Saturday afternoon, Aaron took me for a walk around the block and we ended up at our good friends’ house around the corner for a few times down the slide and some fun playing catch with their big pink ball. As we were leaving their house to come back home, a piece of furniture that had been stuck out on the curb caught my eye. It was an old, beat-up dresser that no longer had any drawers, and I was struck by a sense of familiarity as I looked at it.
Aaron’s legs are pretty short, so I had plenty of time to look closely at it as we passed by, and I realized that it was a dresser we had had in our apartment more than two years ago. A friend from Fuller had graduated and moved out of his apartment, and we had inherited his dresser. We used it until one day our landlord put two beautiful dressers out on the curb in front of our house, and we quickly claimed them. They were much nicer and significantly larger than the other and as soon as we moved them into our house, our old dresser from our Fuller friend took their place outside.
It was a strange feeling to walk by and see it sitting there: I recognized it by the scuffs and some paint marks that I remember were on it when we had it. Other than being drawer-less, it looked much the same as when it belonged to us. It was funny to realize that these neighbors had been using it all of this time and now they too were putting it out on the curb for someone else to claim (although, I’m not sure what good it would do anyone without drawers).
I was reminded of what I often tell myself and others: there is no shortage of ways that what you or I have is exactly what someone near to us needs. I have written here often enough about the times when I am brought face to face with a need that I would have thought myself incapable of meeting, only to find that the perfect provision was in my possession. This has been true of food and clothing, time and cash, cars and phones, not to mention words of truth from scripture, prayers, and simple presence with someone.
In the ghetto, you put what you don’t need out on the curb, and whoever does need it can come and get it. And like with our landlord and neighbor, there can be that great discovery of reciprocity and sufficiency within a community. I think that experience transcends used furniture, and we certainly have much room to grow in becoming a people that can truly say that “there are no needy among us”. I believe that for every lonely elderly person, there is one who could visit; for every single mom, there is a family who could support; for every troubled marriage, there is a couple who could listen and provide counsel; and for every person who is hungry, there is an extra place that could be set at someone’s table.
In my experience, it is rarely the needy who need to do a better job of asking: it is more often those with the “stuff” who need to do a better job of assessing what it truly is that they need, whether time or money or housing, and putting the rest out for whoever needs it.