Sleeping on the streets of a city and living with those in poverty connects you to them in a way that you will never forget. Having done seven street retreats in San Francisco of the past 8 years and living with the poor in the barrios and campo of Nicaragua, each experience has changed the way I live. Since living with the poor in Nicaragua and visiting the sweatshops who make "Cuban" cigars, I have a sense of the health risks of cigarettes and cigars that most people don't know exists beyond second and first hand smoke.
Living in the skywalks in Minneapolis has opened my eyes to the inordinate expense that churches spend, that could go for so much good. First, calling myself out, attending churchwide assembly and sleeping in a hotel all week would have been a legitimate expense in WELCOME's budget. Yet here would be the cost:
Visitor's Badge: $50
Plane Fair: $500
Hotel Room (7 nights): $1,155
Total spent by me on this trip: $140 --- Savings: $1,915
Now remember that the ELCA had $1,000 voting members (not including all the staff). So at least $20,000 was spent on getting people to the event. Think of the additional fees for renting out an entire convention center, 6 camera's, 2 techies, 1 captioner, and all the walkie talkie equipment.
Now think of the money that exchanged hands. Each of the 7 worship experiences brought about $10,000 in offering. I raised more than $3,000, with more than $360 dollars in inkind donations for my food and entertainment.
Complete strangers offered me the opportunity to sleep in their house, hotel or car. Yet, I wonder how many offered the same to any of the complete strangers that actually desperately need it.
I know that people feel more comfortable giving to an organization than individuals sometime. And knowing what I was up to certainly helped people to give. And I am soooooooo grateful for all the support for WELCOME and will continue to work to raise the remaining funds we need to feed all who will show up at our door this year.
Yet, how do we tap the generosity that people have - in the church and in their own wallets. How do we learn to share our resources so that people don't have to hit their rock bottom before they are able to get the help and support they need to live healthy lives.
I seek continually to work to be this bridge. And I imagine that that may be what I take from this trip.
I imagine I will continue to process this and discover that over time. But those are my thoughts for now. Tonight I spend my last night in the skywalk (God willing), before I head to the airport and back to San Francisco.