Sunday, January 11, 2015

Begging At The Border

SAKI 173368f
Living near an international border gives me simple and ample opportunities to cross into Mexico on a somewhat regular basis.  At various times, I have driven from our home to a parking lot right next to the border crossing, walked across to a pharmacy which is literally across the street from the USA, picked up meds, come back through Customs, and gone home, making the whole trip in about 45 minutes.  Being this close allows me to notice one of the constants of border life: beggars.

Most people who beg along the border with the United States do so in the form of selling something.  Often it is little packs of gum.  Other times it is jewelry or wood carvings or some type of pottery.   The constant which is evident in every one of them is their obvious look of deep poverty.

I have heard before that these street merchant/beggars are actually fronting for someone else.  Someone else supplies them with their products and someone else takes most of their profits.  I don’t know if that is true, but it is pretty easy to see the people with open hands and have pity on them.

All of this makes me wonder if the border beggars ever have hope of a way out.  Do they ever look at the tourists who cross into their country and dream of a better life for themselves?  Do they notice the medical workers who cross each day to work at various clinics in their city, then go back to America to live and think, “I wonder if I might find a way off this border?”  And…I shudder to think this…are there some who have no desire at all to get out of their mess?

I raise that last question because of something I long ago noticed in myself.  I grew up in a hard-working family, but with a mom whose spiritual gift of mercy showed up in all its glory when one of her kids got sick.  Getting sick meant that mom would dote over us and be concerned about us.  More than once, I turned some slight discomfort into a major illness.  Staying sick longer made life a little easier for a while.

Don’t judge me too quickly.  How many times did you call in sick, then go off to play?  A friend of mine told me once about a borderline employee who barely kept her job, then called in ill one morning.  Within a couple hours, fellow employees found her at the coffee shop they all frequented, laughing it up with her friends.  She got fired that day.  Yes, the easy road can be fraught with danger.

This whole thing is human nature working overtime.  From the recuperating war hero who gets hooked on prescription drugs to the crime victim who transforms their pain into a permanent identity.  I bring the subject up because the ease at which we claim “victim” as our identity is a major obstacle to dealing with things like conflict.  We let ourselves get choked with the dust of our pain and use it as excuse so we don’t have to deal with relational conflicts.

That’s what will will talk about this weekend at Stone Ridge Church.  It’s Part 2 of our “Clean Slate” series.  It might be painful, but don’t miss it; you’ll be more than thankful when the dust clears!  Can’t be there?  Catch the podcast!