‘I am a street person. I am twelve…I am twenty…I am sixty years old. I live on concrete fields and bask in the sunshine of neon. My pillow is of stone and my fortune lies in broken promises. My daily bread comes from a needle and alcohol soothes the pain within me.’1
A wall was recently punched, leaving a gaping hole through to the frame in the lobby hallway of one of our downtown motels. Last March, when anyone could have been carrying the virus, there was a muscling to open local motels (call it a political action) in order to support (force-house) many of our homeless population.
Trauma, which is the forever normal within the culture of our city’s ‘street-entrenched’, has been contained and concentrated in these motel spaces now. More than fists are thrown through walls in these rooms and hallways. Lighters are tossed for joints and rollies for loose tobacco scavenged from discarded butts. Calls are thrown for favors and dollar bills for calls and fixes.
There’s the story of beautiful action through the breaking of bones, fists through walls, flying meth pipes, sirens and panic; a conversation like ‘enso’ to flip the script of ugly to beautiful2. Let this movement from trauma to hope be like this.
‘In your unguarded moments you brought me your Jesus. But then you took him home with you to your clean sheets and roast beef dinners. You do not know me and, I do not believe you.’3
There’s a beautiful action in these hotels. The beauty is the presence of people who stand by with open hands. They are called ‘staff’ by institutions and, how institutions can ‘suck life’ out of originally beautiful things like people who are ‘called to serve’ not ‘made to work’. Formalised position names denoting rank and the splendour of special titles spotlighting prestige certainly can add an extra polish to name tags, butter-up the up-and-ups and push hierarchy. This system is getting old and tired; authenticity is missed as individuals become simply objects, ‘commodified’ and ‘a means to an end’.
For those who yearn for something more, less of a fight to survive and more of community, there’s a place on the margins. The power and control of the reigning system demands allegiance otherwise exile. Some of the street arise to revolt in protest to such narcissistic ‘suck’ while some of the street respond in weak-surrender, whimpered, further-introverted by the exclusion determined by ‘the game’ and competition. Khalil Gibran writes, ‘beauty is not in the face; beauty is a light in the heart.’ Beyond the fear on the street (of the street), can you see this beauty? Can you feel this beauty possibly happening?
‘Today the real Jesus and I had coffee and we wept because you had not come. His hands were blistered with my tears and his feet were swollen with my fear. I am “one of the least of these” and I am lost. You have the ninety-nine. Have you not noticed I am missing?’5
A young woman, a new tenant of a room in this temporary-foreign location, amidst this community in the perpetual vicinity of trauma, one day sat still by the hole in the wall. The hole became more than just a hole to her; she didn’t fix it instead she was moved to change the story of it and, she began to paint around it. There was a beautiful non-action in the people who walk alongside exiles and plundered ones there that night as a wall was turned to colour. As a new story came to life their appreciation and encouragement nurtured something other than trauma, a brilliant ‘something other’.
Jesus helps us to see things differently. He can take us by the chin and forehead, tilting our heads ever so slightly to reveal something new and ‘neverlandish’ like Peter Pan. He is there, the ‘same-as’ with blistered hands and swollen feet. The ‘same-as’ holding our sorrow and walking in the valleys of our fear, ‘one of the least of these, my brothers’ (Matthew 25:40). He can help us to see who He is. Those He is with will unveil where He is. I promise, where He is not will be where He is not truly needed.
Consider the beautiful action of Jesus, his presence with those he interacted with and focus ‘on creating a positive future for those to come.’7 With anticipation we wait, while Jesus does nothing. Recall the woman, ‘the sinner’ who bathed Jesus’ feet in her tears, anointed them with ointment and dried his feet with her hair. This beautiful action, the still-presence of Christ, leaving an open conversation that carries on, a story for colourful new discoveries from all kinds of angles. With anticipation we wait, while Jesus does nothing. He professes to be the Way yet, he does nothing to save himself; instead, he not only carries the cross and lies back on it, but he spreads his arms widely on it and opens his hands to receive the nails. Beautiful action? Yes.
And, my question for you is: why?
- Forster, Gipp. Gipp Forster’s Collected Rambling: I am A Street Person. Gipp Forster Enterprises, (January 1st, 1989).
- Renner, Diana and Steven D’Souza. Not Doing: The Art of Effortless Action.New York, New York: LID Publishing Limited, 2018, 269.
- Gipp Forster, I am A Street Person.
- Gipp Forster, I am A Street Person.
- Renner, Diana and Steven D’Souza. Not Doing: The Art of Effortless Action.New York, New York: LID Publishing Limited, 2018, 265.