Tuesday, March 31, 2009

And All I Wanted Was Mountain Dew

Don’t you hate it when board meetings run so late you can’t make your Monday deadline posting? I know I do, ho ho ho.

Last week, as I was walking to the gym (#1 of things I try to enjoy while unemployed – walking to my gym and taking classes at 9:45am in the morning, when I’d normally be at work already) I talked with God and said something like “Whatever happens today, please let my actions and reactions be pleasing in your sight.”

Is it just me, or do sometimes we (okay, me, but hoping for a “we” here) fall into the trap where we think if only we can put together the right sentences, we’ll somehow unlock the storehouse of God’s blessings – like a verbal Open Sesame. Like He’s been up there pacing, going, Did she pray for other people first? Did she pray for How To Be instead of Give Me Stuff? Did she say “Please let my actions and reactions be pleasing in your sight.” YES! FINALLY! Now I’ll bless her with a job, a future husband and a script sale! Yaaaaaaa-woooooo!

Later that day, I was in the grocery store, armed with the tools of the Unemployed – coupons and a strict grocery list (caffeine, milk, celery.) I was in a reasonable mood, as I’ve discovered 100.3’s “10 at 10” (#2 of things I try to enjoy while unemployed) and the theme today was songs from 1992, which was hilarious.

And so here I am in the soda aisle, trying to calculate which Mountain Dew is fiscally a better choice when you calculate coupons vs. ounces vs. carbon imprints (is a 2 liter bottle less damaging on the environment than a six pack.) when all of the sudden, an overweight woman dressed in dark layers, a hat, with a cane and her purse in her empty cart, blocks the way out of the aisle.

She asks me if I could spare some money.

This is unusual in the fact that people like her are not so brazen in their begging. They normally stay outside the store, I’m sure there’s a rule against it, you can’t harass people inside the store. If the security guard was walking by, I’m sure he’d tell her to move along. And yet, here she is harassing me.

Not harassing in, “Give me money or I’m not going to get out of your way.” But harassing in, “I’m going to stand here and keep talking to you and guilt you into this.”

She’s talking about how she’s staying at the shelter, and it’s so hard, and all she’s trying to do is buy some chicken and bread, and “God told me to ask you for money” and starts pulling tattered pages of a bible for, for, I don’t know what for.

And I’m furious that this is happening. It’s not like I can claim I don’t have any money, because obviously I do, I’m trying to buy my Mountain Dew. I’m furious that she’s targeted me. I always get targeted like this, because I’m a single woman. Homeless men will target me because I’m cute. Homeless women will target me because I’m a woman. Strange men will target me because I’m cute. Strange women will target me because I’m alone. You know she wouldn’t have picked me had I been walking the aisles with ANYONE, male or female.

My fingers are clenched around this basket. I feel like snarling, “God’s telling me to tell you you need to be going to social services to learn skills to get some kind of job as opposed to harassing people in grocery stores for money,” like the snotty privileged class of which I am a member would say. But even though I have a feral need to make this woman understand just how much she’s pissing me off, to make her feel awful for asking me for money, I don’t do it. I frown as I reach into the wallet and give her all the money I have, which is something like $12 in singles. “Are you sure you have enough to do your shopping?” She asks, as she money swiftly disappears into her pocket. “Yeah, I’m fine,” I snap back, wanting this conversation to be over already. “God bless you,” she says as she shoves on.

And the feral part of me wants to track her, to see if she’s going to harass anyone else, so I can swoop in and stop her, saying I gave her enough money. But I’m so angry I don’t, I just grab my items and try to get out of there as quick as I can.

And I’m pissed off at myself, that my reaction, which I had just prayed to God this morning about, wasn’t more Godlike. This may have been a test. She could’ve been one of those angels you hear about in sappy stories sold in Southern Christian Bookstores. I should have parted with the money gladly. I should have taken her to lunch, heard her whole life story, driven her down to some sort of social services place, taught her how to type, taken all her burdens upon myself to solve. Or at the very least parted with the money gladly.

But I’m not that kind of person. I’m an angry cranky bitch who’s pissed off that you’re using God to guilt me into giving you money. I almost halfway hope I run into someone ELSE who asks me for money, just so I can say, “Oh, I’m sorry, I already gave everything I had to some other homeless person. You’re just too late.” Because I have this anger ball in my stomach, and I must pass it on.

I did see the woman outside the store as I was leaving, munching on the chicken wings that she purchased with the money I gave her. So it’s not as though she went and bought booze with it, as many of us would have thought. She nods at me in acknowledgement and again says, “God bless you.” And all I can think of is Yeah, right.

I’m an angry cranky bitch, but I keep it inside, instead of taking it out on other people. But there’s a part of me that very much wants to take it out on other people, and that’s what’s so dismaying about being me.

Obviously, God still loves me if I’m a angry cranky bitch, because He’s God and He’s required to (and yeah, required is the word that comes to mind when I’m acting as bratty as I was with the homeless woman.) But I’m dismayed that there’s been no softening of my spirit. What’s up with THAT? I can’t imagine that God doesn’t want me to change that part of myself. I’ve asked him for a softer heart, a softer spirit, a more tender and compassionate, um, um, um nature?

And yet if He DID give me those things, it wouldn’t be me. I’m not sure my friends would recognize me with a softer heart, one who gaily befriends homeless women and works in a soup kitchen and tutors underprivileged kids in math or something.

But would it be a better me? And if it would, shouldn’t I be trying hard to change? Shouldn’t God be trying harder to help me change?

Unless I’m supposed to be exactly like this, forever cranky. Which doesn’t make sense either. Ugh.


Patty Jean Robinson said...

I echo your sentiment. I wish I had something more to say, but you said it all.

Ah, here's something quippy:
I blame it all on Mountain Dew.

Michelle said...

God doesn't think you're a bitch. And he would know.

aartilla the fun said...

i felt like i was reading myself talking, when you mentioned the "magic phrase" thing. i think the same thing all the time, usually as i'm simultaneously trying to say all the magic phrases.

i do think that when we adhere to His Word and cling to His Spirit, we end up praying differently, but not because we are making any effort of our own. i think we just get a bit more hip to what God wants our hearts to be saying.

however, i will say that you are changing! i don't even know you but if you are even thinking about yourself on this level, and OBEYING the way you did (giving all the money in your wallet is much more than i would have done, and reminds me of the poor women who gave her last penny, and remember how touched Jesus was by her), then you are changing, your heart is softening, and you are one step closer to mother teresa-hood.


if any of this was easy, then God wouldn't have had to make Laws about it, or wouldn't have had to send His Son to die a horrible, gruesome death, then make Him RISE again (WOAH!) to get our attention. so don't beat up on yourself too much.

wow i leave long comments. i'd only meant to write one sentence.