Saturday, November 10, 2012
Day Seven: leaving the streets
Sometimes I retreat to the street with the intent of experiencing one thing and find that more important lessons will do everything they can to steal my attention. These things that ascend are the things I spend the upcoming year focusing my work on.
As Alisa and Graham boarded an early flight home yesterday, the issues of the streets ascended and called me to suspend the thoughts about family homelessness that I thought I would be exploring and called me to refocus on issues of severe mental health issues.
Ultimately, I'm glad my family is safe and that Alisa will be able to focus on feeling better in a less stressful environment.
I'm also glad to be able to model something I would normally only do behind the scenes: changing focus and reassessing what is the true calling from the streets (as opposed to what might provide the most dramatic impact or most beautifully written sermons).
I can tell you from the brief time that Graham was here, that babies are placebos for life. Regardless of housing status, babies can light up a room, make us focus more on joy then the pain that all too often swallows our thoughts and makes just about everyone smile.
The homeless folk I know talk about how in their vulnerability they are rarely given opportunities to serve others. Children, seniors and pigeons are beings the homeless often go out of their way to help (because their seen as more fragile and accessible to care for), though all but the pigeons tend to be told by caregivers to cross on the opposite side of the street.
The few homeless friends who were able to meet Graham talked about feeling privilege to be allowed to meet him. Stereotypes that judge homeless people as dirtier, riskier and more diseased, follow them well after they are housed and even when they have to go to much greater lengths to protect their sometimes fragile immune systems (due to HIV/AIDS or Hep C status).
I wish I could have shared the gift of allowing my son to show all of my homeless friends that they are not monsters, but rather beautiful children of God. I'm sure on another trip to this fair city I will get that opportunity.
The enduring lesson of this trip is that if burnt community, family and societal bridges cause homelessness, then our job is to haul water and use fire extinguishers whenever we see someone starting to light a fire near a bridge. I am on my way to the airport now to go home to my family in hopes of restoring our bridge.
The longer, harder more difficult work will be to rebuild our communities and families in such away that we are able to respond to the fires of addiction, mental health, racism, trauma and everything else that creates homelessness.
I pray today for all who feel lonely and lost. For those who can only feel alive and able to be cared for when they make their problems and wound bigger and deeper. For families with burned bridges that seem beyond repair. And if it is true, as Jesus says in the Gospel of Mark, that the same measure we used to measure others, God will use on us, then let us become more forgiving, tolerant and responsibly (as opposed to letting folk abuse us without seeking safety) able to mend all the fences we create or stumble upon.
And, as I will do everyday of this street retreat I'll beg you, if you are able, make a secure online donation to Welcome, or participate in our reverse auction.
Blessings and a warm thanks for following me on this journey,