I've been re-reading On Writing Well by William Zinsser, one of my favorite books on writing from journalism school, and that has led me to try and rewrite this recent post. I was able to cut over 50 words, and I think that it reads a little more crisply.
She was a pitiful sight, sitting in her wheelchair just outside the hotel room – hair askew, left eye blackened from a punch three nights previous, wearing pajamas and no shoes. She’d been attacked in the camp where she lives, down by the railroad tracks, and now she was facing her last night at the hotel. I’d stopped by to bring her some clothes and food, trying to show her that I did care about her, even though I had no plan for how to help her. She had quickly left the transitional housing where we had placed her in March, and our church could not continue to pay for her hotel room. When I mentioned the possibility of going to a domestic violence shelter in a nearby city, she exploded. “I can’t go to another shelter situation! I’ve been out here in this chair for 10 years, getting murdered, and you want me to go to another shelter?!?”
She continued to yell at me. “What if I was your sister or your mom or your daughter? What would you do then!?”
“I’d bring them home to live with my family,” I thought, but I kept that to myself.
It seemed that what she really wanted me to do was find her an apartment and pay for it each month indefinitely, and I told her that I could not do that.
“It’s all about the money, isn’t it?” she continued. “Jesus didn’t care about money! Jesus cared about people! You can’t look at me in this situation and say you can’t do anything. You can’t be a Christian and leave me like this!” I told her goodbye and walked away, not sure what else I could say or why I should stay further.
My thoughts have been haunted by her in the days since. Should I have brought her home with me, moving my son into my daughters’ room to create a space for her? Didn’t the early Church grow because Christians would take in those that no one else loved or wanted? If anyone is the “least of these”, she is. The Lord has seemed strangely silent as I wrestled and worried, wondered and prayed. And sometimes I wonder if I’m cut out to follow Jesus in the hardest places of the world, because when I get there, I feel like I lack either the insight or the courage to act for transformation.