Today it was driven home for me again, what it is to be a small light in a vast darkness. Today a little boy who was born in Cairo came in and immediately started hugging people, and his dad, this man who survived a war in Sudan, who fled to Egypt and then survived a rebellion there, came in and looked comfortable, his satisfied and very fatherly belly leading the way. The mom was resplendent in sparkly cap and scarf, I told her she was beautiful, and it was like I was hoping she could read my lips, I looked in her eyes and said it slowly. I think she understood.
Today my friend, who did unfathomable work with this family spoke, and she called them PEOPLE. And when she choked up a bit I had to as well, because I was reminded of how small our light is, but how much we can light up when are all together, when we work together, when we light the flames of others, flames that stand against oppression and anger and hate, flames that flicker in the night, a beacon of hope in a place that seems so lost.
We do not know what it is to live through a rebellion or a war. Imagine armed men in the street of Spring Lake. Imagine sheltering with your family somewhere. (where is safe?). Imagine not being able to go to the store to buy milk or bread or meat, what do you feed your children?
We have not lived in a small room, furnished with the things we could pillage and find, things that were given to us. We have not prayed that the baby would stop crying because she was drawing attention, and that was the last thing we wanted. We have not had to move to a place where the language isn’t the only barrier, where we have to learn what dollars are, what pennies and nickles and dimes are, and how quickly they spend. We have not ever come to a place with just a small flame of hope that told us that somehow this would be ok., because we had nothing to lose anyway, nothing to go back to.
The difference is, that the small flames of hope that family carried with them, from Cairo, to Miami, to Chicago and then to Grand Haven, they were met here, on the other side of the world; mirrored, for we had the same hope.
We have the same hope.
I think that struggling to make ends meet, seeing constantly this abyss that is eviction and food stamps and struggle, will make me better able to understand the needs of the world. I think that will help me to tell the people what the needs of the world are. I am working on telling the world the Good News, and I think maybe it isn’t as hard as I’d imagined it would be. I like to make things more difficult for some reason, I’m working on this too.
Today a couple that are loyal guests for Loving Spoonfuls came in early, as they do. They had coffee and took their regular table. They had snacks and talked with everyone, Mrs. Loyal called me Trouble and then looked like she’d spoken out of turn somehow and apologized, and I let her know that I AM trouble, and not to worry. I think it was this same couple who opened their trunk and gave the bags of food they’d just received from our food cart to the refugee family.
And so telling people the good news of Christ isn’t as hard as I can sometimes make it out to be. Because a lot of times it comes in a plastic shopping bag, and is comprised of canned corn and Cheezits. I think this is sacramental justice, this is what we do when we lay ourselves on the line that exists in this world between OF and OTHER, between the lines that many claim don’t exist between classes. The lines that allowed people in New Orleans to die when Katrina brought rising water, that allowed children in Flint to poisoned. These lines exist, and I won’t stop telling you that they do.
I am a good person, just like you.
I want to help people, just like you.
But I have been to the dark side and I have come part way back, just far enough through the dark wood to be able to tell how scary the beasts are, how unimaginable the foe, how the obstacles are almost unbeatable, how the Jabberwocky exists and will eat your poor family alive without blinking an iron eye.
I watched a deacon be installed on Saturday. He basically sat on my lap, we were that close. Deacon Greg wept quietly the entire time, guess what I did? You got it, I had to cry too. When our bishop told him to go and set the table it was all I could do to stay in my seat and not jump up to help him, though I have no idea how exactly to set that sacramental table.
It doesn’t matter though.
It is something I will learn.
What matters is that I know how to set a regular table, how the knives and forks go. I know how to check a table and make sure the food is ok, that no one needs more water, these are things I learned a long time ago, they are my bread and butter skills, things I sometimes long to go back to. I wish I could make my living one table, one hour relationship at a time, as I serve people and they love me and give me money to show me that.
Setting that table cannot be so different, setting a table is simple, really. Its a matter of setting out the plates and the glasses, and then watching as the people come to consume, as we all eat together; as we become a community again, once a week, in the sacrament that we share, wiggly and composed, young and elderly.
So I am calling you from the other side.
When my mother calls the caller ID says Devonshire, which is funny, because she doesn’t live in Devon. But I love to shout at my people as they ask me for things and want to talk to, I AM SORRY. I AM ON AN OVERSEAS LONG DISTANCE CALL. A call from the other side, from the outside.
I see how other you feel, and I see how outside you are.
I see those things because I am there too, I have been there too.
And I am telling you that there is good news.
I am lighting the lamps in my windows, like that old country song, the back yard bright as the break of dawn, the front yard looks like runway lights…
I am calling from the outside, and telling you what I see.
I am your canary.
And these are people.
And there is such a difference between us, and a million miles. Hello from the other side, I must have called a thousand times to tell you I’m sorry, for everything that I’ve done. But when I call you never seem to be home. Hello from the outside, at least I can say that I’ve tried, to tell you I’m sorry, for breaking your heart.