The man on the corner

It is currently 11:29pm and I am exhausted. But I needed to write. I spent the entire day in the city (Chicago) for a wedding and then a Red Bull breakdancing competition in the evening. My friend Jenn and I went last year and it was crazy awesome. Some of the best breakdancing I've ever seen. I'm not much of a dancer myself (at least not a good one) but I can appreciate the hip-hop culture and all of it's elements. I could pretty much quote all the lyrics to Snoop Dogg's 'Doggystyle' album which is certainly not something I brag about. I was a latchkey kid so cut me some slack. Anyway, I met Jenn and four of her friends (high school and college students) at the venue and we watched sixteen of the best B Boys in the country compete until their was one winner.

On our way home we stopped to get some food at McDonalds on Cicero Ave. If you know anything about Chicago you know that Cicero Ave is notorious for being lined with homeless people. The kind of homeless people who bang on your windows and wash your windshield without asking and then expect you to fork over some cash. Even if you don't have any. It was 10:30pm and we probably saw six or eight, what appeared to be homeless people, within a couple blocks, walking up and down Cicero shaking their cups their cups at car windows.

We pulled up to a stop light and their was a sweet man on the corner. We made eye contact and he smiled and waved. I smiled and waved back. I wished I had had something to give him but I had no cash and no food. The passengers in my van were slamming down McDoubles and chicken nuggets but all I had was a sweet tea. The light turned green and we drove away only to get to another corner with another red light. This time there was another man standing there who was a little more desperate. He looked at me and then looked inside my van and saw a McDonalds bag. He started shouting "burger, burger, burger!" At first I couldn't make out what he was saying. And then I caught on. He wanted a burger. He was hungry. But unfortunately the burgers had already been consumed. The light turned green and off we drove. And then my heart sunk.

A grown man just yelled at a van full of strangers (young, white, middle class strangers at that) asking for something to eat. The man was hungry. And I had nothing to offer him. If I had been by myself or with my husband it's likely that I would've turned around and went back to McDonalds and bought him that cheeseburger. But I had a van full of teenagers who had curfews and parents waiting for them. Aka... Excuses. Excuses to not do anything. Excuses to keep living my comfortable life, driving my nice comfortable minivan on the way to my nice comfortable, temperature controlled home.

So to the man on the corner... I am sorry. I want so desperately to give you that cheeseburger. I am sorry that you are so hungry you have to forcefully ask complete strangers for food. If I ever see you again I promise, I won't just drive away this time.

"The king will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." Matthew 25:40 

A midwest weekend

I'm still recovering from a whirlwind couple of days. Justin left on Sunday after church to head to Wisconsin with about twenty middle school students. Bless his heart. They would be canoeing, rock climbing, caving, sleeping in tents and on sandbars, and most importantly, not sleeping. Sounds like a lot of fun, doesn't it? They did have a great time and Justin came home looking like a dirty, crispy lobster. I made him shower immediately.

Cooper and I decided to go to Des Moines to see my family while Justin was away. I watch way to much Law & Order SVU at late hours and therefore have a hard time sleeping when Justin isn't home. It's a vicious cycle but my love for Olivia Benson is too great to stop watching ten year old reruns. But that's besides the point. This was my first time traveling out of the state by myself with a child. Thankfully my child is an angel and travels amazingly well. He watched the same Veggie Tales movie over and over but I'll take songs from a tomato and a cucumber over a screaming child any day.

We hung out with my mom, my brother, my sister-in-law, and my nephew on Sunday night. Cooper and Lincoln only get to see each other a few times a year and now that they are two and four, they are starting to have a lot of fun together:)

Before we went to Des Moines, I discovered that one of my favorite authors was going to be speaking at a church just outside of Kansas City. And Kansas City is only three hours from Des Moines. So I worked it out with my very generous mother and I was able to drive down by myself to see Jen Hatmaker speak at a ladies event. The ride down was great. A lot of people don't understand why a long drive by yourself would be so much fun but when you're a mom and a wife, when else do you get a large chunk of uninterrupted time to be alone? Exactly.

