The screech on the ice startled and propelled me to go to the window. I saw a yellow cab skidding away on ice. The driver had dropped off my neighbor. I didn’t think it was he, though this guy had sort of a cool pimp of a walk, my neighbor’s signature gait with head slightly down, and he was walking toward my neighbor’s house. But my neighbor was a bit slower, deliberately taking steps to not sidestep his cool. But this guy was jittery, high stepping almost while trying to pimp walk, glancing around but not down to grab hold of his hospital gown that was exposing the rear of his birthday suit. He tried the front door then went around to the side trying to find a way to enter his house. I dropped to my knees, cried out and cried while I prayed for “Jake.”
“Flynn, what we gonna do? Flynn what we gonna do?” I asked my husband after he came back into the bedroom. I explained what I had seen: “That’s not Jake. That’s not Jake. Something happened to him. Why would he have on a hospital gown in this weather and not have keys to his own house? We got to do something. We got to do something.” We had to do something because this wasn’t the man we had been used to seeing. He seemed to love his wife and grown children who have all moved away; he had grilled my sons hotdogs and given them treats and would look after our home when we were away. He was even tempered, friendly and full of corny sayings, like “I’m pretty fair to be a square,” but this day something had changed.
We called his wife, but she didn’t answer. Meanwhile Jake had disappeared to the other side of his house. He soon came back with a neighbor who had given him tools to break into his own house. Flynn went out to offer him some pants. He ignored Flynn’s offer, said his wife “was gone” and remained concentrated on trying to break into his house. Sometime later the police came to investigate after he threatened and cussed out real loud in the street the neighbor who gave him tools. Jake got loud with the officers too. I heard and saw all this and the scene grieved my soul. I thought of my pastor’s sermon the previous month that, using the Bible passage about the demoniac, talked about the characteristics of someone who may be under demonic influence. One of those characteristics was not being properly dressed.
In the passage the demoniac didn’t have on any clothes and seemed oblivious to such. My retired neighbor, usually well dressed even when casual, left his belongings at the hospital (we later found out) and was oblivious to his nakedness. Something was wrong with Jake, maybe something demonic, and though he may be possessed, shunned our help and our neighbor’s help and scared off his wife, I know we are still meant to help him in some way. It was no coincidence the day after the incident one of his daughters visited our church, not knowing that we were members of the church that her co-worker (who doesn’t even attend our church) suggested she attend. She confirmed that her father had never acted like that and they were all perplexed. I was able to tell her what we tried to do to help her father and assured her that we would continue to pray and offered that we would do whatever we could to help them. She hugged and thanked me and I knew God was calling us to be our brother’s keeper.
Unlike Cain, we cannot allow our brother’s blood to cry out and we do nothing. If we, like Cain, were the ones who inflicted death (literally or figuratively) on someone, we are obligated to give ourselves up and do whatever is possible to rectify the situation. We are our brothers’ and sisters’ keeper. While we can’t be responsible for their choices we must take responsibility to help them rise above the situation. We can seek to help restore them physically, emotionally, spiritually, financially, or mentally. You can pray, yes, but what else can you do to help? Maybe prayer is all you can do for folks like Jake but you won’t know unless you seek God for wisdom.
Take a Risk Challenge: Ask the Lord to show you how you can be your brother’s or sister’s keeper, either one on one or collectively (e.g., helping a special population like the homeless). Without a doubt, helping to keep someone besides yourself and who you are used to keeping indeed is a radical act of love.
My One Thousand Gifts List
Being confined to the basement with family because of an impending storm and finally taking down the Christmas tree staring at me
Flynn helping Nate play a Dora game on the computer
Andrina and Floyd coming by to eat
Special time with Flynn
The boys being excited to go to the water store
Clearly being able to express my feeling about the changing matriarchy and other issues in my family
Seeing my brother
Kamil and Amya coming over for a play date
Seeing Nate cater to Amya
Seeing Amya cater to Nate