Sunday, October 17, 2010

Prayer for the Homeless

Tonight a man came into church late. Although he sat down quietly, he stood out. No one else in the group had a baseball cap on. And except for the minister, who was from Kenya, everyone else was white. Except for this late-arriving visitor.

I went to speak to him after the service. He said he had come into the church to pray, not realizing he would be entering a service, quite late. He said that since there were people there, he would also ask for help, and said he needed twenty dollars to pay for the boarding house where he was staying. He said he had been doing lawnwork that usually paid for his stay, but the past few days had not been able to get any work.

Intuition told me he was telling the truth. I asked various questions to see if my intuition might be right, and his answers and his demeanor seemed to fit with my initial impression.

I don't know if I was right or not, but since the Kenyan minister was not allowed to administer church funds and could only encourage the man to come back tomorrow and speak with the appropriate person, I felt the right thing to do was to try to help the man. After all, we were in a church, had just heard a sermon on prayer; and here was this man saying he had come to the church to pray for help, and now he was asking in a very respectful, non-manipulative, I-understand-if-you-can't-help-me sort of way.

So, I walked with him to our house, talked with my husband about it (I didn't have any cash with me), and we gave him twenty dollars. I also told him about HopeWorks and our program, gave him the phone number and the name of the person he needed to talk with if he were interested.

Two things from our conversation have stayed on my mind. At some point he asked, "So, you went to college?" and I said, "Yes, I did." He responded, "Wow, you were lucky. That's really good, that you got to do that."

And when he said something about how nice the people at church had been, I asked, "So, did you grow up going to church?" And he said, "No, I didn't. My parents were good parents, they did the best they could; but they didn't take us to church. I think that's part of why my life has been so....well, has lacked direction. I didn't have any direction in my life, and it just kind of came apart. I was thirty before I finally realized I needed to get to know God and find some direction for my life. And since I did that, things have been going better. I started to have some hope."

I remember a graduation speech based on Paul's words to Timothy, "What do you have that you were not given?" and the encouragement to remember always that anything we have (education, talents, abilities, economic resources, friends, family, whatever) has been given to us by someone. Even if we worked for it--and in the case of that degree, worked hard for it!--still, we didn't build the school, or supply the scholarships, or provide our own professors. Everything we have is given to us in one way or another.

And so, here was this man, Michael, walking down the street with me. He wasn't given a way to discover faith in his younger years. He wasn't given the means to go to college. And now he struggles with life, is transitioning out of living a homeless lifestyle, and is very aware of his dependency on others simply to have shelter over his head.

Something else about the evening stays in my mind. I was reading the blog of my spiritual director, who wrote about a couple who came to his church looking for help.

He makes an interesting point that I've never heard anyone make before. Lots of people in this culture (like the couple who came to his church) say they believe in God, say they are "spiritual," even say they have a personal relationship with Jesus and try to live according to his words--but they don't go to church and don't want to be part of a church.

There are all kinds of theological and logical problems with this thinking, but in this land of the free and home of the not-always-so-brave, it's a common thing to hear. Theology and logic aside, Jeff points out a very practical problem with this thinking: If people who say they believe just stop being part of a church, eventually there will be no churches to help these people who show up at churches asking for help. People seem to expect the churches to be there if they need them, but they don't see why it matters for them to commit to being there for others.

Hmmmm....He has a point.

Meanwhile, I'm glad there was a church for Michael that I met this evening. I hope he was teling the truth. I hope he will be able to follow through and continue getting his life going in a better direction. I hope he will continue to pray, and to find nice, caring people in churches.

Maybe someday he will have what we often call "a church home." Maybe it will be the one just up the street, as he indicated he hoped to see me again there.

And my guess is that if he does make that church, or any church, his home, he will remember better than I do sometimes that anything he has was given to him. My guess is that people coming for help will find it if they ask him.

You know, tonight's sermon was on prayer. And I'm realizing that this is not just a bunch of hopes, maybes, and guesses. It's a prayer.

It's a prayer.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Missing My Feet

No, my feet haven't gone missing. I've had no accident or extreme surgery. The title just kind of came to me like that.

As I was walking the other day, in my Nike Run Free Plus shoes, the ones that can catch a twig and hold onto it as seen in the previous post, I realized that I really miss walking and running barefoot.

About a year ago I wrote some about this, about the knee injuries and giving up running when it seemed I couldn't run without re-injuring. Then about the friend who recommended running barefoot, and how I tried it.

