For the purposes of this blog, I’ll call her Miss Y. Y is not her first initial, but since her actual first initial is shared by no less than six other ladies in my church alone, I have to improvise.
Miss Y is the lady who, along with her daughter, and completely unbeknownst to both of them, prevented me from killing myself a few weeks ago. In the past month, she and I have gotten closer; she spends a fair portion of her daylight hours in the same geography that I do, and we’ve gotten comfy sharing war stories and caffeinated beverages a few times a week or so.
Some of the tales we share are church ones. She’s been here for many years. Miss Y has stuck it out even as I and many other acquaintances trudged off for what we thought were greener pastures. She has seen a lot. I’ll go further and say she has Seen Some Shit go down in this place. We’ve had numerous conversations about this church, its staff, and How Things Were versus How Things Are, with a bit of How Things Could Be mixed in for flavor. She has a heart for the Lord, Miss Y does, but she also has the meek nature and servant’s heart that I fear I’ll never have.
A Tale of Twenty Dollars
Miss Y regaled me with an anecdote from her youth today. She was one of those good girls, raised in a Christian home, yadda yadda, but upon turning eighteen she “rebelled” and left the church. Some unspecified badness had happened, she felt betrayed and disillusioned, and she was an adult now so screw those hypocrites, not gonna go back there.
However, she was employed by a family member, an uncle who pestered her every Monday morning: “What was the sermon about yesterday?” Each week they did the dance of “I don’t know, I didn’t go to church,” “Do I need to call your parents,” “I’m eighteen and I don’t have to go,” lather, rinse, repeat. Finally, she snapped and asked him what his church’s sermon was about, and lo and behold, the uncle hadn’t gone either! Hadn’t gone in weeks, in fact! Miss Y was even further put off by this hypocrisy.
But some time later, the uncle presented her with a twenty dollar bill. They engaged in some back and forth: “Do you want to keep this?” “No, it’s yours,” blah blah setting the scene for the allegory. There are counterfeit twenty dollar bills out there. They look okay at first, but upon scrutiny, they turn out to be fake. Finally, he asked her how she would feel if she found out that this twenty dollar bill was counterfeit. Would she never in her life accept a twenty dollar bill again?
The Moral of the Story
Miss Y, after fuming and grumbling to herself a while, ultimately went back to church. She kept that twenty dollar bill pinned on her wall as a reminder for many years. (Eventually, she had to take it down and spend it. However symbolically important, it was also actual money; sometimes twenty dollars can be the difference between keeping the lights on or not.)
I found this tale deeply moving. There’s counterfeit currency in this church. Still, even after all these years. There are Good Little Christians who show up on Sunday and even on Wednesday and say all the right words, but pass by on the other side when the chips are down. Some of these fakers have given me seriously deep paper cuts in my time. I’m still licking the wounds (see: everything I’ve written on this whole site). They’re everywhere.
Not every one I find is going to be counterfeit. There are still genuine, kind people. And even if there weren’t?
God Is Still With Me
Miss Y doesn’t know all of the gory details about me. She knows a lot, and we’ve opened up to each other a fair amount about how other Christians have discouraged us. She also knows about my current SITUATION, as we euphemistically refer to the fact that I’m broke, homeless, unemployed, and deeply depressed. This morning, while frantically and painstakingly urging me to please tell her if she was offending me, if she was upsetting me in any way, or otherwise getting too close or overstepping her bounds, she offered to help me with a certain matter.
You see, it’s rather obvious to anyone who gets to know me that I need mental health care. At the very least, I need to get back on some form of medication. I can hold my own for short bursts of looking normal, but I’m in a bad place and everybody knows it. Miss Y brought up the prospect of using the local Health Department’s services because, well, meds would help. Right?
See A Doctor, Duh
The Health Department offers limited care to locals in need, on a sliding scale. Free if you “qualify.” I’ve used their services in the past, more than once. I speak from experience when I say that their Eligibility Screening is one of the most humiliating and demoralizing and degrading experiences I have ever suffered through. I’ve never understood why people who HATE OTHER HUMANS choose to work in social services, but I’ve met a great many of them during the worst periods of my life.
As I described the process to Miss Y, I began to have a mild panic attack at the mere thought of prostrating myself before those ghouls again. Begging for their help. Choking on and swallowing their thinly-veiled insults about how I got myself into this mess. Hoping they deem me worthy and deserving enough for the scraps they might deign to toss at my feet.
So she offered to go with me. Because I cannot go there by myself, I can’t I can’t I CAN’T I JUST CAN’T GO BACK THERE ALONE I CAN’T GO THROUGH THAT AGAIN. Miss Y offered to go up there with me and sit with me through the process and be present.
Not money. Not shelter. Not relief from my bills (I haven’t even told her about them). Just her presence. A hand to hold to keep me from slipping over the edge. Being there.