If you know me, you know I’m a fan of the Book of Proverbs. The whole idea of the book is interesting, this compilation of wisdom sayings, each one fitting for a specific situation, and a sagacious person (that means a wise person) will take in the sayings and use them appropriately depending on the given context. They are, as the writer would say, “honey” to the soul, and we all should eat honey, for honey is so yummy and sweet. But then, just a minute later the author will write, “but eat only just enough honey for you might get sick and vomit it all up…” You see, for a girl like me, who seems so bent on buying each and every lesson. A girl who loves sticking her hand off into that honey only to be getting sick for having eaten the whole thing…- the book of Proverbs is fascinating to me. The book is a treasure map to the finest things of life, and you can have them all! But Take precaution because those things could also cost you your health, your life, your job… Am I the only person who loves that book?
Well, my favorite Zumba class is about 4 miles from my house, so I’ve taken a chance at biking (momma, don’t read this) across Poplar Avenue in Memphis to get to my Zumba class. Monday I was taking some back roads, trying to avoid all the traffic, and I come to a street corner, and I see a familiar face. There’s a man there, with a sign on his wheelchair, saying disabled and homeless. You don’t get the impression that he’s doing too badly, because he has a sweet smile and his eyes light up when he talks to you. This isn’t my first interaction with Randy, my homeless friend, who frequents busy intersections on Poplar. I remember my first encounter with this man. It was 28 degrees on a cold, January night and I I couldn’t stand knowing someone was outside on a cold night. I had stopped in a Starbucks, grabbed some decaf coffee and approached him slowly..Mostly what stuck out to me in the 2 minute conversation I had was his concern for me. That it was cold, and I was too young to be outside talking to strangers in Memphis on a Monday night… So I gave him that coffee, said I hoped he had a warm place to sleep, and I wished there was something more I could do. He said as I was leaving,
-well you know I don’t expect people to do much, we all have busy lives. But you know, being out here after losing my job, and being disabled, what helps me the most is when you notice me. You may be too busy to stop, but just honk your horn and wave, and that’s the thing that helps get me through my day. It’s knowing you’ve thought about me that really counts.
I promised him that I would do that the next time I saw him. True to my word, each time I’ve passed that intersection, I’ve waved at him, honked my horn as I was hurrying along, or hollered out the window on the fly. This day, however, I had time to stop.
-Mr. Randy!- I yell out. -well, hello, it’s hard to tell that’s you under that bike gear, I’m not sure I can recall your name.
-it’s Shelby, I drive that blue truck.
-Ah, yes! blue truck Shelby. How are you doing?…
and we talk.
At then end of that brief interaction, I note two things, he doesn’t ask for money, but he DOES ask how things with me are going.
And I’m off pedaling along, wheels turning, and I’m thinking that maybe if I saved back a little, I could pick him up a rain jacket because he mentioned how hard it is when things get really wet outside. I think, yea Shelby—there is your quick fix, but who do you know that could actually help? Perhaps someone in social services that could help get him on disability, perhaps someone who needs an extra hand around their shop, and wouldn’t mind my friend in his wheelchair. He’s mentioned it, he’d love to work, but his access is limited. And that’s when it hits me. His access is limited. His resources are scarce. He doesn’t know the people he needs to know to lend him a hand into a better situation.
Let me ask you this. How many articles have you read recently that teach you about getting ahead? How many social sites do we have dedicated to making connections that will get you that money-maker career, perhaps even you your next promotion? We go to career fairs, we seek out mentors at church and in business. We thrive in a world of connections. It’s all about leveraging who you know to get what you want, right? Or, if you’re the “selfless” business professional, you maintain the motto “help everyone else get what they want so you can eventually get what you want.” We pride ourselves on our Resumes. There are entire companies who earn their dollar by helping people put together an outstanding resume. We think about working for companies or people that will stand out. “oh, look, she worked at FedEx, that’s a big time company.” “you mean he has had experience under that CEO?” And suddenly our experiences, our business history becomes a single sentence on a resume, and we’re all just praying people see us as the assets we think we are. We offer our life up on a recyclable, flimsy, piece of paper and we wait, hoping for the big bucks. Seems like a discreet sort of prostitution.
You know what my resume needs? You know what I think would get me truly noticed? Maybe I need to be connected to a few more Randys. I need to know a few more good men, who’ve eeked it out, are in a bad way, yet always offer kindness in exchange for my hello. Perhaps, instead of thinking about how many impressive one-liners I can embellish on that piece of paper, or the-next-big-somebody I can add to my work references section.. Well, perhaps I need to be making connections with people who could use some leverage. The relationships might take work, they might be expensive on my pocketbook. But man, when I think of my blue-eyed friend who smiles often, waves kindly, and thoughtfully asks me about my day, I remember a quote from Roosevelt that I read once in a college text book:
The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.
So, back to my love for Proverbs, honey, and on the quest to finding life and wisdom….There’s a section of wisdom teachings in that book that I think is appropriate to weigh in the context of this situation.
4Wealth attracts friends as honey draws flies, but poor people are avoided like a plague.5 Perjury won’t go unpunished.Would you let a liar go free?6 Lots of people flock around a generous person; everyone’s a friend to the philanthropist. 7 When you’re down on your luck, even your family avoids you— yes, even your best friends wish you’d get lost. If they see you coming, they look the other way— out of sight, out of mind.8 Grow a wise heart—you’ll do yourself a favor; keep a clear head—you’ll find a good life.
Mercy to the needy is a loan to God,
and God pays back those loans in full.