So, outside St. John’s there is a steady stream of people affected by addiction, homelessness, hopelessness. It is after all a city building. It’s colocated with in a block of several of the major social services in our city. This has all been true for some time.
Recently, I experienced something which shook me to put my faith into my actions in a new way. I arrived at the parish hall to return the soup pans from a meal we had made for the Domestic Violence shelter. In the doorway a man jumped out. He had khaki pants, one leg rolled up, no shirt. He was angry, and yelled incomprehensible. I returned to my car, and called our priest. He had me go in to the narthax door, when i came back out, the man had passed put half in the sun and blazing heat. His friends could not revive him. His breathing was labored. One of them alerted the caseworker from the halfway house across the street. We called the police and an ambulance.
What happened next, stunned me. After nearly 20 unresponsive minutes he revived. The officer called his name, and I was floored. I asked if his last name was what I thought. I then realized, I knew this man. He was a cousin by marriage, 20 years my junior. He looked 20 years my senior. To say that the years of drug addiction and street life had taken a toll was an understatement. In his angry, probably drug induced state, I saw the demon of drug addiction that was eating him alive.
Later I wept for the boy I had known, and I wept because I had missed recognizing him. I could not help but feel the Lord had literally delivered him to my hands, and my response had been fear rather than faith. If this was a test, I had failed.
Praying since I have asked God for guidance on how to respond now. I have felt drawn to that corner, drawn back to that group of people on the street, drawn to bring prayer to that space. And thus began a new practice. Daily evening prayer, every day after work, on the corner amid these. Sometimes a few stop to listen, sometimes they pay me no heed. But each day I am called back, and I know I need to return. Reading the prayers aloud in this space, on a cement bench, on a street corner.