It wasn’t Bob’s fault at all. It really wasn’t. It’s just that we were all so terribly uncomfortable, because we’re all so terribly comfortable all the time. Again, not Bob’s fault; quite the opposite.
When we walked into Bob’s house it smelled like … well, it smelled the way we all didn’t want it to smell. Lots of things are easy to deal with, but certain odors can almost incapacitate you from functioning and thinking clearly. I feel as though I can deal with almost any situation when it comes to uncleanness, but there’s something about the smell sensory. It can take you down.
Bob’s house had a distinct fragrance to it that fell somewhere between a petting zoo and the third grade. You have to understand that at one point Bob got very sick in his old age, and, being a single man in his house, he had to take in some tenants to help pay all the medical bills and what not. He took in a few people who ended up stealing his identity, putting him $40,000 in debt and really trashing his house.
His carpets were covered with animal feces. His kitchen had thick swarms of bugs flying around in it. His faucets leaked. His walls were stained. Bob said he hadn’t really moved anything or thrown anything away in at least 20 years. He had books on tarot cards, Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, Mormonism, golf—you name it, it was in there. Bob even gave me a book about hiking across China and explained to me the art of smoking a peace pipe (which he had done, with feathers.)
Allow me to back up a bit. Bob put in a request with an organization known as Neighborlink in my area. Neighborlink is an organization that receives needs from the city and finds groups to fill said needs. It’s an incredible organization. In many ways, Neighborlink acts as the hands and feet of Jesus.
In this case, Bob had a need of painting and cleaning, and my friends and I were the group that was designated to help fill those needs. Bob needed quite a bit of work done, but we didn’t know what extent. A group of us showed up at Bob’s thinking that we’d simply be painting a room (also thinking that the room would most likely be cleared out and ready to be painted).
It was quite the contrary.
We spent two days clearing, cleaning, painting, scrubbing, fixing and replacing, along with loving Bob. It was incredible. It smelled awful, but so it is. I was so proud to be called a follower of Jesus in front of Bob. Here we were, a group of messed up people with tons of our own issues to be dealt with, but we were presented a need, and we did our best to fill it and, in the process, represent a small part of who Jesus is.
But as I helped my friends in this endeavor I realized how much I absolutely tick myself off. It has become so incredibly fashionable for me, my friends and people in the Church to talk about helping the poor and how Jesus loved the poor and how we need to do something about Africa and how there are starving people in our own cities and how …
Yet, I typically do nothing. We typically do nothing.
It sounds great in front of your friends. It looks great in front of a college group or in front of a church gathering. “Jesus loves the poor! We should too! Now go home and watch football!” I am just as guilty as the guy sitting next to me in church. I love to look hip when I care about current needs.
But the truth is that helping the poor smells. Helping those in need is uncomfortable. Sometimes those in need have terrible attitudes or personalities. Sometimes those helping the poor have terrible attitudes and personalities. Sometimes they judge, or they wish they were doing something else on their Saturday afternoon. Sometimes being in impoverished areas is completely uncomfortable. It’s dirty, messy, unclean. Sometimes we don’t want our children to be exposed to those sorts of things.
But I want to be fashionable, so I’m going to talk about helping the poor as often as possible, whilst keeping my hands as clean as possible.
It’s time (far, far past time) for me to get up and start helping where I can. Start filling needs where there are needs to be filled. Start getting dirty. Get off my upper-middle class Caucasian soapbox and do something. Quit talking and start doing. Quit trying to be fashionable and start being with the unfashionable and therefore being quite unfashionable myself.
It appears to me that fashion was the farthest thing from Jesus’ mind.