Thursday, July 7, 2016

Can I Trust You?

The other night, I was getting ready to drive our sitter home when I noticed a couple having trouble in the middle of our street. The boyfriend was moaning on the ground and the girlfriend was trying to make him stand up.

I asked Patrick if he could help them, but as we drove away I saw that they had waved him on, refusing his help.

Our sitter lives close by, so I figured they'd still be near when  I came home.  I took a spin up the block and found them struggling along.

I rolled down the passenger window and turned on the truck's interior light so they could see me and I asked if I could help.  The boyfriend burst into a fresh round of wailing and huddled into his girlfriend's shoulder.  The girl - I think they were both around 17 - seemed to fight past a fog to speak. I don't know if they were high or traumatized or what, but anyone could see they needed help.

Finally she made her way to the truck window and asked the shaky question that seared into my soul.

"Can I trust you?"

The weight of her question wasn't lost on me. I'm white, and she's from a First Nation. In a city rife with racism, getting into the wrong car can be deadly.

'You can trust me. I won't hurt you - I promise. And I'll try my best to help you if you want. I won't hurt you.'

She paused to consider my answer.  She looked up and down the dark street, unsure of what to do.

"Can you help me get my boyfriend home?" she asked at long last.

I pulled Sam's booster seat out of its place and they climbed in.

Their destination wasn't far.  I dropped them off and zipped home. 

It keeps echoing in my head, that question.  Can I trust you? 

It's not a question we ask in an equal power dynamic. It's a question that unveils vulnerability and acknowledges power.  We might ask it when we want to share something confidential with someone and thus put ourselves at their mercy. We might ask it when we aren't strong enough for a task and require help. It's only a question we ask when we're the vulnerable ones.

I read a tiny little story on Facebook today that describes vulnerability and privilege, and why All Lives Matter isn't a problem-solving slogan. 

Say there is a table full of people, and everyone has a plate filled with food except Bob. Bob says "Bob needs food!" And everyone replies "Everyone needs food!" But until they look up from their own plates and realize that Bob has no food, their statement is empty (though factual). 

And we're sitting at the table.
And we've got food.
And if we're Christians, we know food isn't something we earned. It's all given.

The gorgeous thing is, we know what Jesus expects us to do.  He wants us to give to those who lack. He wants us to defend those who are weak. He wants us to love (actively, not just theoretically) those our culture might declare unlovable.

Jesus came and sat at my table and saw that I had nothing and gave me the food off His plate. And He says "go and do likewise!"

Louis CK tells a story about his daughters arguing over who's got more food in their bowl. And he tells them - the only time we ever look in someone else's bowl is to make sure they have enough. Never to gloat over how much we have.

And, Christians, we have been given so much.  Our plates are heaped high. We need to be the ones who are actively searching for Bob, proactively finding people with empty plates because we have such full ones. We don't need to worry about protecting our food or ensuring we have more than others.  That's not the example of Jesus. Jesus pours out. Jesus feeds Bob.

So ... who needs food?

It's a fact that everyone needs food.

But Bob's argument is the strongest.  The most vulnerable - the most hungry - the most oppressed - are the ones we need to worry about. So unless we're looking around at our neighbours' plates so we can share with them, we're missing out.

We're missing out on applying our beliefs to our lives (if everyone needs food, and I see that someone is lacking food, how can I reconcile the difference?). We're missing out on justice (did everyone take a little too much, thinking about their own plate and not remembering to share well?). And we're missing an opportunity to love well (actively doing something for someone else's benefit).

I found that little extended metaphor really helpful. Bob needs food. Bob is the most vulnerable person at the table.

And maybe in your city Bob is black or Asian or Lebanese. Maybe in your city, Bob is women or poor people or immigrants. Maybe Bob is someone with mental illness or a history of being abused.

The thing is, Bob needs food.
And Bob needs someone to share with him, to love him well.

Bob needs to hear a giant chorus of YES from Jesus' people when he is brave enough to ask the question ...

Can I trust you?

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