Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Conflicted

Just got back from the grocery store. I only needed a couple things for the calzones I'm making tonight, so I just carried Henry in my arms rather than strap on the Bjorn and/or lug his carrier in. As I stood in the refrigerated aisle looking for ricotta cheese, a young(ish) man came up to me with a cart and offered it to me. "Thanks!" I said, thinking how sweet he was. He was clearly mentally disabled and I instantly grinned at him to let him know I appreciated the gesture. Then he stood there for a while staring at Henry and said "You have a beautiful baby." and continued staring. A chill ran down my spine and I clutched the baby a little tighter and thanked the man again and walked away. When I looked back, he was still standing there staring.

And so, I felt conflicted. I felt terrible that I had been essentially creeped out by this guy. He had some obvious "special needs" and I felt so awful that I had been scared by his demeanor. Maybe it was just the way he said it. On the one hand I wanted to love him, but on the other hand, I couldn't help but think of all the crazy stories about people who try to steal babies, etc. I walked through the aisles a bit aimlessly for a few minutes trying to sort out my feelings. And I don't know quite what to feel even still.

It reminded me of when Andy and I lived in an apartment complex and there was this guy who lived there: Jerry. Jerry also had some sort of mental disability and I would always find him kind of hiding and staring at people. One day, as we laid out by the pool, I told Andy "Jerry is hiding behind those bushes over there staring at us. I'm totally freaked out by him right now." Andy promptly scolded me, saying "Jeannett. Give the guy a break. The poor guy was just made differently and he already has to deal with not being "normal" and then you gotta go and be mean and be scared of him. Leave him alone, he's fine." So I felt totally guilty and ashamed. Fast forward a few months later when the Megan's Law website came out. I joked with my co-workers that one of them would live in my apartment complex...and did my jaw drop when there was none other than Jerry! A registered sex offender! So maybe my intuition wasn't so bad!

The point of all this is that I have a hard time balancing my desire to love all of God's people for being created in His image, yet, not knowing how to reconcile that with the fact that we do live in a fallen world and there is danger and needing to protect my little family. I'm sure the guy in the grocery store was totally harmless and I was completely overreacting, but is the fear of not being rude worth the possible fall out? (In general, not this afternoon necessarily).

Does anyone else have this problem?

5 comments:

Joy said...

yes, i totally struggle with that as well. i think sometimes when it's just you and your kid(s), we as women can feel especially vulnerable. maybe in those situations it's best to be smart, but also pray that the Lord would give us compassion? i don't know, does being compassionate mean being unwise or unsafe? i have no idea. sometimes i console myself with the thought that God wouldn't want me to put myself and family in danger, but then i think of missionaries in certain countries who live with danger daily. all this to say, that i totally understand where you're coming from and if it's wrong, i don't know how to make it right.

Rachel Slagle said...

I completely understand how you feel. People always come up to me when I go out with Dillon and sometimes I get a little freaked out. I never get weirded out by women but more than once I have wanted to run away from some men. I too rationalize that they are just trying to be friendly and polite, but I can't help but feeling creeped out. I guess I have always been a chicken, but it has totally intensified since I have become a mommy. I guess it's just human nature especially in the world we live in.

Jacquelyn said...

I kind of feel the same way about homeless people. I want to teach my kids to respect them as human beings created in God's image for His glory but if they are talking to themselves I hurry past. Phillip has banned me from picking up hichikers but we've agreed that helping the homeless is o.k. if it looks like a safe situation. (I keeps some nutrition bars in my car). Sometimes mommys just have to "go with their gut" and resort to the default setting of protecting their little ones.

Brianna Heldt said...

i think no matter how seemingly shady the character, we're called to love them. sometimes things that are unfamiliar are scary to us (ie someone with special needs or something) but ultimately God created them and loves them.

Now does that mean we are supposed to pick up hitchhikers in the dark? No. Are we supposed to protect our children? Yes. I think we can have a loving attitude towards others, recognizing that we also need to be wise in how we interact with them.

I love this verse: "For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline." (2 Timothy 1:7).

(i remember you telling me that story about that guy, crazy that he was on the meaghan's law site!!!)

Lisa Leonard said...

yea, it can be a struggle. although many people with disabilities function well in society, some people with disabilites lack social skills and haven't been trained well. other people are truly shady. i think we've got to love them, but obviously play it safe!