This morning as I prayed, I asked God to make me useful. God has a sense of humor.
I have my own vision of being useful. A homeless person asks for food, I look deep into their eyes, and triumphantly hand them my carefully wrapped piece of bread from my bag. We smile. I say “God bless” and go on my way, basked in light as a halo begins to emerge around my head.
Here is what really happened.
I see the man from afar as I step out of the metro station. I recognize his bulky walk, loud ramblings, hanging belly and unkempt demeanor. His words at passerby are almost undecipherable, but if one notices the snack cart selling warm chili dogs, fruit and candy behind him, one can make an educated conclusion. We make eye contact. Within his jumbled sentences I hear “money,” “food,” and “money” once more.
“Would you like something to eat?” I ask him.
I can’t fully make out the response.
“I have some bread, would you like some bread?”
“Ya, ya” is the response.
I take out my carefully wrapped bread and hand it over to him. He’s now smiling. “Can I get a hug?” He asks. “Let’s break bread together, girl.”
I desperately want to hug this man. To tell him that I will bring bread every morning. That we can do the simplest and most beautiful thing together: we can break bread. And though bread isn’t magic, breaking it together, sharing it, can be magical.
But I can’t. I’ve been taught and conditioned not to. Not to let a stranger too close. To be just friendly enough. To be constantly on guard.
Imagined scenarios come to mind. Real scenarios I’ve actually experienced come to mind. And though it kills me, I tell the man I am running late to work and bid him a good day. He calls out to me as I walk off. Things like “You a little woman” and “look at her go.”
God does make us useful. It’s just often not in the perfect and heroic way we imagine.
And in case you’re wondering, God also shows off.
“Time for our staff meeting,” Jim, our Executive Director, calls out later that morning. We file out of our offices, coffee in hand, and walk into a decorated conference room with two boxes of pastries from the bakery around the corner.
Like I said, God has a sense of humor.