Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Be careful ... or not.

Driving down the road, I see an older fellow shuffling along slowly in the winter wind.  Should I offer him a ride?  Of course.
But picking up strangers? ... and he may be drunk.  Or high.  Or angry.  Or dirty.

Should I go to the poor places, to the not-rich communities, or maybe go home with beggars and make friends?  Of course.

I didn't know.
When we came home from years out of the country, pretty much everything had changed.  Children had to be protected, doors had to be locked, and strangers were all to be avoided.  We fell in line with the cultural norms and lived like cowards for awhile.

Later, I was forced to go overseas again.  I'd refused a couple of times, but they finally made me go.  It changed my worldview, my theology, and my personal values, permanently.  Later, I took my wife, and the same thing happened to her.  You can ask her.

So I'm in this weird country, riding down the road with a local fellow, and we see an old man with a machete in one hand and a stalk of bananas in the other standing beside the road.  Without a thought, the driver stops and the fellow gets in back with his bananas.  And he was pretty intoxicated on palm wine.  We drop him off at his house a ways down the road, and I ask the driver who he was.  He didn't know, but he went on to explain that everybody helps everybody, and if you have the company car and somebody needs a ride, it's proper to help out.

A dear family adopted us and let us be part of their world.
They showed us places we'd never have seen otherwise.
So after years and dozens of trips to various places, I've picked up folks in the middle of the desert and taken them to the slums where they live.  I've picked up mobs of ladies at the river crossing where they were doing their laundry and taken them to their village.  I've taken teachers home from the school where they worked and truckloads of kids too.  And I've been welcomed in homes and in families.

An old lady and her granddaughter were walking in a long stretch of desert.  I gave them a ride home where she wept as she held my hands and blessed me.  I hadn't expected it to be a big deal.

A friendly conversation with a shoe-shine boy turned into a years-long friendship.  We got to help him and his brother with schooling and employment, and their mom is a dear friend.

A local fellow and I stopped to ask directions, and this old lady told us how to find the place plus she gave us her granddaughter to drop off on the way.  Poppa met us when we arrived in front of the house and thanked us.  We chatted for awhile, and he gave us more directions to the place we were headed.  My local friend said all that was normal.

Then I was in this Muslim country in eastern Africa, and out on the edge of the desert, some kids flagged me down so they could ask for money, laughing all the time; they were just doing it for fun. The second time it happened, I stopped, and they dragged me home to meet mom and dad who welcomed me and showed me around, and we laughed a lot. Goats and camels and the simplest existence for the family of 12 or so. I stopped by several times over the years; they'd welcome me and make me coffee and I'd bring little gifts from the states like printed pictures of them all and maybe some fun food things uniquely western. One workday in the city, a lady suddenly stepped out of the crowd at the bus stop right in front of my truck and flagged me down. It was the mom from the family; she introduced me to about 8 of her friends as she loaded them into my truck, laughing. She knew I'd be glad to give them a ride. As we dropped each off at their neighborhoods along the way, each thanked and blessed me graciously despite knowing I was a Christian. That's the world I've seen so many times in so many places; practicality, appreciation, laughter, acceptance, and tears sometimes.

And we only got robbed once.  Okay, twice, but it wasn't a big deal, and it was mostly our fault for being in that part of town.  And I got injured a couple of times, but it was not huge.  I got to see the hospital in Mombasa from the inside!

I'm at a loss to separate myself from the real world over unreasonable fears and popular panic issues. I'm careful, sort of, but there are more important things.  Would I go to Paris or Brussels, to Nairobi or Cuba?  Of course.  To Syria?  Maybe.  :)  That's the world I understand, and everything that interests me is out there, every opportunity to serve, to help, to encourage ... it's all outside those stupid barred windows.

You might appreciate:  Worshiping the Idol of Safety
"The objective of terrorism is to instill fear.  Politicians then use that fear to shape a reality that advances their agendas. What they are offering us is nothing more than a pseudo-reality that requires we have the discernment to see through the smokescreen to what is actually real. My desire for safety is real, but in reality, I should be far more concerned about a car wreck, chronic disease, or natural disaster than terrorism. When I begin making decisions from a place of fear, I not only buy into a pseudo-reality that is being crafted by political power plays, I begin to close my eyes to the new and dynamic ways God is calling me to join in the world God is making."  John Huckins

Practical note:  Risk avoidance is cowardice, perhaps.  Risk identification/analysis/mitigation provides opportunity from time to time, and it's how you step out of fear.  See Philippians 1.