie craving. I immediately decide counting cars is worth it. I’m going to Panera.

Which is when I realize she’s not just a pierced virus carrying cashier…… she’s a human. With a sore throat. Standing right in front of the constantly-opening- in January- sliding glass doors at Michael’s. She’s trapped by responsibility and is obviously: miserable.

“You need a hot tea and honey on your break.” I state- as the captainess of the obvious, that I am. “Hot tea sounds great- but my break is too short.” I’ll have some when I get off work.” I wish I could tell you that i jumped over the counter, grabbed the mic, called  her manager and talked them into letting me finish the girls shift so she could go home without missing pay. I didn’t. Honestly? I was annoyed she was there- passing viral contagion to all she encountered.

I winced as she handed me my bag. I did not want to touch her germies. It was a little like being handed a bag of hanta-virus. At least I had my gloves. I slipped them on before taking the bag. I hoped she’d think it was just the weather- not personal. (Even if it was.I do NOT have time to get sick right now. Just saying.) In truth-she probably just wanted me out of the store. One less customer to deal with means one step closer to going home.

“Feel better.” I told her. More mom-like than I wanted to sound. (I can’t help it. Having a child makes you mother everyone you come in contact with. Maybe it’s viral…. I know I’m not the only mother-of all out there…I’ve been mothered by others- myself. ) It was not my most compassionate moment.

I left. Driving through the parking lot, the tea and cookie craving took over. It drove me straight to Panera. I didn’t bother looking at the clock. “I’ll get there before bedtime.” I thought.

By the time I was in the drive through- I was feeling like a selfish jerk. Here I was- totally NOT sick. About to suck down exactly what that poor girl really needed….

“I could take her a tea and honey…..”

“I don’t have time. I’ll be even LATER.”

“So? You’re late for everything.”

(In case you’re wondering- yes-I was arguing with myself. I like to- either way- I win.)

Which I did.

I rolled down the window and ordered: “I’ll take 2 large hot tea’s with milk and honey and a cookie.”

I drove back to Michael’s. I parked illegally. I went in the out-door.

And then- I made a very tough looking girl- cry. (I was on a roll.)  Accidentally. By interrupting her at work. To hand her hot tea and honey.

“That’s the nicest thing anyone ever did for me.” She said between either coughs or sobs…. (They were coughs. She had actually just teared up.  Crying would have involved tears- which could have frozen as she stood by that almost never closed-door, probably creating an icicle to form on her nose ring. Which may have caused frostbite. And probably would have caused her to miss work. Maybe. But, I doubt it, because the plague sure hadn’t. )

I left feeling… well. Conflicted. I felt good that I’d done something to ease someones suffering…. (In my brain- that’s what I did- but let’s face it- it was just a cup of hot tea- not a cure for Influenza.) I also felt: sad. Sad that that was the nicest thing anyone had ever done for her. (Even ignoring the hyperbole- i’m sure nicer things have been done… but you get the picture.)

I felt a little puffed up and prideful. I was that chick. The amazing chick who brought a cup of tea to a sick chick.

Which made me feel: guilty. Cause really? duh. Pride has no place in care.

But at least I did: something.

Id love to say that God rewarded my awesomeness with that sweet first in line parking spot. He didn’t. I would like to say that I was on time and that angels carried my car through every light… Not so much. I’d like to say that my tea was still hot when I got around to drinking it. Nope. cold. Id like to say that my explanation as to why I wsa late touched my 10 year old and inspired him to be more considerate of others. Nope. he was mad.

I can’t even say God used his holy- GPS to help me find my car in the line-up. Nope. I totally wandered around and had to hit the stupid “panic” button. (Maybe more ethan once.)  I probably caused a kindergartner to lose bladder control.

But, I did: something.

Ghandi said (At least the internets say he said..)  “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

Elisa Morgan said: “She Did What She Could.”

I was, and: I did.

I hope you will and do- too.

Matthew 25:37-40  “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

I looked up from the groceries I was tucking into the trunk of my car when I heard her voice. Instantly, my judgmental senses went tingly….(Think: spider senses but without the super powers or altruistic motivation…) “Excuse me….Do you have any bottles?  I’m just trying to get my car to Jackson… I just need $3.00.” She was older- I think, or maybe life had just etched itself harshly on her features. She nervously tugged at her scarf as she talked. There was something childlike behind the etched face. There was also something.. hard.

“Sorry- all I have is a water bottle….” Grabbing the empty re-usable football water bottle still in my trunk from Sunday….Maybe I was trying to give evidence that I had no bottles…. Or maybe I was looking for a weapon…just in case. (Parking lot muggings are always on the news… or maybe on drama-mentaries….whatever- pretty sure I’ve seen this scene before. and it never ends well. ) “I’m just trying to get enough change to get to Jackson.” She replied.

Which is about the time I remembered I’m a Christian and my word for the year is: Mercy. Rescue. A lightbulb went on and I realized this was one of those “opportunities.”

