When I met them several years ago, they were homeless. She had delivered five children, all of whom had been taken by the state. He was a crackhead living off her food stamps, who made spending money by turning tricks for the white-collar types that cruise the homeless camps looking for sex.
He has several kids by different women. She has a two pack a day habit. They had a baby together – his family was fostering that kid for the state while they “got things under control”. Then they found out she was pregnant. Again.
Luckily (!) about this time, they were on a city bus that hit a car. As a result, they got a small settlement. They paid a year’s worth of rent on a place infested with fleas & roaches & moved in just in time for her to deliver the baby. The state let her keep this one.
They still had no money, no job. They had food stamps & whatever church they were stringing along for help that week. He was still turning tricks & she was selling her food stamps and WIC allotment. Apparently, the state was impressed by their industry & let them have custody of their other child, who is now three. The last time I was over there, the kid was watching a VHS tape of New Jack City & eating a cold hot dog while a roach ran across his foot.
Last week, I get a phone call the day before I go out of town. He ran off with the neighbor, with whom he has been having an affair. The neighbor is HIV positive. And the lease on the apartment runs out at the end of August.
Her mental health caseworker & I talked to her for hours, encouraging her to file for child support & get a restraining order. She said she will. While I am out of town, he moves back in with her. And why not – it’s almost time to get food stamps again. It’s hard to blame her – the thought of being alone with two kids has her terrified.
Loving these people is not easy for me. It is easy for me to say that they are where they are because of the choices they have made, or their moral failures, or whatever. But if I only love people who are lovable – well, even terrorists do that.
My Evangelical friends complain I don’t talk enough about my faith in these letters. Well, understand that the only thing that keeps me answering the phone when she calls is my belief that she is valuable to the God I profess to believe in. And the only reason I am not filled with total despair for those babies is the assurance found in the ancient prayer that one day it will be “on earth as it is in heaven.”
But until that day comes, I don’t know anything to do but to try my best to love them, even when it is not easy. And to pray really, really hard.
They could use your prayers, too. Truth be told, so could I.
Love Wins. Always.