In all life there is an ebb and flow. Circumstances of life are like a tidal force, that have the ability to change our personal landscapes. On the inner city streets the tides are dramatic, with mountainous highs, and cavernous lows. Every second Wednesday is a high tide, welfare cheques feed addictions and fill the wallets of dealers. Everyone seems to know the rhythm of the tides. Dealers know exactly when the high tide is, when cheques have been cashed and they wait for the bodies to wash ashore where they wait like beach combers. Even the police understand the ebb and flow of the inner city, their presence far more visible when the tide is high. Many might call it a sea of despair. But in the dramatic ebb and flow I see calm...I see hope.
We had a couple of new volunteers on Friday, ( M ) who suffers from schizophrenia and addiction has finally got his life back on track. He's received lots of help dealing with his problems, and would like to give a little back. He works as a janitor for a local restaurant in which his work day begins at 7:00 am. He's excited to have the job and a fresh start. But, he has a bit of a glitch. He commutes by bus from out in the Western Communities, and the issue is getting to work on the weekends. Bus schedules on weekends are notoriously bad, so it means he rides his bike, about 20 miles. Yes, he could take a cab, but making $8.86 / hr...you do the math. He's got an ad on Craigslist, so if you know of anyone coming into town that early on the weekends, check it out.
Also a couple of young ladies who work with mental health ( D ) and ( T ), it was great to have someone with there experience.
CARTS = Christian Action Reflecting The Spirit, and on the street we move in the truth of that Spirit, and it moves in and around in the midst of everything, and everyone. It is dangerous, and it is exciting to live in that mysterious moment. Before we headed out on the street from the parking lot Al gathered everyone for prayer. There was a pause while we settled and out the silence came the voices of a couple of our street community friends, asking if they could pray. ( S ) prayed a prayer of thanksgiving, and gratefulness for what we had, and prayed for Godspeed among his friends. Another friend, intoxicated, could still find some clarity to pray for the lives we have received, to live life...and for freedom. Al, closed affirming the words of all our friends, and off we went on to the streets.
This night I was manning the cart with toques, mitts, gloves, scarves, and for the past week there has been a really bright red, almost Santa Claus red toque and scarf to be given out. Red does not appear to be a popular color on the street. So by the time we got down to Street Link some asked me if I had got rid of the red toque. " Nope ", I said, " no one wants them." Minutes later this old guy, maybe in his mid to late 70's comes over to me and asks, if I have a red toque. For sure, I thought one of my friends put him up to it. No, he seriously wants the red toque...and the scarf.
I have to tell you. Yes the guy has white hair and white beard. He tells me a story of when he was a bit younger, of when his hair was longer, and his beard was full. He used to wear a red jacket, and red toque he'd be sitting in the park while out walking, and kids would come over, want to hold his hand thinking he was Santa. We talked a little more, and Charon took our picture. I think I'll use it in my Christmas cards next year.
So on the inner city streets there is an ebb and flow of high and low tides in which we see the geography of personal lives change. But also in the midst of it all the Spirit moves in and around, in the midst of everything...touching people in ways in which we can't perceive. Jesus said, what ever you do for the least of these you do for me. I say hold your idea, your image of Jesus very loose and gentle, because he might shatter your shiny image. You just might meet Jesus on the street, he might even look like Santa.