Monday, March 4, 2013

Panettones are not just for Christmas

I spent most of the morning with Enildo. Due to the generosity of my friend Sue, I had a box of old panettones to give away, and thought he may want to help me distribute them to some of the community of which he (sadly) now forms part. 

A scrawny, filthy boy at the first set of lights we reach and I give an awkward smile-but-with-concerned-eyes. I sit upright in the car and am reminded of how much I dislike hand-outs. Worse still was the separation and the ease-of-escape that sitting at the wheel of a car communicates.

So, in a bizarre twist of Acts 3, I say: “Loose change I have not, but what I do have I give you: a slightly out-of-date but nonetheless delicious chocolate panettones!”. Well, I thought of saying it.

“You use crack here with the others, right?” I ask with a little resignation.

He responds with a bewildered look and then glances at the driver behind me in the hope of a more fruitful response before the lights turn. Enildo reaches into the box in the back and hands him a panettone.

“You can’t say that,” Enildo says to me as we drive away. “It’s too...direct. It goes straight to the point.”

“Well, that was the point,” I say. “Why not go straight to it?” I think it’s important to show that I am concerned, but not naive, I explained.

But really what is there to say in such cold encounters, such drive-by hands-length give-aways? How many other well-wishers pass by and blurt out a well-meaning but misdirected platitude at such easy recipients of our charity? How many invitations to rehab are handed out to these kids day-in/day-out? I don’t want to be just another do-gooder not doing any good at all.

In such short and awkward dialogues I usually fumble phrases like there is hope for you or something similar, but in the absence of relationship, there really is not much to say. Addicts (child or adult) don’t need another person to tell them to clean-up, they need a power encounter that changes their heart as well as their will and then someone to walk with them every day of their new lives.

“He’s from the church,” Enildo leans over and says matter-of-factly to the next one at the lights. I sink down in my seat.

“I can’t see how that is any better,” I replied after we’d given away another cake. “It conjures up all sorts of mischief in people’s minds. Boredom, dusty pews, a creepy priest. Some of these girls’ clients may well be drawn from the laity. Do you actually think it is more helpful to put me into that box?”

“Well, I guess not,” he concedes.

Only one panettones left. That one’s for Enildo.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I recall when you showed me a book and said 'Read the first chapter and you'll want to read it all.' You were right.

The opening of Yancey's 'What's So Amazing About Grace' says the church is perceived as dusty, boring and lacking in grace.

I would like the church to be thought of as 'the strange guy who gives us panettones'. I think Mr Yancey would agree. I'm certain that Jesus would!

Keep it up!
Brian

Anonymous said...

thank you for posing this very fundamental questions in your unique funny way (“Loose change I have not, but what I do have I give you: a slightly out-of-date but nonetheless delicious chocolate panettones!”)! i'm often thinking about what church actually is and how it is lived out best. in this process, posts like this one are really great inputs from a point of view you don't get that much in universities...

blessings
dominik

Luke said...

Dealing with people trapped in addictions poses some of the most difficult problems indeed. I saw a minibus of church people giving out clothes to the crack addicts the other day and I'm sure I've done something similar in the past, but it's one of the more simple rules that one should never give clothes to them because they simply sell them for their drug. If they sell their own children for it, is it any great surprise that they would sell any hand-out given to them? Enildo needs a simple medicine to help him fight an infection. Is it more "loving" to buy it for him (and make sure he uses it) or leave him to suffer and so suffer the consequences of his life choices? One constantly needs a higher counsel. And that is why I like this work!

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