Everybody might not be the optimist that I am, but I think everyone needs to believe the best about somebody -- mom & dad, a spouse or teacher or pastor -- somebody is up on that pedestal. How do we handle it when reality crashes in and knocks them to the ground? Do we still love them? Trust them? Are we loyal? Should we be? Do we write them off as total losses? Do we try to understand, or even want to hear the whole story? Some deserve forgiveness, others deserve prison. How do we ever really know?
In many ways we have to process information into simpler, manageable chunks that we can hold in our brains without going bonkers. In other ways we aren't coming near our potential as intelligent, empathetic creatures. There's a lot of gray area between the two extremes, and I wonder whether we consider where on that line we're taking a stand when we make a decision about somebody and their actions. Are their actions severe enough to warrant our total censure? Or are our reactions stronger than they need to be to protect ourselves?
If we find out a loved one did a terrible thing, do we disown them? Kick them out? Let them go hungry and alone on the streets? Of course it depends on what they did and whether it's a criminal offense, but often our reactions are equally extreme simply because we had expectations that weren't met, or because we're scared of what might happen to us as a result. The young adult should have gotten a job -- can I still support him? The spouse drinks too much -- will he lose his job? The aging parent doesn't know us and thinks we're intruder -- we aren't qualified for this. The boyfriend cheated. Dad abused us. Sometimes we choose to run rather than dish out judgement.
These are some of the people ending up on the streets. So are the drug addicts and mentally ill, which makes us wary of connecting with anybody out there. Is it worth it to ignore them and stay safe, knowing that the person huddled in the doorway could be flipping out on drugs or could be the young man who ran out of his family home to avoid being beaten again by his own parent?
This segment of the homeless population -- the guilty but not unforgivable, the victims, the disappointments -- these people need more from us. Not everybody can hold a job. Someone else's best might not be as good as yours. Everybody, sometime, needs forgiveness, a little grace, someone who cares enough to hear the whole story.
I wonder, if each of us gave someone another chance, time to tell the whole story, or our best effort to be open-minded, what would happen? I believe lives would be saved, relationships healed, families strengthened. Teens might get back into school. Alcoholics might seek support. Divorces might be avoided. Imagine what could happen. A little grace goes a long way.