“Kinship–not serving the other, but being one with the other. Jesus was not ‘a man for others;’ he was one with them. There is a world of difference in that.”
–From Tattoos on the Heart by Father Greg Boyle
The line wrapped around the building: Families, kids making up games to pass the time, grandparents trying to corral the same kids. I looked down at the two little girls holding my hands, then shared a knowing glance with their mom. This was going to take a while. We were at a back-to-school event, one that promised a backpack full of school supplies to every child who waited the two hours it would take to reach the front of the line. The four of us had only known each other for a couple of months, but ours was a relationship that had progressed rather quickly out of necessity. When I met her, I thought I was going to serve her by inviting her girls into my home for several weeks. What can I say? The savior complex is hard to dismantle.
We had been waiting for maybe an hour when she told me she was going to run back to her home across the street for some snacks to feed the girls. I held our place in line, inching forward and trying to keep the girls from running out of my sight. When she returned, she carried popsicles and water bottles because back to school in Indiana means sweat and mosquitos. She extended me a popsicle and water bottle, a generous gift from what little she had. Without even considering my response, I turned her down. I swear her face fell a little, and when I realized the gravity of what I had just done, my heart sank.
I still consider that moment to be one of my biggest regrets. In that popsicle offering, I believe she extended more than frozen sugar water. There was opportunity for mutuality, for friendship and shared resources. In the many months that have passed since that day, I have thought a lot about this idea of kinship: “Not serving the other, but being one with the other.” Am I willing to step down off my pedestal of privilege, to learn from the wealth of knowledge and experience generously proffered by the other? Can I show up with empty hands and allow them to be filled?