This afternoon I helped a family move for about 15 minutes. Seriously. They had moved some of their belongings out on a prior day, but here I was ready for at least a good hour of maneuvering and man-handling. We moved some mattresses, a bedframe, a dresser, two nightstands, two lawnmowers, a TV, a washer, and a dryer, all into a U-Haul. We were done.
I was humbled as I went into their ex-home. I had never really been beyond the living room, but I got a glimpse of LIFE. I went to grab a mattress and noticed a roach who looked very much at home with his buddies. I flicked him (or her for that matter) off just as one of the family walked into the room. I almost felt bad that I was acknowledging the presence of roaches in their home. So many times on visits we do not point out what is obviously there.
This reminds me of a story of a friend named Anthony Wood. He has shared this story over and over, so I do not think that he minds me sharing. He was trying to get into the lives of people in "inner-city" Memphis. He started a Bible study with a gentleman. The study was in this guy's home. This man would get up in the middle of the study and go get some coffee. After the first few visits, Anthony wondered when the man would offer him some. Finally he did. Anthony went into the kitchen with him. He wanted to put some creamer in his coffee, so he needed a spoon. He asked where the drawer was and pulled the drawer open. He discovered roaches were already there, and they were crawling on the spoons. Anthony thought for a second about what he should do. He did not want to offend the man by washing the spoon off, so he put the spoon directly into the hot coffee hoping that the high temperature would sanitize the thing. The gentleman saw the situation and said casually, "We just normally wash the spoon off in the sink." Anthony points out that sometimes you've got to put the spoon in the coffee--unwashed.
The family member was not upset. He did not even acknowledge what I had done. He probably did the same--flicking away-- when he spotted one. When it comes to poverty and its effects, I felt the tension today of wanting and not wanting to acknowledge what I see right before me.