By Mary Jo Risk
It was a week before Christmas, 2015. I had dropped my car off at the garage. They said it would be ready in about 4 to 5 hours. I finished my Christmas shopping and then walked to Starbucks. I ordered coffee and sat at a table by myself playing Words with Friends for about an hour. I glanced at my phone… still one to two hours to wait.
A man walked by, looked at me and smiled. I smiled back and said “hello.” He sat at the table next to me and we began to talk. First we talked about cars and the pros and cons of spending money on maintenance.
It was interesting the way our conversation evolved from cars to more personal beliefs and political observations. I remarked that I did not believe it was the job of the government to take care of all our needs. I could tell he didn’t agree with my conservative view. He was much younger than I and had not lived during the time when there was no government assistance. My family was poor having lost their home during the depression and my dad lost his job too. Some families lost their homes and had to put their children in orphanages because they could not take care of them. Some families even lived in tents in Murdock Park.
I was the youngest of six kids. My dad had a job in a factory and we had a house to live in. We lived near a railroad. Often people would stop at the back door of our house and ask for some food. My mother had a loving heart so she would always give them something to eat even though we did not have an abundance of food. My mom was thrifty. She took in laundry of Purdue students to supplement the family income. Back then the men all wore white shirts and dressed professionally. Most were veterans from World War II with help from the government on the GI Bill. I always believed that this government program was a wonderful way to “pay back” veterans who survived the war as they fought for our freedom. I had two brothers and one sister who served in World War II. They all benefited from the GI Bill. This was one government program that affected my family so I thought it was necessary!! Hmmmm!
I could tell that this African-American gentleman believed that the government should provide more support for poor families. His view was an eye opener for me and it illustrated how little I knew about the struggles of some African American families. He presented a different perspective than I had been aware of. Most people do not want to receive charity, but if they do not have a job and have a family to care for, it is very difficult.
We talked about the fear that people have of others not like themselves in skin color, ethnicity, religion, gender orientation, etc. Too often we prejudge these different groups and have fears about them because we do not know them.
Talking with this man that I just met opened my eyes to a need in myself to step out of my comfort zone and to reach out to others to try to get to know them; to try to understand their needs and to learn how I might be a disciple for Christ to share my life with others.
I am thankful that I have new eyes to see and love to share.
Read Pastor Tracey's sermon at: http://www.trinitylafayette.org/sermons/story-tellers
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