Are we awake?

I fear it may be time for this blog to head off in a different direction. This should be a good thing, since it might encourage me to get back to writing. We’ll see.
My eyes are being opened and my heart is being broken, and I need space to work through some of this. I’m hoping this space will fill some part of this need.
Craig and I have been participating in a group through church called Engaging Spirituality. The program seeks to deepen participants’ faith through a group process focused on prayer and social justice.It has been challenging, to say the leastparents , and we are discovering just how much growing we still have to do.
Craig’s parents have been kind enough to watch the girls through all these meetings. As I was driving to their house to drop the little ones off, I witnessed this scene.
We were at a red light, waiting to make a left turn. To the side of the oncoming traffic, also stopped for the light, a man was walking up and down with a sign. I couldn’t read the sign, since his back was to me, but I’ve seen this man, and his friend who was sitting on the bus bench, before, so I know the sign said something to the effect of, “hungry”, “please help”, “anything helps”, etc. You know the signs as well as I do.
In the far lane from the man, a police car was stopped for the light. I noticed the blue lights flashing, and the officer flinging his door open and stepping quickly out of the car. He called to the man with the sign, and waved him toward him. Between the two rows of cars, there was a conversation which I couldn’t see much of because of the cars between me and the two men.
I don’t know what was said. Maybe the officer warned the other man to be careful in the traffic. But I doubt it. The officer looked irate. There was violence in his movement. When they were done talking, the man slunk over to the bench, sign gone or put away. The officer stormed back to his car, ripped the door open, and got back in.
Our light changed.
The whole scene might have taken a minute. I was shaken by what I witnessed. Craig checked when we got home – there is no law against pan-handling which applies to that part of the city. What could the officer have said to this man? Maybe he knows him well, has picked him up in the past for something. I don’t know. But what I saw, what my heart and my gut saw, was ugly.
These men are already down. What good does it do for this officer to get out and further embarass and belittle them in the middle of stopped traffic? There was no kindness or concern for the plight of fellow human being visible in the officer’s body language. There wasn’t even pity. There was contempt, self-righteousness, anger, disgust, and, as I realized laying awake in bed tonight, violence. I do not feel safer for the action this officer took. I feel embarassed. My initial thoughts were, “How could we?” and “God help us!” Where is our compassion as a society? Why do we insist on alienating and hurting our most vunerable?
And I drove away.

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