Wednesday, October 14, 2015
Last week I joined our youth group, and many others, in helping with a downtown Portland ministry that provides services and a human touch for homeless folks. The operation is called "Night Strike". You can read about it at bridgetowninc.org. The local leaders tabbed our group to do a "Walk About", which involves patrolling the streets in the Burnside Bridge vicinity for folks who may not make it to a big service mall under the bridge. We met interesting human beings as our feet carried us up and down city streets, offering conversation, PBJ sandwiches, socks, and a drink. The talking part meant the most to me, as we didn't just hand out gifts but some effort to hand out caring, as well. That all felt really good. After a couple of hours, we met back at the somewhat ramshackle downtown church that serves as the headquarters -- all of us except my friend, Rhoda, who did in fact go the bridge, several blocks away, to apply her sewing skills to help mend clothes. I left the group at one point, venturing out in the dark street outside the church, to watch for Rhoda, worried a bit that she might have to walk back by herself. Something in my demeanor or my dress attracted a couple of large, youngish black men. It might help to know I wore ratty, paint-stained blue jeans, a purple sweater vest, and a neon chartreuse running cap -- thinking that would help me fit in the setting, which it did, but more effectively than I anticipated, as things developed . . . As these guys passed our eyes met and they stopped in front of me. I just smiled and held out my hand as I had been doing all evening, and got big smiles and handshakes back. Then I got an offer to purchase what sounded like Chardonnay. Hmm. Well, I didn't tell the honest truth, that Chard is not my favorite wine, so simply smiled and insisted I was fine and didn't need any tonight. No, really, I'm good. Well, OK, take it easy then. You too, good night. You've probably already figured out that I was being offered the opportunity to buy street drugs of some kind. Well, Rhoda came ambling along shortly after that and home we all went. As soon as I got back to my computer I looked up "Chardonnay" as a code word for a drug, and sure enough "shard" is street slang for meth. So now we all know. Bad things are easier to get than good things, sometimes; all the more reason to do good things, as often as possible, I think.
Tuesday, October 6, 2015
Monday, October 5, 2015
I walked to my first day of school, around the block and up a hill to first grade. I remember feeling nervous and excited about what school would be like. Turned out I rather enjoyed school, but most of all I enjoyed walking there in the morning, and walking home in the afternoon. As years passed, I continued to walk or bike to school when I could. Some days I continued to feel nervous about going to school, depending on what faced me any particular day. But these were not issues of safety. I would worry about a speech in the works, or a P.E. test, or the occasional meathead classmate. Getting myself there and home just required putting one foot in front of the other, and gave me space to think and day dream. On to college, then grad school, and still I walked, and still that time between home and school felt like a pleasant world between worlds. I think it helped me a lot to have confidence that if my feet carried me in the school door they would carry me out the door at day's end. I knew I would live through the day. I don't use the word hate much; it is to me a violent emotion. But there is something I am coming to hate, and using the word seems appropriate. I hate it that children go to school these days, and wonder if they will be killed during the day by a nut with a gun. I am not against guns, and I feel compassion for nuts. But the two together are a bad, bad thing. I think more than thoughts and prayers are needed. Time to take real steps.