I have this freakishly amazing ability (some might just call it clumsiness) to injure myself. Not badly, but enough for it to be annoying. For example, tonight I was taking the trash out. Taking the trash out means first going out to the street to see if the trash pile has been begun or not. There is a spot that quickly accumulates trash right down the street in the middle of the road. The trick is to not to be one of the ones who begins the trash pile. The local thugs don’t like it as it gets in the way of their motorcycle races and patrols. (I like to imagine the hood on the back sliding off into the trash as his buddy swerves the bike around the trash, and the guy on the back unable to grab onto anything for fear of dropping his assault rifle – and a nice pile of wet cardboard, chicken parts, scraps of fruit and vegetables are there to break his fall. But I digress.)
As I walked to the trash pile, my arms full of empty pizza boxes, bags of coffee grounds and banana peels, I tripped on a piece of concrete someone kindly left right out side my front door. Yes, I did manage to slice open my right big toe. And because I didn’t notice it was bleeding until after I had walked back inside, there is now blood tracked all over the kitchen. That’s frustrating. On the plus side, it almost perfectly matches my left big toe, which I sliced open on Saturday while climbing on rocks above a sea-swept coastline. I didn’t fall too far (i.e., into the ocean onto the sharp rocks) but just a little bit. I wasn’t too happy about that either.
Somehow I just managed to drop the plug for my mouse into a bucket of bloody water I was soaking my foot in to clean it. I hope it still works. Not happy. Stupid mouse.
There are two annoying flies that are buzzing around my head. I can’t get them out of the house because it’s cold and rainy outside, and it’s not-cold and not-rainy inside. They just won’t go away, and I can’t seem to kill them. I hate these flies. (Seamus and Gerhard).
Today’s been one of those rainy, cold days – I’m wearing jeans and a sweatshirt again – and I spent the afternoon/evening on the streets again. I hate being on the streets on days like today – sheltered under an overhang with my friends – watching E shiver under a thin sheet as he tried to sleep – V getting high so he wouldn’t have to deal with reality – K crying for his pacifier (he’s about four) – K sleeping fitfully as his mom worried about him… He’s had some kind of stomach parasite and isn’t feeling so hot… I hate that.
I sat next to M and listened to her cry today. One of her sons slept between us, not feeling well. Another laid his head on my leg, curled up under a threadbare sheet, and slept. Her life is falling apart. She is having a hard time holding on to hope. One of her sons has been hospitalized for over three months with osteomalytis (a horrible bone infection.) She’s afraid he’ll never get out of the hospital. And if he does, she’s worried it will be with only one leg… Another of her sons was arrested last week for assaulting and robbing someone. He’s currently in prison – one of the worst places you can be in this country. Another son is sick with stomach parasites. Two of her daughters are running away from home regularly – one hasn’t been home in a week.
M is trying to love her kids – be a responsible mother – but she is poor. She and her husband have little education, and fewer chances. The deck seems stacked against her. So I sat on the sidewalk, barely out of the rain, in the middle of a busy city, and listened. There are some things I can do. We visit her son in the hospital, and her son in prison. We try and advocate for her. We do our best to encourage and empower her to change her life – something that is easily said, but hard to do. How do you go about birthing hope in one who has no hope left?
This makes me angry. The injustice in M’s life, combined with poor choices, combined with the everyday hardness of life, combined with no support network and a marginalized existence for her and her family on the fringes of society… Yet for there to be change in her life, in the lives of her children, tears are the first step.
Bruggueman, in his book “Prophetic Imagination” (one of my favorites ever!) says “tears are a sign that something is wrong with the here and now. Mourning and weeping are reminders that all is not right with world – things are intolerable, and they need to change. They are the birth place of hope.” (this is a very rough quote/summary… don’t hold me to it.) But the idea that only when we acknowledge the perversity and brokenness in our world, in our lives, can we begin to do something about it. This is the work of a prophet – to enable us to weep and mourn over reality, and then to inspire and energize with a new vision of reality – the world as it could be. Dreaming God’s dreams, sharing them, then living them…
I see M laughing and dancing, in a home of her own, caring for her healthy children. B out of the hospital, N out of prison, S freed from the bondage of alcoholism and abuse, laughter and love and joy overflowing from their home. I want to see their home be a safe place as they learn to love each other, to open their home to others, to be signs of the transformation that can take place. I want to see them warm and well fed. This is my hope for them.
M has her own hopes and dreams. But they are having the life crushed out of them by the heaviness of circumstance. I hate seeing hope die. That infuriates me, and saddens me. Yet maybe this anger and sadness can birth anew a hope – a resolve – to dig in and choose to love, to say no to isolation and yes to community, to say no to selfishness and yes to self-giving. To find the treasure, and laugh together once more.
PS – Oh, we got back from Trindade, our retreat, just fine. It was much of what I needed – fun, exhilarating, relaxing, quiet time in nature, laughs and solemnity. I may write more up here – but if you want more, check out Jenna’s blog. Or click here to see some pictures…