Thursday, July 12, 2007

I've Been Thinking

Ever since I posted the Christian Paradox article a few weeks ago, I've been reflecting, more than usual, about my own personal Christian-ness. And my scattered thoughts have finally coalesced enough to be somewhat post-worthy. Maybe you'll find common ground here; maybe you'll raise your eyebrows in horrified disbelief and thank your lucky stars that you're not that shallow. Either way, for what it's worth...

Sometimes I feel like my neuroses get in the way of my being a good person. Last night, for example, I went to visit a friend of mine, who really needs visiting, which, I thought, was good of me. Then our kids wanted to play outside, which I also thought was good. Except for the fact that the sky had just finished dumping inordinate amounts of rain on our section of the earth and there were puddles of standing water everywhere. And for those of you who are unfamiliar with the section of the earth that is called North Texas, a driplet of water can scarcely escape your spigot without attracting mosquitoes, which are, in my opinion, the vilest of vile insects, (especially now that they carry the threat of West Nile Virus on their blood-thirsty, needle nose. *Shudder.*) So within thirty seconds of stepping out onto the back porch, I had 6 -- S-I-X -- swollen bites on my legs. Grrrr! Suddenly, what my dear friend had been trying to tell me in her severely broken English became clear--something about the "scratchy bump all over baby's skin; need to go to hospital." No. The children don't need to go to the hospital, I realized, as I scratched the h-e-l-l out of my swollen ankles; we just need to buy y'all an industrial sized bottle of Deet.

On the way home from her house, I lamented the fact that I could never be one of those super-humanitarian Mother-Theresa souls who devote themselves to international development because I'm too freaked out about insects and West Nile Virus and GERMS to go to the underdeveloped regions of the world and make a charitable difference.

But I'm a good person. I welcome the neighbors with a plate of homemade cookies. I offer pro-bono babysitting services to my friends so they can go out on dates with their husbands. I give to charitable causes and donate my used, but still-in-good-condition clothes to the Salvation Army.

Fast forward to this morning when that same friend called and asked for a ride to the WIC office. Now that I can do! I thought, chalking up a point on my GoodPerson tally. I thought I'd just go pick her and her kids up, we'd ride down to the WIC office, I'd drop her off so she could go inside and get her certification, we'd wait curbside, maybe take a few laps around the parking lot, and...BING! She'd come out smiling a few minutes later, certification in hand. I'd drop them all off at home and go on with my day. Sure, it'd push Henry's nap back an hour, but that was a Christian sacrifice I was willing to make. Service with no skin off the back, just the way we like it, right?


We arrived at the WIC office three minutes before one o’clock, (for what was supposed to be a one o'clock appointment,) and we all (me, my friend and the three children we have between us,) went in and sat down to wait. And wait.

And wait.

All the while, I grew increasingly more irritated about waiting. Henry was tired and the fact that he kept delving into the diaper bag, listlessly repeating the words, "fwuit 'nacks" tipped me off to the fact that he was also hungry. I, on the other hand was feeling the antithesis of hunger. My stomach had turned itself inside out and was creeping its way up my abdomen as I was yucked-out by the total dearth of sanitation watching Henry play with one of those quintessential waiting room Beads-on-a-Rollercoaster germ-magnets with six other germ-carriers of various ages, one of whom had what sounded awfully much like the Whooping Cough. Seriously, the most violent hack I've ever heard from the mouth of a child. My sadness and concern for him and the other under-privileged patrons was quickly being squelched by concern for my own child's well-being. My time. The rest of my day. And my health.

I sanitized our hands with the travel-sized bottle of Purell that lives in the diaper bag -- an attempt, probably a futile one, to reduce the likelihood of our contracting a contagious virus. (The fact that Henry is a thumb-sucker only compounds my already intense germ paranoia. OCD, what?)

At 1:35, I reached the end of my patience rope and walked up to the service window to ask how much longer it would be 'til they could help my friend. I was informed that her appointment had in fact been scheduled for 1:45, and that once she could be seen by a WIC representative, it would take "about one hour to fill out all the paperwork and complete the certification class."

"About one hour?" We've already been here "about one hour." We're tired. We're hungry. I'm wearing my swimsuit under these clothes. And it's giving me a chronic melvin. I am not prepared for that kind of time commitment. And neither is my child.

I tried not to visibly wilt.

When we were finally called in by the kindly WIC lady, we went through a lengthy interrogation about how much juice the baby drank and if she ever ate dirt or paint chips, and then realized that my friend forgot the official documentation needed to recertify, which meant we'd be back on Monday to complete the process.

I reminded myself to exhale. And we left.

Those two hours at the WIC office left me in a startled state of awareness that I am, in large measure, a convenience Christian. Because for me, it's pretty easy, pretty fun even, to participate in the group service project with a yumm-o breakfast to follow. Or, as my friend Azucar says, "to go around parroting Christian platitudes." But the instances when Christianity becomes inconvenient are, for me, the alarmingly more accurate litmus indicators of character. And if today was any sort of indication, I’m hanging out somewhere near the unfavorable end of the Ph scale of Christianity. So I'd say it's a good--a really good thing that we're going back to the WIC office on Monday morning, because if I want to call myself a Christian without simultaneously sentencing myself to hypocrisy in the N-th degree, I need a lot of practice at inconvenient Christianity.

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