Beautifully brutal stories that live in my heart from the street

There was this one time when I played in a band with a guy who was severely mentally ill. When he sat down to play the drums, his eyes went clear and he became a drumming machine.

I once was doing street outreach and went in an underground parking lot. Cards came out and we played euchre right there together on the street and we had a great time.

I once went on a camping trip with some folks from the street and we had a canoe race. It was so much fun. One guy disappeared for 4 hours on that same trip and we began to form a search party for him. He finally showed up and said he was off looking for frogs. Freakin hilarious.

One day I had lunch with a guy in the shelter who explained the Boston Tea Party to me. I never knew what it was before that day.

Another day I had lunch with a man who claimed to be the son of God…

One time a man who we were escorting off the premises threw a giant rock down the steps after us. It could have killed someone had he made contact. It reminded me of the utter desperation of street life.

I once chatted with a girl as she worked the street. She told my friend and me that we were her angels sent from God to speak with her that night. Then she walked away and got into a strange man’s car and drove off…

There was this one time when a man claimed to have invited Jesus into his heart. Then a few weeks later he announced that he asked Jesus to leave his heart as it was just too dark a place for Jesus to be. His theology is really off but what a lesson in humility! And honesty. Maybe his theology was better than mine…

I was taught how to play chess by folks on the street who I doubt I will ever be able to beat.

One day in chapel, a man was whistling along to the songs we were singing. The whistling was musically painful. When I finally figured out who it was, I realized he was whistling because he can’t speak English and this was his way of participating. Then the whistling became music.

I used to play softball with guys from the street in the summer. I sucked at softball. But I felt so encouraged by these guys when I was on the field. (Plus I got to learn more swear words while we played:)

One Christmas Eve/ early Christmas morning my family was handing out Christmas gifts to folks on the street. My then 3 year old daughter wept at the sight of folks sleeping outside in the cold.

There was a time when a few of us went to visit some friends who lived in an encampment. They had a BBQ so we cooked up some steaks and ate like kings together out in the woods.

There once was a man who came to chapel every Wednesday night so we could pray for his constipation. And every week we did…

Several men when they had chosen to quit smoking crack offered me their pipe as a gift and as a sign that they were serious about quitting. I still have those pipes in a sacred place.

I had colleagues/friends who once lived on the street and dealt with severe addictions but are now clean and giving back to the community.

Once I went to a wedding and sat next to a better dressed guy than me who leaned over and said; “you don’t remember me do you?” I said I didn’t. He proceeded to say “A few years back I came to your drop-in wearing my orange jumpsuit from jail. You walked with me to the clothing room and gave me a whole new outfit and never once looked down on or judged me”. I told him he had given me the best gift I could have asked for that day.

So many stories. So many real people with real blood running through their veins. Homelessness is not the entire CV/resume of the folks we see on the street. My life has been so enriched by the privilege of being able to hang out with very real, caring, compassionate, intelligent, broken people.

Jesus said “Blessed are the poor”. He didn’t say “Blessed are those who care for the poor”. He also said “Blessed are they that mourn”. He did not say “Blessed are those who comfort those who mourn”. Those are positions of power and not of vulnerability.
I pray I can continue to let go of the things in my life that don’t matter so I can truly become poor and truly mourn. It seems that these are the most obvious places to meet God in genuine, authentic ways.

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