on life in lakeview, being hungry, jesus and the MDGs

i don’t normally invite people in when i’m alone in the church. and i struggle with it because when i ask myself WWJD (what would jesus do) the answer is almost always–answer the door. but i’m not jesus. and i sometimes just don’t feel safe. and the sad piece is that my resources are limited. so usually i refer people to the lakeview pantry, which is where i sent a lot of the money given to my discretionary fund.

so when the doorbell rang, i went to it expecting to send him away. but something caught my attention. and there was another person in the building, at least for a few more minutes.
“i’m hungry and i need to pray” he said. and i remembered that we had food waiting to be picked up by the lakeview pantry that i could give him. so i opened the door and invited him in.

we went to get some food–dry milk, peanut butter, instant mashed potatoes, canned beans–all the standards you think of when you think food pantry. he was so grateful–this cast off food, this stuff to which i snub my nose–he was so grateful. he kept thanking jesus for the blessing. and so i walked with him back to the door. but he stopped me. “can we pray?” he asked. how could i forget the most basic and the most important of his requests? “of course,” i said and i led him to our chapel.

he gasped as he walked in. “it’s so beautiful.” i asked him what he wanted to pray for. he wanted to pray for his wife, who is in great pain. we sat and we prayed. i prayed some stuff out of the book of common prayer. i tried to lead us in the lord’s prayer, figuring everyone knows that one, but he was silent. i prayed a few more prayers. as i got up he asked “can i stay here a little longer?” “of course,” i said.

i went back into my office and looked up a few resources i thought would help him. i wrote them on orange post-it notes and went back into the chapel. i heard him, as he prayed, talking to jesus:
“lord, i know you say to take your yoke because it’s easy. and i’m trying lord. but my burden is not easy. and i don’t know how to bear it anymore, lord. please, take my burden.”

i left him to pray. and pray he did. for a good 45 minutes. out loud. to god. lamenting and beseeching all the way. and then he was done. and he took the bag of food, the orange post it notes and gave me a hug, thanking me for all my help. and he went on his way.

today is the mid-way, the half way point of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) goal–to meet the MDGs by 2015. the goals are to end poverty and hunger, achieve universal education, gender equality, reduce child mortality and improve maternal health, combat HIV/AIDS, ensure environmental stability and to develop a global partnership for development. a tall order, but one that is achievable. governments are asked to pledge (and follow through with the pledge!) 7/10ths of 1 percent of the GNP to the MDGs. with that small amount, the MDGs could be met. with that small amount, we could truly live into our baptismal promises to respect the dignity of every human being.

today i will pray and fast and write my elected officials and ask them to help meet this goal. and i’ll do it because i pledged to do it. but i’ll mainly do it because of that man who came to my door. in hopes that my prayer will rise with his. that his yoke and burden will lighten. today i do this because of that man who came to my door. the man who reminded me of all that i have. the man who reminded me of the Good News that Jesus came to proclaim and that we are all called to share.


i didn’t hear the phone ring. at a party, a few drinks, a lot of laughter. walking home the beeping catches my attention. the message short and too the point: my son has been shot. please come to the hospital. shit. these are the reasons we have cell phones, to get these calls. fuck. the kid has been shot. the sweet, 13 year old boy who acolytes and plays baseball and lives the ghetto and tries to keep his nose clean amidst the world around him.

i drive the car, despite the wine, to the hospital. enough time passed and nothing sobers like the words gun shot. children’s hospital, filled with computer games and big screen tvs, enough to think that it was a hotel, if not for the IVs and the gaping hole in his thigh.

in the room stands his mother, who had, on more than one occasion, screamed at me for not buying a bus pass or not bringing the right groceries…this night, without words, we made peace. she had come, straight from work, on the bus, not knowing if he was dead or alive, having to sit through 3 transfers and waiting for delayed buses to bring her to this part of town. she smells of work and anger and anxiety. she yells on the cell phone, her normal tone, and barks orders to her other 3 children.

i need to change. i smell, she says
i’ll wait, i reply.

and so she leaves. my waiting, a gift to her. my waiting, her gift of trust to me.

he talks on the phone. and sometimes stops to tell me stories. no tears, no fear, he promises, sometimes couching it in god language.

does it hurt? i ask.
nah. i can take it, he says.

after 11 he tries to sleep but keeps the light on until the nurse comes in, florescent bulbs bright against the dried red blood of on his brown skin. she dims the lights, the glow of the side lights, and the blue television screen illuminated with visions of fish in a fish tank, the most peaceful screen saver i can find. i watch the fish float by and gaze at him from time to time, his eyelids heavy.

you awake sarah? he asks.
sure am, i say and he closes his eyes.

his mother returns 3 hours later, smelling of beer and calgon.

i asked the neighbor for some liquor, but all they had was beer she tells me. then i took me a long bubble bath.

i think of my mother and know that she would’ve never left, let alone basked in a bubble bath had half the fate been bestowed on me. another highlight of our different worlds.

you didn’t have to wait she says.
i know. i lie.

i say a prayer over his sleeping face, the breathing heavy, the face innocent of the days trauma. i anoint his head with oil more for me than for him and drive the car home to try and sleep.