I really enjoyed hearing Jen speak and even got to chat with her for a few minutes. She's hilarious and quirky and warm and really pretty. She's a gifted communicator who's passion for the 'least' is inspiring. I'm not into idolizing people who are, well, just people, but I was nervous to talk to her. As much as we try not to 'celebratize' somehow it still happens. So dumb. I felt like an idiot after we talked and was kicking myself for NOT asking her all the questions I wanted to ask. But she was also sitting at a table with six other women so it didn't seem appropriate to hog all of her time.

I sat by myself, on purpose, and even turned down a couple of ladies who invited me to sit next to them. I know it sounds mean, but I wasn't interested in small talking with people I would probably never see again. I just wanted to embrace the evening, listen, and observe.

I left the church in Olathe, KS around 9:30pm and made the three and a half hour drive back to Des Moines. I didn't have trouble staying awake because there was so much going through my head and there still is.

Things have been the same for too long. It's time for some change.

An interruption...

I'd like to share some things that have been going on in my heart lately.

I am currently reading a book by Jen Hatmaker called 'Interrupted'.

Interrupted encourages believers to ask if their lives bring integrity to the gospel. Follow the faith journey that begins with one dangerous prayer, “Raise up in me a passion,” and concludes with a life of service to the last, the least, the forgotten, and the forsaken.

Jen's words have been challenging me to ask myself the question, "Am I really living out the gospel?" 

Am I living a generous life?
Am I aware of the needs of the people around me?
Am I meeting any of those needs?
Do I care about the poor, the widowed, and the orphaned?

I'd say for the most part the answers to these questions is NO. Although, I could say yes, my actions would prove my words false. I do believe that the gospel encompasses more than just these questions but lately, these are the questions that have been running through my mind.

Yesterday I hung out with my friend Kristen for a couple of hours and then I went to Starbucks to do my normal thing. Blog, read, or listen to music. But I quickly became very distracted. There was a guy who was sitting a couple of tables away from me by himself. And he was talking under his breath either to himself or whoever was inside his head. I assumed the latter. He didn't 'appear' to be homeless but I wouldn't have been surprised if he said he was. He was dressed in outdated but clean clothes and had very tan, leather-like skin, typical of someone who spends a lot of time outside. Sitting on his table were a pack of cigarettes and a tall hot coffee. He looked nervous. Or anxious. We kept making eye contact and I tried hard not to stare as to creep him out.

By this point, my heart is starting to race because I feel the Holy Spirit telling me to talk to this man I've been staring at for the last 10 minutes. But I don't know how I'm going to approach him. Should I ask him to come over and sit by me? Should I go sit down at his table? Should I write him a note and send it in the form of a paper airplane? Ok, the last one wasn't really an option. Eventually the man got up to go outside to smoke a cigarette. I followed him. I remembered that I left my wallet in my van and he happens to be  standing right next to it. (the van, not the wallet). I didn't think he was going to try and steal it, it was just a good opportunity to go outside so I could talk to him. 

So I went and got my wallet and then I introduced myself. His name is Mike. He was very nice and apologized for the the smoke. I told him it was ok and that it didn't bother me, even though it really did. I asked him if he was waiting for someone or just hanging out and he said he was just enjoying a cup of coffee and a break from his aunt, who he's staying with. He started rambling, most of which I couldn't really understand, about his life and how his aunt says he has a mental illness because of drugs. He said he never did drugs. I asked him if he needed anything, and he said no. I asked him if I could buy him a hotdog across the street and he said thanks but he had just eaten. We chatted for a few more minutes in the hot sun and then I shook his hand, told him to let me know if he changed his mind about the hotdog, and went back inside Starbucks. A few minutes later he came back in as well, and we went back to sitting at our respective tables. I acted like I was reading something even though I was really thinking about our interaction and Mike continued to talk to whoever it was he was talking to. 

The reason I tell you this story is because I believe God is trying to interrupt my life. All of our lives, really. Ever since high school, I've always been drawn towards the homeless. I don't really know why. I guess I just want to validate them as a real person and not the way they are seen by the rest of the world. I've been thinking a lot lately about how I can have less in order to give more. How can I be more open to hearing God's voice when it comes to reaching out to people. 

I'm starting to ramble so I'm gonna stop here. Thanks for listening. 

To be continued....