Every time I start to look to my left or my right, to begin comparing myself, my life and my ministry to others, God brings me back to me knees.
“You wanna ride?”
She slowly pulls her arthritis, aging body into my car.
“How ya doing?”
“Oh you know, life has been hard. My husband, he’s in the hospital, so is my son.”
“Oh no, I’m so sorry, what’s wrong?”
“I don’t know. My husband wonders off and forgets to eat and ends up being hospitalized. And then I don’t hear from him or know where he is.”
<<<I know this is true. A few months after we moved into the neighborhood an elderly man dressed in a rotting, mismatched business suit knocked on my door.
“Hi! Can I help you?” (I was eager to be known as the new neighbor who was super friendly and welcoming).
“I need to borrow your phone.”
I go to hand this stranger my iPhone…
“No, no, not that phone. I can’t dial on that phone.”
“I’m sorry sir but this is the only phone I have. Would you like for me to call someone for you?”
“Yeah. I need to call the Pope.”
“Ummmmm….Well sir, I don’t know the pope, how about we call a catholic church in the neighborhood?”
“Yeah, do that. And then take me to them.”
(My mother taught me better than to jump into a car with a total stranger, especially a man, so I opted for…)
“Well I’m currently working, but I can call you a cab.”
This angered him. He bitterly told me to hurry up, so I googled an Austin cab company and was put on hold. As the 80’s music played in my ear I tried making small talk but this also angered my oddly dressed, new friend.
“I don’t want to talk to you. Bring me a chair. I’ll sit in your yard 'til the cab comes.”
“Okay, sorry sir.”
And into the front yard one of our kitchen table chairs went.
I watched him for a few minutes while still on hold with the cab company. He stood up, looked around and walked off. >>>
This is the only verbal contact I’ve had with my neighbor, let’s call her Mabel's', husband. But from our many neighborhood sitings and gossip sessions with the little old man across the street, it's safe to say Mabel's husband has Alzheimers.
Over the past two years of living down the street from Mabel, we have come to realize that her adult son is mentally handicapped. From the time he chased me down the street (he was on crutches so I could totally out run him!) to his random street walking/yelling stints, we’ve realized that something didn’t add up.
But today was the first day Mabel ever seemed heavy, burdened to say the least.
We’ve watched the ambulance come and go to her house more than we can count, we’ve seen her walk daily to and from the bus stop, often times weighed down by groceries, but every time we stop her for a chat or give her a ride she’s always so joyful.
Mabel usually shows up when I’m having “those days”.
You know, the days when comparison begins to creep in. Everyone else’s life around you looks perfect. Everyone else has lots of money, and cute kitchens and beautiful babies…And you start wondering what’s wrong with you and maybe, just maybe allow yourself to feel sorry for a few minutes…
That’s when Mabel arrives.
She’ll slowly walk by my front window, bent over, carrying stuffed Walmart bags. If you stop her she might tell you some of the hard things going on but always follows it with, “But praise the Lord, He is good and faithful and always provides!”
But today was different.
As I pulled her out of my car and carried her bags to her front door, I told her again how sorry I was for her and her family. She just looked at me, said thank you, and then hugged me. She’s never hugged me.
I walked into my house. Here I was, about to pour myself a glass of wine and scroll through Facebook, wishing I were someone else...and there was Mabel.
My day is different now. I don’t know how to not be incredibly sad for her, I don’t know what to do, perhaps have her over to tea, but I do know that my sorrow wont be wasted on myself tonight.
Let’s keep life in perspective friends. The grass can be greener in other people’s yards, but instead of focusing on comparing our lives to other's, let's spend our time pouring our lives out for others. And then when you don’t know what to do to help…pray.
Let’s get out of our heads, out of ourselves.
Who’s your Mabel?