Last week I wrote about poverty and homelessness, and began the post by mentioning something insensitive someone back in New Mexico had said to me via e-mail. In response to my concerns about making a living, he told me to get a cup and go out begging. After writing that post I went back into my archived e-mail (yes, it goes back over two years) and found our exchange. Reading it with new eyes, the darkness of those days having passed, I discovered two things.
First, I’m being way too hard on that guy. In the context of our exchange, I think he really was interested in our well-being, but said something unfortunate without having any way of knowing it. When I read it, it hit me with all the force of what my family went through in New Mexico and got tacked on to a long train of authentic abuses I had gone through there.
Second – and this follows closely with the first point – in those e-mails I find that despite our horrendous struggles in leaving New Mexico and driving across country to the United States, we were very happy to be here in New Jersey. In the e-mails I discuss how the Brazilian church has a plurality of men assuming responsibility for leadership (rather than a one-man show with self-appointed critics and an audience) and how glad we are to be in the midst of a large, thriving Brazilian community. In fact, it was a wonder to me. Having lived where there was almost no contact with anything Brazilian, we now found ourselves in a place where nearly every person you meet on the street in some neighborhoods is Brazilian. Portuguese is spoken here on the streets and in the stores, and Brazilian restaurants abound.
Although I had stepped out of a place of darkness into a place of light, I was still under a dark pall of gloom. The problem was the emotional and spiritual baggage that I was carrying. So now when I look back on our trials as a family during that time, my own existential chaos and the words spoken to me on the way into our new life, I’ll try to be more generous and recognize the good we received.