"Advent should admonish us to discover in each brother or sister that we greet, in each friend whose hand we shake, in each beggar who asks for bread, in each worker who wants to use the right to join a union, in each peasant who looks for work in the coffee groves, the face of Christ. Then it would not be possible to rob them, to cheat them, to deny them their rights. They are Christ, and whatever is done to them Christ will take as done to himself. This is what Advent is:
Christ living among us." - Oscar Romero
The Park- there is a park at the end of our street that I usually start my run on. There are people there I see almost every time I run. I want to open with some thoughts that began to run through my head….as I ran through the park.
Red-jacket-ed man and blue hat-ed woman. These 2 are always sitting at the same picnic table. …
Lap 1… What do they need? It’s cold- blankets. Homeless people are always hungry- food. It’s Thanksgiving soon- maybe I should bring them to our feast. Yes, or maybe I should just bring them some food after we eat. Clothes?… Lap 2… Wow, they have a lot of stuff. Shopping carts full of stuff. And, a hot pot? With hot water? Jackets, blankets? But still, there’s got to be something that they need that I can provide…. Lap 3… I wave. Red-jacketed man looks fairly confused, and perhaps not too thrilled by my gesture. Maybe they don’t want my help? But no, I know. They must need something. …
And I keep going, around the track in circles. Trying to figure out a word to say, a thing to give.
But, how to I know what they need?
My supervisor, another Primavera intern, and I are currently reading A Careless Society, a book made up of several articles by John McKnight. He writes a lot about how our society/economy has become almost entirely service-based. We, the service providers, actually search for needs in communities and people, so that we can create more jobs for ourselves. These needs are seen as deficiencies in people.Only the service-provider can define the problem at hand, the steps needed to fix it, and whether or not they have succeeded. … (Now, that’s my extreme summarization of only a few chapters that we’ve read. But still, it got me thinking).
Just as I don’t know these people in the park, I don’t know many of the people that I work with. I case-manage at the men’s shelter two nights a week. While I try my best to listen to each guy I meet with, I still am in control of the meeting. I make a list of their goals and then talk with them about how to accomplish them. Yet, when they come into that room, I’ve already got an agenda. Because they are homeless. Therefore, they are at the shelter because they need a place to stay. They must want to find work. If they have had problems with drugs or alcohol, AA meetings are the way to fix that. They obviously don’t want to be in the situation they’re in, and my job is to tell them how to fix it. YUCK! YUCK! YUCK! There must be another way.
But, I go to work. And I run in the park. And I continue to go in circles, passing by, wishing I knew what to do. Or, if I should do anything at all. And perhaps, the fact that I have to keep going, is enough right now.
I am committing to these people- whether I sit in an office at a desk with them, or I pass them by in the park. God help me.