But somehow this morning I couldn’t bear the desperation in his eyes as he told me he would clean my driveway and pointed to all the places where, in all fairness, some work does need to be done. But you can’t just take people off the street, can you?
“Even half a day; I just want to work.”
When I lied and told him I didn’t have any money to pay him anyway he said he didn’t mind, I could pay him another day. And I think that’s what cracked me. So I told him to come back on Thursday for half a day.
And then I felt terrible all day because I know I shouldn’t allow complete strangers off the street into my home. It’s just asking for it. Whatever “it” is.
Maybe it’s white guilt or left-over-from-my-church-days guilt: you know, that bit about I was hungry and you didn’t feed me and I was a stranger and you didn’t invite me in and whatever you didn’t do for one of the least of these you didn’t do for me.
Or maybe it’s the knowledge that we are all one. We come from the same Spirit and will return to it. And that as someone who has been blessed so abundantly I feel it’s only right to – at the very least – give a hungry person a peanut-butter-and-honey sandwich. I’m sorry to sound vaguely churchy but if you saw my garden you would know that the only appropriate word is “abundant”. It is a green madness of verdant abundance. Fuck. That nearly sounded poetic. And just like that, I don’t sound churchy anymore!
And then there’s Come Colours Rise, that astonishingly lovely South African carol anthem by Grant McLachlan which we were practising at choir last night. It is so beautiful and so moving I can’t get through it without having to mouth the words and blink rapidly so that no one can tell that I am all choked up with the loveliness and sadness of it all. “Come colours rise, old fears subside” how can you not weep? And open your heart?
And so I let down my white South African guard and have invited a stranger into my house. Well, driveway. I’m not entirely without survival instincts in this bloody and beautiful country of ours. It’s the balancing of survival and reality and safety with compassion and empathy and giving a man a chance that is so hard, don’t you think?
Image from Global Fusion Productions