Monday, September 19, 2005

Shall the poor always be among us?

I ran up against a very troubling situation over the summer, and into the Fall, and wanted to run it by you all, and get your reactions.

This past year, my oldest son has become friends with Brian, a kid who showed up at AWANA (a kids' Bible club thingy), and quickly caught up with his peers on Bible verse memorization (passing a lot of the slower memorizers). He is sweet and kind, and just a great kid. We were happy our son and he were buds. Brian's older brother is also a great kid, and they have both come over to our house to play with our boys.

Now comes the troubling part.
These kids are poor. Seriously poor. Their mother works a bit at a donut shop, we think. When we first me them, she was also helping to care for an older lady in our church who needed live-in care. The older lady ended up needing to go into a nursing facility, and the bottom-feeding sharks - I mean relatives - of this lady got a lawyer to give them control of the house, so Maria and her boys had to move...quickly.

In trying to be a part of helping them, more to their story was revealed to my wife and I.

It turns out Maria is undocumented from Mexico. I don't know if the boys are born here or not - excellent english, with no hint of an accent. Before moving in with the lady, they were all living in one room of an apartment - until the landlord found out, and kicked them out. This kind of thing seemed to be a pattern in her past: moving from place to place wherever she could.

At the last minute, a kind single lady from the church offered to let them stay with her for two weeks, until Maria could find a more permanent solution.

Now comes the really tough part.
In the two weeks, Maria made no effort to find anyplace else. Time went on, and nothing. As it turns out, this is also a typical mode of operation for her. Stay wherever until kicked out.

This put Susan (the single lady) in the awful position of being Scrooge (or worse), and kicking them out. Imaging telling a mother with two kids, and no place to go, to leave. What a terrible position to be put in!

As this was happening, a couple interesting events turned.
As Susan was telling Maria that she and the boys had to gone by the next day, Maria called her boyfriend (what? where did he come from? no one knew about a boyfriend!) who came over and started threatening Susan and the rest of the church. A fine way to endear yourself to people who have been agonizing over how to help you, don't you think?

Susan held her ground, and by the next day Maria and the boys moved out.

Guess where they moved.



I did a spit take with my iced tea when I heard this.
What? She had relatives within almost walking distance, and she never said a word?
You put your kids through this awful scene over and over again, when there is family willing (I assume) to take you in?

I am without speech.

A final bit before I ask some questions of you all.
The people in charge of Helps, or Caring ministries, or whatever they call it, came to Maria with an offer.
They had talked to some people at the Salvation Army, and the Salvation Army was willing to take in Maria and the boys, and give them room and board while they gave Maria job skills training. Then they would let them all stay until they found her a job that would enable her to afford her own apartment.

She declined the offer.

I really want to scream.
Here is salvation (literally and figuratively), Maria. Won't you take it?

Now the questions:
What do you do?
Do you continue to reach out?
What does true help look like in this situation?
Tough love, or longsuffering generousity?

And the biggest question: How did the boys end up so sweet? They are kind, exceptionally smart, generous (with not much to be generous with), good kids. How amazing is that?

My wife and I are committed to Brian and his brother. We will bring them over and fill them with food and love. We desperately want to love them with the love of Christ - so that no matter what happens and where they end up, they will have a time and place where they got bread and love, not contempt and gravel, and the name of Jesus will not be reviled.

Is there anything else we can and should do?
I don't know right now.

I just don't know.


AuntieJeanne 5:10 PM, September 20, 2005  

Wow, that's an interesting dilemma. I believe you can't save some people from themselves and no matter how hard you try, they just don't WANT to change. The fact that Maria has had numerous chances to change her ways and hasn't taken them means that she doesn't want help. Either that or she's afraid someone will find out she's an illegal alien and she'll get deported so that's why she moves from place to place--but I would think there are organization she can go to for help with becoming a citizen or getting a green card at least. Or possibly she has a criminal record and doesn't want anyone to find out? There are a million explanations for why she's acting the way she is. All you can do is keep doing what you've been doing with Brian and his brother and whatever Maria does is beyond your control. Just my 2 cents.

Brian 8:52 AM, September 22, 2005  

Tough love comes to mind for the mother. Your love for the kids.

From what you have said in your post I think you are reflecting Christ's love. Keep up the love on the kids. If the mom approaches you for help be honest with her. She needs to start pulling on the boot straps a bit.

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