A lady called at my gate, “Sister! Sister!” How annoying, I thought. It’s not even 8am.
Peeking out from my back door I recognized my neighbor and her daughter. They live a short distance away behind a group of banana trees.
Opening the gate, my neighbor stood before me looking at the ground. I know this look. The shifting feet, lowered eyes, hands clasped behind. “Sister, we are hungry. Rice is expensive and we have no more. I work hard, but it’s not enough…”
She dares to make eye contact and then quickly looks away. I am tired. I don’t want to establish a pattern of handouts. I’d rather give her work if I can, but even that can come with the expectation that I will help meet other needs as they arise. Besides, I don’t have any work for her this morning.
“It’s true.” I say, “Rice is expensive. I don’t have a lot, but I’ll fill a bag for you.” and begrudgingly turn towards the house.
Why doesn’t she have family to help her? Why doesn’t her church step up? Why does she have to come to me? My thoughts fly.
“Wait, Sister.” She calls and I turn around. “I brought you these from our garden. Thank you for the rice.” Her daughter held out a bag with two small bunches of bananas.
Compassion fatigue is a real thing and it means just what you think. You get tired, frustrated, resentful of the constant bombarding of needs.
That morning I felt the resentment hit hard the moment I opened the gate to the shrinking figure in front of me. But accepting the bananas, I remembered a conversation I had with my seven year old son the very day before.
“Where does our money to live on come from?” my son asked.
“The generosity of our donors.” I told him, “Those are people who see what we are doing here and want to be a part of it. So they send us money from their earnings to help us be able to live here and help people. It’s really something quite special.”
Yet there I stood at my gate, angry at my neighbors need, frustrated at the idea of giving her my rice. The very rice I’d bought through the generosity of others.
It’s God’s rice, Anisha. The bananas remind me.
Thank God for those bananas, for the checking of my heart. For the reminder that we’ve freely received. Why not give?