Inner City Diary
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Helping hand beats angry resentment
February 17, 2002
I was studying at the church last week, about 7:30 on Sunday morning.

Roused from my contemplative state by the persistent rining of the phone, I set aside my sermon notes. I heard my wife's hurried voice.

"There's a strange guy at the door and he's trying to get in. I've called the cops, come over right away!"

It sure didn't take long to switch modes from pastor of a church to protector of a family. Grabbing my coat and something which could be used to defend myself, I ran the half-block to my place.

As I got closer and noticed there was someone in our veranda, I tried to process my options in confronting the man. There were too many options and too little time to evaluate them all. It seemed that every rational thought about dealing with the sitaution was crowded out by my resentment.

It started with the resentment of being interrupted while getting ready for a busy day. There was resentment that someone was trying to get into our home. That someone had alarmed Virginia. that someone was putting our family at risk. That he was still there, trying to get through the door, after she told him she had phoned police.

There was the lingering anger about theives, thugs and drunks which disturb the peace of our community. And, I'm not sure how there was room for it in the half-block run to my house, but I noted a resentment about just about everything that was wrong with the world.

By the time I reached the front gate, the primal overcame the pastoral. In retrospect, I came through that gate more like a heat-seeking missle eager to meet its target, not like a pastor looking to redeem a situation.

Instinct took over. I saw blood on the outside door. I burst into the veranda, yelling at the intruder.

My first words demanded an explanation for his presence in my veranda. My mind, however, was so focused on his physical movements, that it was almost like his words wouldn't matter. I had decided in advance that nothing he would say would provide an adequate explanation for his attempt to get into our house.

Suddenly, something tweaked in the recesses of the part of my brain still open to rational thought. I noted something was wrong. The guy was obviously high. he wasn't wearing a coat. I looked again and realized he wasn't wearing shoes.

But what about the blood? It didn't look like he was cut or shot, so I wondered if he had done someone else? I barked out a new question - this time actually looking for a response: "What are you trying to do?"

In the next seven minutes I learned a little more about "Jeff." He had been drinking at a late-night party. At some point, several of his friends decided he needed a beating. The beating continued despite his appeal to the fact that they were his only friends in the world. He decided to run. No shoes or coat, just fear and a bloody nose.

He was headed to him sister's house in the North End but, after an hour of wandering, he made it as far as a similar street in the West End. In a mind polluted by alcohol, frost and desperation, I guess our hose started to look like his sister's place.

I told Virginia to call the police and let them know we had the situation under control. Apparently the operator asked three time, "Are you sure?"

I drove Jeff to Main Street Project. I was almost ashamed to admit I was a pastor after my first reaction in the veranda, but I told him anyway.

He said he used to go to church and figured maybe he should try again. I suggested that while churches (and pastors) aren't perfect, he couldn't do much worse than his present "friends."

We talked more.

Apparently he has a girlfriend and three kids.

Thinking out loud, I said, "It's good we ran into each other, and I'lm glad you stayed on your feet. Imagine if you had laid down for a rest in some snowbank."

For a few blocks it was very quiet in the truck. I guess both of us have a good imagination.

By the time I helped Jeff into Main Street Project my anger had melted. I looked at his frozen feet, covered only in socks, and hoped there was no permanent damage.

I guess sometimes people are more in need of our help than our anger.

I'm thankful for the way things turned out.
Copyright 2002
Rev. Harry Lehotsky
Rev. Harry Lehotsky is Director of New Life Ministries, a community ministry in the inner-city of Winnipeg, Manitoba.
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514 Maryland Street
Winnipeg, Mb R3G 1M5
(204) 775-4929