Wednesday, June 3, 2015

1 Week on the Streets - April 28th

I woke up and hurried to Gubbio.  Once I made it to the church I started walking up and down the isles to look for an empty pew.  I found one right in the middle of the church.  I laid my sleeping bag down along the pew for some comfort.  I used one of my bags as a pillow and put my legs through the straps of my other backpack.  I laid down looking at the ceiling, "man, it smells horrible".  I was laying down in between two other guests and the smell coming from both sides was pungent.  Then I thought, "wait a second, this smell could be coming from me".  I no longer cared about the smell, I just closed my eyes and knocked out.  As minuscule as it might seem, I experienced the core of what Fr. Greg Boyle preaches.  "Stand at the margins with people that are marginalized and those margins will be erased."

Tuesday was the first day the retreat was really starting to take a toll on me mentally.  I realized this in the afternoon when I returned to the church, after lunch at St. Anthony's, for our monthly staff meeting.  I caught myself exhibiting bipolar tendencies.  One second I was in a very giddy mood.  A couple of minutes would then pass and I was aggravated.  What I experienced is that in the moment I would try to explain to myself that there was no way I was being affected mentally.  I would think "come on, I've only been out here for a couple of days.  I'm only doing it for a week.  Nothing is wrong with me.  You're just tricking yourself to believe you're being mentally impacted."  And then, in the next couple of minutes my mood changed from being contemplative to being angry.  I was definitely being affected mentally.  The rest of the Fools and I discussed how easy it could be to turn to alcohol and drugs because of this.

Staff meeting time.

I must give a shout out to the Fraternite Notre Dame Sisters.  That afternoon, after my staff meeting, was the first time I ever tried their food.  It was delicious!  I've heard that a lot of folks like their food because they serve a lot of meat; and that they do.  I also thought it was great that they came down to the Civic Center to serve.

Finally! Food!

Waiting for the Sisters

That evening I decided to go to a Bible Study held by the San Francisco Night Ministry at the Faithful Fools.  The group that attends the Bible Study are people, from what I gathered, that have dealt with or are dealing with homelessness and/or addiction.  The first 45 minutes of the Bible Study was very pleasant and heartwarming.  It was clear that the Ministers leading the group genuinely care about the participants.  It was also very clear that the participants all care about each other.  I was warmly welcomed by all and felt very comfortable being there.  I was so happy to have discovered this community.  However, the last 15 minutes of the session were terrifying.    

The session was being held on the second floor.  I heard the door open on the first floor and someone walk slowly up the stairs.  Once he made it to the top he stopped and was breathing very heavily.  I knew right away that it wasn't because he was tired but because he was angry.  One of the Night Ministers addressed him but got no response.  He just stood there, looking forward, breathing heavily; like a bull getting ready to charge.  My adrenaline started going, my body got stiff, and my hands got sweaty.  Whatever was about to happen, I knew it wasn't going to be good.  The Ministers kept the session going and a couple of minutes later he erupted.  He started yelling.  He was yelling and cursing at the Ministers and the participants.  He was pacing back and forth, pointing his finger, just shouting.  The Ministers tried asking him to stop shouting but didn't really deescalate him.  Some of the participants tried talking to him but he wasn't listening to anyone.  He got in the faces of those trying to help and just yelled at them.  I was waiting for him to start throwing punches.  Other participants were annoyed and were telling him to leave.  I guess because he is a regular participant of this group he wasn't asked to leave.  Finally he stopped shouting for a second and sat down in our circle.  He sat down next to me.

"Oh no, you got to move right now.  Who knows if he is going to lash out again.  What if he lashes out on me?  What if he gets angry and yells at me?  Wait.  What if I move and he gets angry at that?  What do I do?"  

There was only five minutes left in the session so I decided to wait those five minutes before I got up to move.   Longest five minutes of my life.  He wasn't really shouting anymore but was clearly still distressed.  He was also still breathing heavily and making harsh comments under his breath.  My heart was beating out of my chest.  As soon as we wrapped up the session he started lashing out again.  I ran out of there.

"Jesus was not a man for others.  He was one with others.  There is a world of difference in that.  Jesus didn't seek the right of lepers.  He touched the leper even before he got around to curing him.  He didn't champion the cause of the outcast.  He was the outcast.  He didn't fight to improve conditions for the prisoner.  He simply said, "I was in prison".  - Fr. Greg Boyle        

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