Sunday, July 14, 2013

We're Not Much More Than Beggars In Disguise

From today's Times and News-Star

Momma took our dear 90-something friend Maw – years ago she made the quilt I sleep under each night -- to get a prescription refilled the other day, or to the doctor, or one of those sorts of things. Momma often takes her on short trips away from the retirement home.

Unfortunately, on this day, their wait – it was supposed to be 10 minutes – was more like two hours.

At some point around the 90-minute mark, Maw looked at my mother and said, “Remember when I asked you a long time ago why God’s left me here and hasn’t taken me yet?”

Momma remembered.

“Well I think finally have the answer,” Maw said. “He left me here to worry the hell outta you.”

A good bit of time passed before my mom was able to stop laughing at that one. It’s another classic line – in a rather long list -- from Maw.

The truth is, it’s not always easy to help someone. Helping is more a matter of will than anything else. It can’t be timing, because each of us could always be doing something else.

“I can’t help anyone,” I read this week, usually means “I can’t help anyone without burdening myself, cutting in to how I live my life.”

It takes going against the selfishness in us all to do something for someone who can never pay us back. If it’s been a while, you might have forgotten what a smile, gesture, kind words or groceries might mean to someone. My friend Scout reminded me this week.

“Long story short,” Scout said. “As a volunteer with Grace Home, I see this particular woman once a week. She is 93, has Alzheimer’s, smiles, babbles, and is very pleasant. Pleasant but she can't really say anything that makes sense. Sometimes I leave and wonder if God really wants me there, you know, ‘Am I making a difference?’ I guess I am guilty of wanting instant gratification.  Last visit I was running my fingers through Bernice's hair and singing ‘Isn’t He.’”

(Begin ital.)
Isn’t He beautiful? Beautiful, isn’t He? Prince of peace, Son of God, isn’t He?...
(End ital.)

“She smiled mightily,” Scout said, “and something in her eyes made me melt. When I got ready to leave, she said, ‘Thanks, hon.’ Yes, God wants me there. I doubt I will ever hear anything more beautiful for a long while.”

All of us are, at our base, bums in disguise. Maybe beggar is a better word. It’s been pointed out to me that in “beggar,” there is “an echo of humble, earnest supplication, as if one asks for an act of grace – as in, ‘I beg your pardon.’”

We’re all beggars, begging to be loved, heard and understood, but not as quick to love, hear and understand. We want someone, at least figuratively, to run their fingers through our hair. Best to pay it forward. And to remember where the gift of each breath comes from.

My favorite line from my favorite musical (so far, as I have not seen many!), comes when Annie and the cowboy Frank are semi-arguing in the final scene of “Annie Get Your Gun.” Frank offers Annie his own rifle in a shooting contest between the two because hers is messed up.

Annie: “I don’t need no favors!”

And Frank says to her, “Annie, everybody needs a favor sometimes.”

No matter how big a hotshot we are or think we are, we all need a favor sometimes. Which is just about every day.