Thursday, April 23, 2009

“How did you live for a year, outside?”

Pray for the woman to whom I asked this question. I can’t give her name. God will know.

She started to answer me, totally willingly until we ran out of time. We both want to talk more. When I understand her story, I will share what she permits me to.

People seem to react in fear to me, when I tell stories. Particularly when I connect my life, to the people I meet who are homeless. I’m trying to wrap my head around that, so I can learn to communicate the street to the church in a way that translates. Because the reaction I get from kind, compassionate, middle-class people is not helpful, and it makes me feel terribly alone.

I have the best, best friend there ever was. Her job is secure. These two facts remind me that I’m safe, when I think about life after graduation. She’ll help me bridge the transition, and I know I’ll be okay.

The truth: The only thing that keeps any of us safe, is love. Your fear does not help me. And it certainly does not help people who can’t advocate effectively for themselves. Go outside, and listen. Ask questions until you understand. Give volunteer hours: drive people to appointments, or soup kitchens. (The amount of walking that some of them do, in the course of a normal day, contributes to destroying their bodies.) Advocate for them, within what remains of the social-service system. Work to change social policy: these agencies need funding. We all need access to stable health care.

Pay your damn taxes. Complain, when they’re cut. Any of us could switch places. Yes, it’s scary. That’s why I need you to breathe through your fear. React, in love.

Teach me how to tell these stories, so that you can hear them.

3 comments: said...

Thanks for your wise words. It reminded me of my own experience when I first began spending time those who had no place to call their own. I worked in a church-affiliated center that provided needed services to our homeless neighbors, and later was a live-in volunteer at a homeless shelter.

In speaking to the people in my life - friends as well as parishioners - I originally had a hard time keeping control of frustration and anger. I was preaching, venting. But I found that when I would speak of the people I had come to love - and, with love, to tell stories of our lives together - those around me responded very differently. By inviting them into my experience, I gave them something to hold onto (the hand of someone who knew the way) as they stepped into what was often a frightening place for them.

Anyway, that's what came to mind as I read your post. Thanks for letting me babble on!

Wormwood's Doxy said...

Pay your damn taxes. Complain, when they’re cut.
Sing it, sister!

I get so tired of people who were born on third base acting as if they hit a triple--and trying to keep those who were born in the dugout from getting on the field at all...


Lauralew said...

What Doxy said.

I am a child of welfare who married a child of privilege. As I worked like a dog to get ahead, he had no idea. I truly believe if he had known that part of my background, he would not have married me. Like state university vs Ivy League...

Thus, I have zero problem paying taxes or giving to causes that need bucks. My husband has lots of problems doing the same. Of course, we cancelled each other's votes in the last election.