shaking the dust from my feet
Sometimes ideas just percolate for years and years before I realize their relevance. Forgive me world, I’m slow, and not sure how to speed up.
from Luke 9:1-6
Then He called His twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over all devils and to cure diseases.
2And He sent them to preach the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick.
3And He said unto them, “Take nothing for your journey, neither staves, nor pack, neither bread, neither money; neither have two coats apiece.
4And whatsoever house ye enter into, there abide and thence depart.
5And whosoever will not receive you, when ye go out of that city, shake off the very dust from your feet for a testimony against them.”
6And they departed and went through the towns, preaching the Gospel and healing everywhere.
I left the Philippines like some kind of refugee, practically sneaking out. I had two school-sized backpacks, which, as small as they were, still held a lot more than the disciples were told to carry. It felt liberating and frightening at the same time. What am i going to do without anything? What job would let me wear the same worn shoes, ripped jeans, and past-its-prime t-shirt everyday? How could i ask my wife and kids to share only what I had in a backpack and want for nothing else?
Someday I will achieve actual simplicity instead of settling for relative simplicity. Which, by the way, is often seen as laziness, lack of ambition, or wasted potential. I mostly don’t care what anything that I do or choose is seen as, but once in a while I start to make the same judgments about my choices myself.
Make no mistake, the hardest part of living without isn’t the actual living part. The most difficult aspect of that life is breaking the mental, emotional, and spiritual addiction to possessions that I’ve developed.
This is all a detour on the way to my point–shaking the dust from my feet. Although it is seen as a denunciation or a symbolic gesture towards those who turn you away, I always thought that it was best applied to oneself. The ancient equivalent of ‘shaking it off,’ putting it behind you, and getting on with it.
Another tangent. When I arrived in Boston, the company that I worked for seemed to be in great shape. We did a lot of hiring, and outside of sales people, I pretty much handled all of it by myself. We had an opening in our shipping and receiving area. I got a resume from a young kid named Lewis. He was completely overqualified, but couldn’t get work. There was no reason that I could see for this except that he was black and went to a not-so-prestigious college. I hired him on the spot and to this day I’ve never been more sure about a person so quickly as I was with Lewis.
Lewis proved to be all that and more. I gave him extra work outside of shipping so that he could take on more and do better for himself. He attacked every task that I gave him and did it in the most conscientious way that i’ve ever witnessed. He sought input, corrected mistakes immediately, and worked hard and long.
Unfortunately, within a few months of his start the company started to crumble as we began to realize how much of a conman that the owner was. I felt especially bad for Lewis because he deserved a good job and a chance more than any of us. I tried to explain to him as honestly as I could what was going on. I told him that he was probably better off not seeing or knowing what was going to happen at the end. He wouldn’t leave. He felt that he owed me for what I had done for him (it was never a favor, he was awesome and deserved it, but i understood his gratitude), and said that he’d stay as long as he could help me.
During the last few weeks, we had a lot of time to talk between episodes of extreme absurdity. He told me a story that I don’t think I will forget as long as I live. He was living in a house with his girlfriend. They had saved up a long time for the house and deposit and to get things to make it into their home together. A ‘friend’ visited one day and, being one of the most generous people in the world, Lewis invited the friend to crash there for as long as he needed to stay.
A few days later, Lewis came home from work and the friend was gone. So was a lot of stuff and money. It was devastating to the couple. They had almost nothing, had worked tirelessly, and now the little that they had scraped together for their future was all gone.
A few years passed, and Lewis was walking down the street. On the other side of the road, Lewis saw the thief-friend walking towards him. The friend saw Lewis also and started to hesitate. He wasn’t sure if he should run, turn, or what. Lewis ran across the road and before the friend could get away, gave him a big hug. Lewis said to the man, “You know, i’ve been thinking about you. I hope that you are doing better now and that everything is ok for you.” Then Lewis walked away and never saw the man again.
At the time I thought that it was a kind of soft-headed thing to do. But, Lewis learned, at a very young age, something that I still cannot learn. Shake the dust from your feet and don’t turn back.
Stepping back to today. My troubles now would not exist if I had walked away as soon as i knew the kind of soul-sucking, incompetent, arrogant and evil bastards that I was working for and with. But i didn’t, and here I am again. I can shake the dust from my feet, or I can go back after them. I know what I think is the ‘best’ thing to do. I also know that I can’t do that now. I’m still not ready to walk away when i should. I want to say that this will be the last time, that when this piece of justice is done, then I will follow the better path. I don’t think that there is ever a last time. As long as you are talking about last times, there is still a next one left. Once you are really done with something, there doesn’t seem to be much need to talk about the last time.
So, Lewis, wherever you are: I’ve been thinking about you a lot lately and I hope that you are doing well, my friend. Someday I will learn my lesson, until then, here i go again.