Time Down Here

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It’s never that easy. Other people make it look easy, and I watch them with envy and chagrin and, when my heart can manage it, admiration. Some days I even feel joy, this ball of gratitude and pleasure that inflates my chest, one bike tube pump at a time, when I watch their eyes and their hands and their cheeks and I can almost, almost feel what they feel. They seldom glance at me. I’m not really there. Not in the same sense they are. I am incidental. When people look at me, they don’t see me, and they certainly don’t see me seeing them. If we make eye contact, they avert. They sometimes react as they would to a homeless person. I’ve seen buskers have conversation with people. I once saw a young man sit down on the concrete and chat with the old woman who plays her five-string guitar here. I saw him reach out his hand to her and grip her palm, squeeze her fingers as if he were greeting his own mother. Maybe he was. But no one talks to me.

I’ve often thought I could pick their pockets. They don’t see me, they barely register me, why would they notice if I took their wallets? Would my hand even take physical form if I reached into their purses, their overcoats, their jackets? Would they suddenly feel me and the sensation would race to their eyes? Or would their blindness travel down to their nervous system and numb any awareness of that tug?

I sweep. I mop. I don’t have disinfectant but I have a bucket. I pick up dropped cell phones. I’ve lost count how many. Sometimes, if I can get to a listing and find “home #,” I will call and try to tell them where they can retrieve their property. But now almost every phone is locked and I don’t spend hours trying to guess security codes. I just leave them at the newsstand where the gal who works the pre-dawn shift gets to decide what to do with them.

I empty the trash cans into the dumpster. I go through trash. I eat. I find things to help me. Continue reading

Fighting for Hope: Fear, Naive Faith, and Trusting God Even When…

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Let’s be honest.  Not honest but self-protective.  Let’s just actually say it.

I don’t know if it’s going to work.

Pick which “it” I mean.  Raising my children so that they live peaceably in their own skin.  Having kids I can be proud I had a hand in parenting.  Looking back at their years of living in my house and knowing I did well by them.

Am I going to do something with my life?  Not just pass through.  Live.  Suck the marrow, blow every speck of gunpowder, make a contribution, leave something worth claiming?

Will it matter that I was here?

We’re afraid and we try to cushion against that fear with comfort.  Comfort foods and comfortable habits, routines that protect us from looking at our naked selves.  Distractions and entertainments.  Not bad in themselves, but when we use them as anesthesia…

There are darker questions, too.  My dad was chronically ill for the last twenty-five years of his life…which means it started when he was younger than I am now.  What if the mental illness…?  Some people live in the “knowledge” that only other people’s children get sick, or get in accidents, or die.  They would never say this out loud, but they live that way.  I’ve had that illusion shattered, and the pieces never went back together.

“But,” some might ask, “what about your faith?  Don’t you trust God?”

I’m giving that question the big smile, the one I set on my face in lieu of ripping tonsils out.

I trust God.  I’ve chosen a life that, in some significant and tangible ways, relies on God’s faithfulness or else.  Or else we’re not okay.  I’m not boasting.  I’m just distinguishing between what I trust God to do (and protect against) and the rest. Continue reading