A REDEEMING DEBT
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. Romans 13:8
If you watched any of the coverage during or after Hurricane Harvey, you were impressed, as indeed the entire country was impressed with how the ethnically most diverse neighborhoods in the world, in and around Houston, came together to help each other in the midst of hardship. My own family, wife and sons, participated in this experience as they went out with First Baptist Church in Houston and First Methodist Church in Sugarland to clean out the homes of people in poor and rich neighborhoods—black, white, arab, old and young, Southern and Northern, Republican, Democrat, and immigrant. I did not share in this experience. Since I have been hobbled by a knee injury, I have been responsible to keep the house in order and to go to my English teaching job every day.
Still, it seems that the Lord had an experience in store for me that allowed me to share in the relief in an unexpected way. I received assistance.
I, like many of you, find that there is a remnant of Anglo-German-Scotch pride in my heart. I do not like to receive charity, and I do not like to feel that I am in debt. In the present age, it seems impossible not to borrow for cars, homes, and major purchases, but, since those debts are impersonal, I can live with them. Personal debts I can’t abide.
Two days after the flooding had receded in our neighborhood and I was back teaching again, I came home in the early afternoon to do some housework. Ceci was going to go to work in the evening, so I decided that before she left I would run to Kroger to get some things. I made a mistake and set my car in the direction of the Kroger nearer Houston rather than the Kroger away from Houston. On the way to the store, I got caught in a terrible traffic jam, jammed in both directions. The five minute trip there stretched to 30 minutes and the trip home would take more than an hour.
Oh, well, I was at Kroger, so I might as well buy the vitamins, vegetables, fruit, and nuts that we needed. I went around and made my choices. The cashier was checking out my things, when I reached into my pocket for my wallet . . . and found nothing. I quickly made an apology and said I had left my wallet in the car, to check someone else out, but I would be right back. I limped as quickly as I could to the car and found . . . nothing.
I did have a phone, so I called Ceci. She reported that the wallet was on my desk (at a five-minute’s hour and a half distance). I kept her on the phone as I walked back inside, thinking that maybe I could get the store manager to take my credit card information and make my purchase that way. My cashier was checking out a few things for an older black woman. The cashier looked at me in a panic and heard my request.
“I will pay his bill,” the African American woman said. I looked at her. She was not young, she was alone, and she was looking intently at the cashier, and not at me. She was dressed in a scrub, perhaps a nurse, perhaps a technician, probably a Nurse’s Aide. She had paid her bill with plastic. It was not platinum, or gold or slate, but multicolored—probably a debit card.
“I can’t let you do that!” I said with a note of uncertainty.
She would hear no objection, gave the cashier the card again.
“Please let me send you a check!”
“No, that is not necessary.”
I thanked her profusely. She handed me the receipt and left, and I walked to the opposite entry and paused for a few minutes to tell my wife what had happened. I was so embarrassed that I did not want to see my benefactor again in the parking lot.
But sometimes embarrassment is healthy. I am in debt to a Black woman. I will never forget it, and now that I think of it—I am proud to be able to say it. Before the hurricane the news was full of strife between those who stood with African Americans and those who wanted to defend the culture of Southern Whites. During and after the storm, I noticed that the news seemed to be full of southern white men with boats who were helping people of all colors find refuge (A parable there, if there ever was one!). I am absolutely certain that none of that even crossed the mind of the woman who helped me.
I have heard many talk about racial reconciliation, and it often seems that we are farther from it than ever. Maybe we all need to become the right kind of debtors.
Humbly in Christ, Pastor David