Hot on the heels of the Coach purse conversation, I was approached at church the other day, minutes before the Immaculate Conception Mass, by a woman who said "I'm homeless, and my luggage is in a cab outside, and I have no money and the shelters are full, and I'm wondering... can I just sleep here tonight?"
There I was, in a big beautiful, warm, dry church. I had no money on me that I could give her, and she wasn't asking for any. But, I couldn't offer her the church building to stay overnight in. As shameful as it felt, the church building isn't something I have the authority to give. I led her to a woman who works at the town's soup kitchen, but she said she knew the shelters were full, and she too had nothing to give. The woman thanked us anyway and headed for the door. I watched her leave and wished I'd at least invited her to stay for a warm hour and some cookies after Mass. It all happened pretty fast. As she left, one of the Lectors who was standing at the door of the church said "I just hope she doesn't sneak downstairs and sleep there." I thought, "I kind of hope she does..."
I know that there are people who are gifted for taking care of the poor, and although I think I have a heart for the poor, I am not that person. I imagine someone like Mother Theresa would find a spot for this woman to sleep, toot-sweet, and talk the cabbie into comping her ride, too. I do not have the instincts for that- all I could manage to do was apologize dumbly and pat at my empty pockets.
So as I sat down to pray, I prayed that this woman would find a spot, and prayed in thanksgiving for the people who are better at helping others than I am, and wondered what the right thing to do would have been.