Tuesday, May 26 2020
...Now I encounter abandoned clothes, suitcases too worn to roll another day, empty liquor bottles, food wrappers and personal items, and an occasional hypodermic needle--all of which are carefully disposed of. If there's a big mess I may feel annoyed with the people who left it, but that diminishes when I get rid of their leavings. After all, it's not an insult, it's just a mess.
From time to I encounter people on the grounds. One night a fellow was shoving weeds into a metal strap around a downspout, thinking he was fixing it. When I asked him what he was doing he said, "Trying to survive." Another night I met Jeff, a dumpster diver who lives in a camp off of Wheeler, going through our trash. He told me he was respectful and simply wanted to salvage useful items. I let him carry on and the next day the area was tidy.
And then there are people I see on the street who are obviously out of control. Of course I give them plenty of leeway. In each case they seem to be getting by as best they can, but I can't help wondering what had happened to them. Very likely combinations of bad luck, misjudgments, illnesses mental or physical, or any number of other misfortunes may have befallen them. In effect they have run out of wiggle room, which brings me back to one of my favorite duties at St. John's.
As I mentioned last month, each Wednesday I change the candle in the sanctuary (pictured above). Though we replace it every seven days, it will actually burn for eight. In effect it is a day of grace, and although I haven't needed it, who couldn't use a little more grace in their lives? Imagine a grace period as cushion against errors, omissions, and bad luck. Some of us have had to use it--perhaps we have even taken it a bit for granted.
But not everyone enjoys such benefits. Many in the larger community have exhausted their resources and find themselves living on the fringe of society. Given the recent economic wreckage we may be seeing more of it. Alas, I don't have a solution for that, but I refuse to give up hope, seeing evidence of it all around me, particularly in the work of the good souls who serve in so many ways, casting a light of their own.
It's one of the reasons I continue to love working at St. John's--it challenges me to think and feel in new ways--but I don't spend my evenings in the church philosophizing. That happens on my own time. Instead I go about my business, cleaning up such messes as I may encounter and striving to see the light in others.