One spring many years ago the air conditioner in my car went out. When the mechanic quoted $1300 to fix it (about $1200 more than I could afford) I knew I had a long summer ahead of me. I remember leaving early and staying late at work just to avoid the hottest parts of the day. It was a miserable summer but eventually I was able to pay for the repairs and return to the ranks of blissfully unaware Texans who drive around without breaking a sweat in the middle of the day.
But whenever I see someone with tell-tale windows rolled down on a 100 degree day, I remember that miserable summer. And when they pull away quickly from a stop light and start barreling down the road I feel a little relieved that they can finally get a good breeze to cool off. If I had never had a broken air conditioner I would only wonder what kind of person rolls down all the windows in August.
Throughout the gospels Jesus is said to be “moved by compassion” by the incredible needs that he saw in the crowds that followed him. He responded by healing the sick, feeding thousands, and proclaiming freedom for those who were spiritually captive. He had no trouble seeing their needs and responding with compassion for everyone he met. I want to follow in the footsteps of Jesus but sometimes I just can’t see the needs right in front of me.
This week my eyes were opened as a whole group from Restoration has worked tirelessly to get a family of Syrian refugees vaccinated, enrolled in school, and outfitted with uniforms and school supplies. Just this week, we have put in at least 50 volunteer hours so far. Much of that has been spent standing in lines, driving places that would take hours to reach without a car, and waiting on hold to receive services that are available to low-income families. I am grateful that so many resources are available to people in need but I imagine that it would be impossible for someone holding a low-wage job with little ability to take time off and limited transportation to actually receive the services that they desperately need.
I am so proud of the way that I have seen Restoration people cancel their plans and freely offer their time to guide this family through a complex process they could not navigate on their own. But I have also begun to wonder about all of the other families filling waiting rooms and standing in long lines. Are they getting the care they need? What about the people who can’t even leave work or get themselves to an office to ask for help? Who helps them?
I’m not naively going to act as though I want to become the superwoman of social service waiting rooms, filling forms out in triplicate and redialing help lines until someone finally picks up. But my eyes are open now. And I may start to see signs, like open car windows on an August day, that someone is struggling and needs our help.
Lord, open our eyes! May we be the hands and feet of Jesus.