Thursday, September 24, 2009

Don't Pretend

Don't just pretend to love others. Really love them. Romans 12:9

Earlier this week, a stranger with no home, Lorraine,* was dropped off on the road in front of Bentley Farm. Like many men and women without a home, she was deeply wounded by the hurt of her past to the point of great mental alteration. She was on a journey to Washington D.C. to see if she could secure an audience with the President.

When I picked up Lorraine, I thought that maybe she just needed a quick ride, but when I realized that Lorraine was going to D.C. and that I was going the 1/2 mile up the road to my home for dinner, I figured that I could at least ask her to join my family for a warm meal.

At the dinner table, Lorraine poured out the story of her life beginning with her childhood where she had been the victim of the most horrific and violent crime imaginable. Lorraine went on to tell us of all the hurt that she had caused others because of her own pain. She was raw, honest, real and also terribly confused.

As I listened to the dinner hour confessions, I was completely and utterly baffled about what to do next. I had no idea, absolutely no idea, how to help Lorraine.

It is easy for me to pretend to love. It is easy for me to love at an arm's distance, to drop a few coins in a can, to serve soup on Thanksgiving, to send presents at Christmas. It is easy, far too easy, for me to love out of obligation or duty.

But how do you piece together what is so, so broken? How do you mend what is so torn apart?

When Lorraine finally finished her cake and started to gather her coat to leave with my parents to the bus station, I caught a glimpse of love that wasn't pretend, of love that wasn't obliged, of love that was genuinely and honestly real.

My mom, who has the biggest heart in the whole world, walked over to Lorraine and wrapped her arms around her, and held her. It was a beautiful picture of love that was real, of love that embraced the humanity and worth of an utter stranger. It didn't matter to mom that Lorraine had been living on the streets, that she had committed violent crimes, that she hadn't found a shower for days, that all of her teeth had fallen out and disappeared.

None of that mattered. Mom just held Lorraine and said, "Sometimes you need a hug."

Lorraine didn't let go for the longest time.

* A pseudonym.