the woman on my porch

by Kayla Raymond

“True generosity is measured not by how much we give away but by how much we have left, especially when we look at the needs of our neighbors.”

It’s dinnertime. Wishla is plopped in her infamous red bucket, splashing in the water and blabbering. The boys are pulled up to the table eating their supper. Sweat is dripping down my face as I scurry to do dishes and clean up my house. In the distance I hear my bed calling my name, tired after another day.

Webert comes and calls my name, explaining someone is here to see me. Sigh. Who could it be? It’s a familiar face. No, I don’t know her name but I have a good guess why she’s here. The look on her face is all too familiar: desperation. She’s clinging onto one last shot and maybe she’ll find hope on my porch tonight.

I never learned her name, but she’s left a mark on my heart. She has three children; all of them went to bed hungry the night before. She continues with her story: no jobs, unemployed husband, a house made of tent and scraps, she’s hungry, the children are hungry. She has a list of things she needs money for.

She explains that two of her children go to our school. She thanks me and says, “I have no possibility to give them food in the morning and now they find bread at school every morning.”

I’m going to give God the glory for that one!

This statement eased my mind; at least we are doing one thing right. A week before I had someone gift me with three extra-large jars of peanut butter, so I sent mom on her way with some extra chunky peanut butter, 50 goudes to buy bread and the change Webert had in his pocket – I occasionally turn his pockets into my gifting stash 😉

But you know, by now, a week later, that peanut butter is far gone and mom’s list of needs were so long that Webert’s secret stash probably didn’t get her too far. It has been a week and that momma just won’t give my heart a break.

I just finished reading a book called The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Clairborne. It is a book about sharing, living in community and being an ordinary radical. Putting yet again into perspective how much the North American church is asleep and people, like the momma on my porch, are desperate and crying out for justice, equality and some food!

Page 344 reads, “What’s crazy is a matter of perspective. After all, what is crazier: one person owning the same amount of money as the combined economies of twenty-three countries, or suggesting that if we shared, there would be enough for everyone? What is crazier: spending billions of dollars on a defense shield, or suggesting that we share our billions of dollars so we don’t need a defense shield?…What’s crazy is that the US, less than 6 percent of the world’s population, consumes nearly half of the world’s resources, and that the average American consumes as much as 520 Ethiopians do…Someday war and poverty will be crazy, and we will wonder how the world allowed such things to exist.”

There were lots of other great analogies and arguments made in the book. But I don’t want to make this into a book report, rather an argument for the desperate woman who stood on my porch. I wonder what her perspective of crazy is.

Poverty becomes real when it comes knocking on your door, making the full jars of peanut butter gain a lot more value and the pockets full of change go a lot further. Makes me wonder what the world – more or less the desperate moms in my community – would look like if we began sharing all our excess. Spreading the wealth. Stopped our compulsive buying and truly gave to the poor. Yeah, the idea of our closets and cupboards shrinking seems quite frightening, but I’m sure the people with empty closets and cupboards will begin to see hope for a better tomorrow in our giving.

And I’m not talking about the guilt giving. The kind where it gets brought up that I’m some crazy missionary and you have to tell me about some distant relative who once went on a mission trip and you all of a sudden want to give me your spare $5 (this has unfortunately happened multiple times – awkward, I know) The guilt thing can work, but is only temporary.

I’m looking for something pure and radical. A type of giving that is driven by a desire for equality. Allowing ourselves to truly recognize all that we have and take to heart all the scriptures that talk about giving to the poor, oppressed and needy. This is obviously a subject near to Jesus’s heart, so why shouldn’t it be what’s driving us this holiday season?

‘Tis the season, when we find hope in a manger and a Savior.

“One of the fathers of the church, Basil the Great, writing in the fourth century put it this way: ‘When someone strips a man of his clothes, we call him a thief. And one might clothe the naked and does not – should not he be given the same name? The bread in your cupboard belongs to the hungry; the coat in your wardrobe belongs to the naked; the shoes you let rot belong to the barefoot; the money in your vaults belongs to the destitute.’ …No wonder John the Baptist used to connect redistribution with repentance, as he declared, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near’ (Matt. 3:2) and, ‘anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none.’ (Luke 3:11)” (page 164-165)

I have lots of neighbors who need to be fed and clothed this season. So, here’s to the spare peanut butter jars and the change in our pockets that has yet to be given away. People are waiting. I truly believe we can bring the hope they are desperately looking for. I pray that the woman on my porch caught a glimpse of it.

Shane Clairborne . The Irresistible Revolution. (Zondervan, 2006) 164-165, 344.