Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Chirp in the Night

Time:  10pm
Day: Wednesday, October 20th
Place: 7th floor apartment, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

Peter and I were reading in bed, about to turn off the light when our doorbell chirped.  Who could it be and what now?  More pipe issues...?  We looked out of the peephole and couldn't really see anyone at first.  We opened the door, and there was a woman standing outside our blue gate in short sleeves, no shoes, with straggly hair and a deep look of need.  She asked us for bread or something to eat.  Being short of bread (a sure sign in this culture that one is poor - only the poor don't have bread in the house at all times), we gave her some tea crackers.  She was very grateful.  Saddened, we shut the door and left her to her fate on blustery night with skies that were pouring down rain.

We crawled back in bed and wondered what else we could have done.  We prayed for her.  And then the doorbell chirped again.  We didn't answer it.  What could we do?  Open the door, let her in?  Give her a warm place to stay for the night?  Feed her?  Yes, we could have done all of that.  But yet we couldn't.  Maybe we should have.  As Christ-followers, it is very likely that we should have.  Instead, Peter held me as I cried for all the need in the world and we listened to the doorbell chirp and chirp and chirp.  Where would she go on a night like tonight?  Why, oh why, couldn't it be as simple as helping this one lady?  If we opened the door to her... would she steal from us?  Can you invite danger into your home for Christ's sake?  Or is one's home meant to be a safe haven, a place set apart?  What would happen if we opened the door....she would be sure to tell all her friends tomorrow.  And then what?  Besides, we can't give her all that she needs, the issues in her life run so deep.  Why can't life be simple?  And then there's the whole idea that maybe, probably, this woman's bad decisions have led her to be where she is.  But, when a fellow human being is in such desperate need, such a dire situation, does it really matter how he or she arrived there?  I yearned for a nice, safe homeless shelter somewhere near by that we could take her to.  Nameless, almost faceless, I wonder how she is treated on the streets, by the others whose doorbells she has rung.

The doorbell stopped chirping.  We went to sleep.  Restlessly. 

This morning, she was still vivid in my mind.  When we opened the door to go to work, my nose alerted me of her continued presence before my eyes did.  She was curled up outside the blue gate, sleeping on an old doormat of our neighbor's.  How could we let a fellow human being sleep not twenty feet away from us on the cold, hard concrete while we slept, well fed, in our warm beds?  What were we to do?

Items learned throughout the day:  There are no homeless shelters in Bishkek.  Well, the locals here say yes, there are - but when asked about them further, it becomes apparent that those shelters are for children or for old people.

It is common for the homeless to wander up and down apartment buildings, ringing doorbells.  If they know you'll give them something, they come back.  (Who wouldn't?).  People ignore them.

Again, we ask ourselves, what were we to do?

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