Yeah...that happens to me, too.
Yesterday I learned that my request for a financial forbearance on my graduate loans through Citi-Bank was denied, for a really stupid reason. I saw that I had one day to pay my December bill before it doubled, so I robbed Peter to pay Paul, hoping Peter will be more forgiving than I expect. But at least Paul is 1/2 satisfied for now.
And I was in a panic - my account still shows that I am behind, and this is not a good thing. I don't understand how the bank thinks I'm going to be able to pay when what I told them before is still true; I simply don't make enough money to pay this loan right now. I'm looking for another job, I'm praying for a miracle, I'm looking for a way to satisfy the debt. In the meantime, I've paying my undergrad loan, but it means I have to "float" bills and pay them just in time for my next check to be deposited into the account. It doesn't take a genius to realize these are dangerous practices that only lead to disaster - and another huge monthly bill makes things even more precarious.
Unfortunately, what I just described is how a LOT of people are living these days. Others have already had the catastrophe of a dropped ball in that juggling act and are losing their cars, their homes....everything.
A Harsh Reminder
As hard as it is to be in this position, not wanting to ask for help, for after all, I GOT myself into this mess, I should suffer the consequences, right? I didn't HAVE to go to grad school and I knew when I began that I'd be leaving my well-paying job and taking on another...although I did not realize it was one that would increase my debt load, not keep it on an even keel. Such is life.
Because of these and other thoughts, I was in quite the panic yesterday to realize I am officially in default on a grad loan, in spite of my attempt to keep that from happening.
Well, God had a reminder for me, and it happened while I was driving en route to my brother's house to celebrate his birthday.
An electronic freeway sign announced that the road I needed to take had a blocked left lane due to an accident. OK, fine. I know south Minneapolis quite well so got off at the 46th street exit. The area has changed since I lived there; now there is a huge bus station there and panhandlers have taken over the area.
Living in the 'burbs as I do, I don't often see panhandlers but at the occasional exit ramp or stoplight if I happen to be going out of my way for some reason.
Yesterday, though, as I approaches the top of the exit, I saw a man holding a cardboard sign; it was bent and frayed on the edges and he dropped it to his side as he crossed in front of me to approach a car in the right lane. I slowed to ensure both he and I that he was in no danger of being struck by me as he received some kind of token. He took it from the driver; I did not see if it was food or money, it didn't matter. He returned to the sidewalk, glancing around at approaching traffic, and again held up his sign.
I didn't make eye contact with him as I was trying to read his sign; when I saw that message and the condition of his hands as he stood in the shadow of the urban sound barriers in 10 degrees, I was stricken.
Glancing towards the seat next to me, I regretted my bag was in the back; I had a nutrition bar in there. It wasn't much, but it was all I could give him. I glanced at the light then suddenly turned to reach behind, knowing I *must* give him that nutrition bar, desperately reaching into the pockets of my bag, clutching, finding only things useful to me - my toothbrush, kleenex, other odds and ends...no nutrition bar. I tried the pocket at the other side, shoving my confused but curious dog out of the way, praying the light would not change.
I've never wanted to give someone something so much as I wanted to give that man this stupid nutrition bar.
I glanced ahead...the light had changed, traffic was coming...I had to go. There was nowhere to pause. There was nothing I could do but move on.
As I passed through south Minneapolis, I couldn't get that man out of my head and I did all I could do; I prayed for him. He didn't know I was trying to find him some food; for all I know he saw the action in my car and thought I was trying to avoid looking at him.
Far from it; I really SAW him in a way I haven't seen a homeless person in a very long time.
Some will read this and fall upon the old party line of cautions against handouts to panhandlers, personal safety, carjackings, etc etc etc.
Sure, there's merit in that, but I had no money to give him although if I did, I might well have given it yesterday. I had but a small thing, and perhaps some of you may recall something I witnessed one hot summer day...and I couldn't forget that image, either. That event is burned into my memory.
So it happened that yesterday, there was a direct collision of my own self-pity against the cold harsh reality of someone else's very real desperation.
There, but for the grace of God, go I.
And I still wasn't able to help.
All of us are that dependent upon God; we can do nothing in and of ourselves. Even when we do offer something to others, or desire to, we sometimes are prohibited from doing so.
Who knows? Maybe that man needed a prayer more than he needed food; don't we all?
So please, stop now and pray for him, whoever he is. And when you pass by those in our communities who stand on corners holding signs, at least see them. Pray for them. Offer even an encouraging word. Anything - the dignity of humanity demands it.