I tried it and liked it! Not only could I run without hurting my knee (without my knee even all!), but I just relished the sensation of being barefoot outside. The softness of moss, the coolness of grass, the squishiness of mud, the cushion of dust, the splashing of puddles. Even the roughness of bark when I walked along a fallen tree trunk.

I had to stop when the weather got too cold. I tried several times to purchase a pair of Vibram FiveFinger shoes (and always thought I'd blog about them once I got them), but they kept selling out before I could get any.

So I settled for the Nikes and continued running once I got them.

And in the meantime we moved to this new house. And that's part of why I miss going barefoot.

At our old house, I could drive to one of the biggest parks in the city in just a couple of minutes. That's where I'd go, either to the public area or sometimes to the Botanic Garden--and usually in the mornings, no one was around. Or just one or two people, and once we had the conversation about why I was barefoot, they didn't think it odd, so it was fine. One woman, in fact, told me she was friends with a major Memphis runner and that he had begun running barefoot not long before.

From our new house, it takes me ten minutes to get to that park. And because of starting the new job, my morning time is more limited than before, so I just haven't been going there.

There's a wonderful park, pictured above, closer to our new house. It's really beautiful--smaller than the other, but with a lake and an island bird sanctuary. It's lovely. But it's also in the middle of a very nice neighborhood, and people do walk their dogs there each morning, or just walk themselves around the lake. It isn't really crowded, but it isn't as uncrowded as the first park. And I just get the feeling that the people there would look at me funny if I were barefoot.

Besides that, it doesn't have the large stretches of grass that the other one has. Going barefoot on dried magnolia leaves is not as pleasant as being on grass. And because of all the dog-walking at the new park, I end up having to be on the sidewalk a good deal. Which is not painful, despite what you might expect; but neither is it especially pleasant.

So, I'm thinking I'll have to give up either a bit of sleep, or a bit of workout time if I want the true barefoot experience again. I think it's worth the sacrifice, though it's hard to think that when I'm just waking up and it's still darkish.

Now that I'm thinking about this, I'm thinking that yet a third park may be quicker to get to than my old park. It has a golf area that I don't think anyone uses for golf early in the morning, because that woman I met in the park actually put me in touch with her barefoot running friend, and he told me that's where he runs. Hmmmmm. I'll just have to check it out.

Anyway, if you haven't gone barefoot outside for a while, I highly encourage it, before it gets too cold. I have this theory that the soles of our feet are connected pretty directly to our s-o-u-l souls, somehow. Because the barefoot time I had last fall just seemed to do something deep inside that can't be explained simply by nerve endings. It has to do with being connected to the earth, and to childhood, and to life, in a way that shoes just get in the way of.

Do it for your soles. Do it for your soul.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Yikes and Nikes

"Yikes," because I just saw that it's been over two weeks since I wrote a thing here. Not a huge surprise that I haven't written often, but I didn't realize it had been that long.

Have I mentioned my new part-time job? That would be the main reason for my scarce appearances here lately. While we were in Croatia, I received an email from the director of HopeWorks, where I had applied and interviewed back in January. They hired someone else in January, but when that person decided to leave, the director contacted me about coming.

So I'm working there three days a week, and loving it. Do check out our website:

--and you will see why I love working there.

"Nikes," because despite my not blogging as often as I'd like, I have been walking/running more often than I did when it was so hot. Pictured above is the underside of my new Nike Free Run Plus shoes. They are the lightest weight running shoes I've ever had, and you can see that the soles are not quite your typical athletic shoe soles. They're made to have very little structure, to give more flexibility, so that the feet can walk and run more like the way they do when they don't have shoes on.

It's not quite the same, of course, but I've learned you can't walk or run barefoot everywhere (e.g., the gym where I run when it's blazing hot outside requires shoes) or all year round (e.g., last January, the coldest I remember it ever being since we moved to Memphis.) So, I got these during the summer and have been thankful for them.

I took the picture just because I thought it was funny how the shoes caught hold of this stick and didn't let go! First time I've had that happen, and it could only happen because of the pattern on the bottom.

Well, now that I've experienced this "yikes" moment, I will try to get back here more often. I really do have some lovely photos and lovely stories to share from the Europe trip, not to mention ongoing life here at home.

Till next time, may your "yikes" moments be few and far between, and may you enjoy some barefoot moments in the meantime.