by Linda Ryan
What a week it has been! The water was shut off at 6 pm on Monday and didn’t come back on for sixteen hours. Even though this was overnight, I found it hard to do without water. Worse, on Thursday morning, the power went out, though it came back about an hour and a half later. It was 97° outside, and believe me, my tin can sort of house heats up fast. Glad the outage was short this time.
It made me stop and think about how easy it is to take things like power and running water for granted. Especially in the desert heat, it is so easy to dehydrate and get thirsty without any way to replenish it unless one has spare jugs of water in the fridge or the pantry. Hopefully, these have been filled to care for needs like hand washing, cat drinking bowls, and cooking. The toilet won’t flush, which is probably the worst.
I don’t have a car, so I cannot just go down to the store to buy more bottled water; I am reliant on what I have. I don’t have a generator, either, so being without power just has to be endured. Luckily, even with the power out, the water comes back on (minor local outage), and I can wash dishes by hand. Instead of vacuuming, I sweep and dust mop. There are still things I can do, like make the bean salad for the next few days, and load the washer. The power comes back on, and I have air conditioning now. Things are not just bearable but comfortable. But of course I think of homeless people, and I think of them with great sadness and sympathy. I always know that someone will restore my power and water, hopefully sooner rather than later. At the same time, the homeless have to search for it independently.
I remember being in the heat of summer one year when a massive storm knocked out power to the whole area for several days. People walked around, checking damage and offering help. Things were genuinely unbearable in the hottest part of summer and highly humid. If worse came to worse, we could stay with relatives or even find some temporary lodging and food supplies. Still, it was inconvenient and frustrating to be unable to rely on things we usually find essential.
I remember days when air conditioning was uncommon, even in hot, humid summers. I would lie on the woven fiber rug in front of the box fan and get cold water from the fridge. We had a gas stove, so if power outages happened during winter, we could close off the kitchen and stay warm, plus have hot meals and drinks. Growing up, I didn’t know any homeless people, as we never saw any in our small town or even in the area. I didn’t get a full taste of it until I moved to Arizona. Even for the first decade or so, I seldom saw homeless folks unless we had to go to downtown Phoenix for something. Now they are everywhere. There’s a beggar on almost every street corner and people sleeping under trees and any other shade they can find.
I wonder how people in Jesus’s time did it? No power, running water, or air conditioning – and I know they didn’t miss it because they’d never had any of those. Still, they had to cope with it, just as our homeless people have to manage now. Many of our homeless are mentally ill or disabled. Some families lost their homes when they lost their jobs. Their vehicles broke down, and there was no money to repair them, so finding other work was almost impossible. Getting to places where needed resources like food, aid, healthcare, or further assistance is available. Remember, not everywhere has a comprehensive bus system.
So what would Jesus ask us to do? We know the answer to that; we’ve heard it often enough. But knowing it and doing something about it are two different things. Like the misuse of guns to mow down children and other innocent people, something has to be done, and soon. Jesus moved from place to place, sometimes without food, water, or shelter, but he and the disciples made the best of it (even if the boys did gripe about it from time to time). He encountered people who needed feeding and healing and did something about it. He used the disciples to spread the message and the teachings that God had established long ago – love God, love neighbor, and do good everywhere you can.
This summer, remember the homeless, poor, the sick, imprisoned, dying, hopeless, and confused. Care for the children and the elderly. Love God, be kind, do justice, be humble, and walk with God every single day.
Linda Ryan is a co-mentor for an Education for Ministry group, an avid reader, lover of Baroque and Renaissance music, and retired. She keeps the blog Jericho’s Daughter. She lives with her three cats near Phoenix, Arizona.