Tuesday, May 12, 2015

1 Week on the Streets - April 25th

April 25th

6:00 am.  I woke up freezing and soaking wet.  I tried not to move so my cold wet clothes didn't rub against me.  Then all of a sudden I hear Rebekah yelling "Hey! Hey! Stop! Stop!".  I jumped to my feet to see what is going on.  Turns out the guy who was getting high right next to me earlier was chasing the guy sleeping right next to us with a pipe.  I guess his high turned him violent and aggressive.  And then it hit me.  I wasn't inside Gubbio; I haven't dealt with people like that outside of my church before.  Out here, out on the streets, I have no influence or authority.  The guy finally stopped and left.  I changed my shirt and got all my things together; I only had one pair of pants so I had to suck it up and accept that they are wet.  Three of us began to head over to Glide for breakfast.  Carmen, one of the Fools with me, found some quarters in her pocket; she let me borrow two to dry my sleeping bag.  I was extremely thankful for the 16 minutes I was able to put my sleeping bag in the dryer.  I was sure that it was dry afterwards.

At Glide I tried to act friendly and nice; but inside I was anxious and frustrated.  Everything bothered me, every noise, every person, every thought!  During our morning reflection I tried my hardest not to snap at other people.  I kept reminding myself that I was feeling this way because I was tired and had a rough night.  I've always believed it but now I actually know that when our guests at The Gubbio Project snap at us in the morning it isn't personal.  How could you not be grumpy and frustrated after a night out on the streets?  After our reflection all I wanted to do was relax and just sit somewhere.  That truly is impossible in the Tenderloin.  There are no benches to sit down on.  I couldn't lay down anywhere without being asked to move.  I couldn't risk sleeping because I had to watch all my things.  All I wanted to do was sit down and read.

While I waited in line at St. Anthony's for lunch I kept seeing people I always see in the church.  It always took them a second to recognize me.  I would wave hi, they would kind of stare at me for a second, and then realize it was me, and then wave back.  All of them would then come up to me, very concerned, and ask what I was doing.  I found myself saying the same thing to them: "I want to see what it is like to live on the streets for a week to see how I can better help in the church."  I always got a positive response when I would say this; but I would feel weird telling them that.

"True charity requires courage: Let us overcome the fear of getting our hands dirty so as to help those in need." - Pope Francis. 

I was reflecting on this quote and realized why I had been feeling the way I was feeling.  I assumed that me agreeing to live on the streets for seven days was me overcoming my fear of getting my "hands dirty".  But I was wrong.  I hadn't overcome my fear; especially after experiencing my first night, I was still scared.  I wasn't overcoming my fear; my fear was growing.  All I could think about was where I was going to be able to rest next, where I was going to be able to use the bathroom next, when I was going to be able to eat next, how I was going to sleep that night.  I hated that the Sanctuary of the Tenderloin was closed.

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