I was able to go to our women’s class last week, for the first time in months. I had given away my book, so was not up on the topic, but the discussion is not necessarily right with the book anyway. It started with a story of someone who hosted an unwed mother until she could get on her feet, which ended up being 4 years! Most of us had a hard time imagining ourselves in that position, though I do have a friend who has hosted nieces or nephews for a year or so, only she wasn’t there to put her two cents worth in.
We had some discussion of the difficulty of dealing with folks who are never satisfied, always wanting more and more. There are also ones who really need to take some responsibility and simply seem to want to be taken care of by either the government or the church. Then there are those who have an excuse for everything. Well maybe the last two are overlapping categories. I did point out that sometimes the interpretation is in the eye of the beholder. I myself had an experience where someone called me an “obstructionist” because I didn’t leap at the chance to implement whatever suggestion they made regarding my future. Oddly enough though, the only reason I was visiting this person, who did not know me well, was in order to take a test that might qualify me for a job. Thinking back, I wonder why they felt compelled to tell me what I should be doing when I was clearly taking steps toward something. They did not seem to appreciate that since it was my life at stake, I wanted to think through all the ins and outs of any decisions. Looking back, though I did not get that job, God led me to where I needed to be.
We also touched on the good Samaritan story. Our leader noted that we are not given many details. We don’t know if those who did not stop had pressing engagements, or simply felt inadequate to deal with an injured traveler by the side of the road. Surely stopping must have been inconvenient for the Samaritan as well, at best a time-consuming detour from his travel plans. Usually it seems that bearing someone’s burdens takes time and requires us to put the other’s needs above our own. I notice though that the Samaritan did not seem to feel he had to carry this burden alone. He had no problem with allowing the innkeeper to carry part of it. And yes, there is an intrinsic reward when you help someone, at least most of the time.
But our most haunting example did not come from the book. One of our members began talking about how, several years ago, a neighbor girl would come to her house and not go home. The parents would not come to get her, so at the very least there must have been some neglect involved. My friend said she had a feeling that the girl was there because it felt safe to her, for whatever reason. The child was not telling if there was anything more. My friend brought this child with them to church and even camp one year, wondering if she was meant to have yet one more child in her family of adopted kids. Finally a grandmother took the child, but at least we have the comfort of knowing that for a time, she was loved and included in a church family and hopefully will be willing to turn in that direction when she is older.
Then another lady volunteered her story. She said she had a friend who acted in a similar fashion when she was growing up. Years later, after both were grown, the friend admitted that her father was an alcoholic who became violent when drunk. She literally was afraid to stay in her own home. That’s so sad, but again we can be thankful for neighbors who were willing to let her stay with them and be safe. I don’t know if I could do the same. I used to get put out with the kid who came over just to play games on our computer, because his parents didn’t allow him to play computer games at home! My problem was, he was supposed to be my son’s friend, but my son didn’t care for his company and made himself scarce whenever the kid came over, so it seemed like more of an imposition. It wasn’t much the same either since the parents made sure he came home for dinner.
Honestly though, those situations aside, I’ve always thought the main way we carry burdens for one another is in praying each other through difficulties with kids and aging or dying parents, moves, job changes, and so forth. Who has carried your burdens, or have you carried burdens for someone else?