After quickly looking around for accomplice’s and finding none….(It was daytime and I was the sketchiest person in the parking lot..)  I reached into my purse, carefully covering the fact that I had more than change in there…(No need to advertise that I actually HAD 20.00 duh.) Like a poker player covering their hand -I counted out $15.00 and suddenly had a weird feeling come over me… it was one part power, one part love and one part feeling… well….. good that I had something that someone else needed. I wasn’t just going to give her the $3.00 she asked for, I was going to BLOW HER MIND with my generosity. “Here— I don’t want you to run out of gas…” I said handing over the wad of singles,my words dripping with either love or condescension.. I’m not sure which. Except, it didn’t blow her mind. She looked kind of….bored. She took the money, smiled- and then scooted away across the parking lot.

Possibly heading directly to the nearest liquor store. ( I am fully aware that this is a classic parking lot scam…but a long time ago I decided not to withhold help because of assumptions….

Score one for mercy. Maybe.

Too bad I hadn’t decided a long time ago to withhold condescension as well..

Forget about the fact that I’d just helped this woman…. let’s look at my twisted thought process. I’m embarrassed to say this was more about ME- than Jesus. it was more about BEING merciful and mercy.

The truth is- it was more about condescension than compassion.

I HATE condescension. I’ve had people look at me not with compassion but condescension…condescension is placing oneself above another. It connotes a “looking down upon” someone else. An “I know better than you” Or “I will help you because you are so needy…” kind of attitude.  All of which: I’m guilty of. Often.

I hate that.

When condescended to- we feel less. Which is not mercy. Mercy VALUES a person over their actions. Mercy makes more of a person than they feel they are. Not less.

After this parking lot experience- I keep thinking about the times I’ve felt someone be truly compassionate toward me. Merciful. Without condescension.

It seems to me that compassion asks what a person feels or needs…. and condescension assumes. (Stuff like: You are a mess and I can fix you. Awww you poor thing- I am so past that kind of experience that I’m sure i can help you do this better…” ) The times I’ve felt someone have great compassion towards me- are the times when they took the time to LISTEN to how I feel and what I need,.. and then acted on it. Not the times they assumed how I felt and what I needed and did what made them feel better.

So what about you? Do you sometimes get caught in condescension? How do you show compassion without condescension?

Dear Lord- I was a hot mess of condescension yesterday. Actually- It was a regular mixed greens salad of pride, fear and condescension topped with a vinaigrette of care and love. Lord- help me to drop that. Help me to be merciful and help others the way YOU help me…. with real love. I’m pretty sure that woman in the parking lot saw right through me….I hope when she did- she saw you…. even if I was shot- blocking you. I love you lord- please forgive this heart of mixed motives and metaphors….amen.

I stared at the fork in my hand.  I stared at the steaming pan of enchilada’s in the middle of the table.  Through the steam, I saw the smiling, gaunt face of my red-headed, dying friend and his beautiful, gifted with hospitality-wife. I smiled back. I looked to my left and saw my husband, to my right sat my toddler, forks also in hand.

“What if the doctor’s are wrong?  What if we can catch it from a fork?” I hated the thought, even as it formed. It was 1990. Until then, AIDS had been a news story, a health ed subject and a topic of gossip to me. Suddenly, it was very real. It was frightening, deadly and risky.

That day, AIDS stopped being a news story and became part of my story.

Why?  Because it was killing our friend. And it had the potential to kill our friendship.

Fork in hand, I had a choice to make. Would I allow my fear to pile hurt on an already bloodied and dying friend?  (There were some who whispered that people dying from aids “were getting what they deserve. And had brought it upon them selves” We saw how much this had hurt them more than the virus. itself.)

Or, would I trust in God and live the gospel I said I believed?

I swallowed my fear, and I dug into the pan, filling my plate, my husband’s and son’s with enchilada’s,  sauce and cheese.

Around that table, we shared a communion of enchilada’s and diet coke. We laughed. We cried. For a few moments-we lived the gospel.

I remember his bony, scaly red hand as we held hands to pray. I remember the tinge of fear again invading my heart as I reached out to clasp it. I remember the smile and warmth that met my hand in return.

A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured.

It wasn’t because we were fearless or a good people. We aren’t.  We did it because we’d be desperate for touch if we were dying. And because the example we have is Christ . He touched the un-touchables of his day.

I wish I could say that prayer brought healing. It didn’t.

Our friend died.  Because AIDS kills. It still does. Every Single. Day.

Some ask where God is when people suffer.  I think he’s eating enchilada’s and drinking diet coke with them.  I think he holds a rough, scaly, bony hand in prayer.

When we let Him.

Today is World AIDS day.

My question to you is- Will you let him?

Wondering what you can do?  Here are some ways to touch someone:

World Vision Sponsor a child affected by AIDS

Bloodwater– Donate $ to help find a cure and to help treat those who hurt.

In honor of our friend (Alan) we’re sponsoring a child through World Vision.  His name is Daniel- he is a first grader who lives in Tanzania.