Today, I took my five kids to City Hall. Outside three women stood smoking on the sidewalk. There was something about how they jabbed their cigarettes into their faces for each inhale that suggested severe agitation. My heart went to them. "Those women really need prayer," I told God. I knew City Hall contained our Municipal Courtroom, so I imagined all kinds of hard challenges that might be going on from a utility cutoff to a relative with jail time.
When I got closer, I saw that one woman had a long burn on her arm. She had it covered with a homemade bandage made out of saran wrap, instead of one of those common dressings sold at Target. "Oh man, she is really poor!" I thought. "I really, really need to pray."
I smiled when I got closer and tried to establish eye contact. The woman turned away. Then I noticed something strange. I live in West Virginia, so anytime I see a group of Senior Citizens, someone is bound to come over and coo over my baby. (The elderly in my small town just adore babies.) Yet instead of a friendly greeting, all three of these women were slinking away like they were afraid or something. "Wow, what an unusually cold reception" I thought. Then I dismissed it. "Stop taking things personally. They must be really stressed out." I start to pray even harder.
Finally, when I get up close, a woman says "Come on Cheryl, our smoking break is over." All three women drop their still burning cigarettes on the sidewalk and walk into their place of employment---
the Porno Store.
I started laughing so hard, I doubled over while pushing Tessy's stroller.
My heart was bleeding on the ground for these three. I was praying so hard--imagining all sort of sympathetic and horrible scenarios that commonly afflict the poor, and not once did I imagine that I was urgently praying for employees of a Porno Shop.
But that's Jesus, right? Spiritually those three woman are in more danger than a poor family without the means to pay their rent. Those are the people He cares the most about, and so He wants me to care about them too.
(Yes, my town of Martinsburg, West Virginia has a Porn Shop called the Cherry Bomb right next door to our City Hall. I hadn't notice the ironic juxtaposition until today. Pray for us, Mary Magdalene.)