Wednesday, May 27, 2020

The Year of our Lord and COVID-19 May 10 2020 Easter 5 Year A Offered online for Trinity Church in the Central West End by the Rev. Barbi Click

In the Name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit

This particular story in the Gospel today is only in the Gospel of John. It is the beginning of what is referred to as The Farewell Discourse where Jesus is preparing his disciples for his death, the resurrection and his ascension.

Jesus begins with, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.”

Basically, do not let our anxieties overwhelm us. Stay strong in our faith.
The second part is this: “Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.”

Jesus is telling the disciples and us – I’ve got this. And so do you. Believe that I love you and that as I love you so God loves you. You are a major part of the whole plan. I will not forget you.

Even as the anxiety threatens to overwhelm them because they forget they know the way, Jesus reminds Thomas and those gathered, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

Jesus is telling them us that we have a relationship. We belong together.

Embedded in the word Believe is another one. Trust. Believe me. Trust me. Trust that what Jesus is saying is truth. Trust that we are a part of the whole plan.

Isn’t that what is so troubling about right now? Our hearts are troubled. It isn’t just sorrow. It is the unknowing. It is the concern that we do not know the way or the truth. Everything thing we know has been tossed upside down. The present and it seems, our future.

For decades now we have been told by professionals that too much screen time is bad for us. Yet here we are – living life via Zoom, Skype, Facetime, and Facebook Live. Online in front of a computer screen, living in virtual time. We conduct business and shop online. We give virtual hugs to our loved ones online. Our students are learning online. Everything is online and our physical contact has been shut down.

I noted in the Trinity newsletter this week that I was trying to think of COVID-19 time as God-time. “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Today. Right now. This time has made us understand that there are many things that we cannot control. And that while planning as a strategy for getting work done can be a good thing, it is not the best way to live a life in faith. We can offer Plan A and even Plan B but then UnKnown Plan X gets thrown in there and destroys whatever our small minds might have envisioned.

Take the Food Ministry as an example. The best laid plans – we have worked so hard to make community, to build personal relationships, to bring people together. And we have done it. Yet It is so difficult now. Everyone is scattered and separate. However, simply being present, separated by 6 feet, is all there is. Although we don’t know where everyone is, they do know we are there.

Another plan, we had to postpone was the second annual Maundy Thursday Foot Ministry. That one hurt. However, we have formed a new partnership with people who offer clothing and shoes while we are unable to do so. In good time – in God’s time – we will have the foot ministry again. I believe that.

Pandemics cause all plans to be tossed up in the air and blown away by the wind. Yet sometimes new understandings become known in the midst of the chaos.

We simply have to stay grounded and believe. And Trust.

The disciples asked, Where are you going? And how do we know the way?
Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” Sounds simple, right? 

Jesus said Believe. Believe that if we know Jesus, we know God. Believe that In Jesus, we meet God and God meets us.

Jesus tells us how to believe, that we already know the Way. He doesn’t say that he will take the disciples with him. He says that when he returns, “I will take you to myself.”

As if to say – where I am so you will be. Or where you are, so will I be. Even in those times when we are anxious; Even in those times when we are too alone. Even in those times when we are unable to actively participate in the Eucharist remembering Jesus in the bread and the wine. Still, in the midst of the unknowing, we do know the way.  

Jesus coming back to take us somewhere and Jesus returning to take us to himself are two different things. This made me remember my grandmother. She used to tell me that Jesus is always with me, that I best be worrying about what I am doing here on earth because the Kingdom of God is right now. Don’t be worrying about heaven. Worry about now. Make sure I am doing and believing right.

When Jesus’ words jumped out at me, I heard my grandmother talking to me.

I think this is what Stephen knew. He knew it all along. It is why he was not afraid, and he was able to kneel and pray as he was being stoned to death. He knew Jesus was with him and that he was with Jesus.

Stephen understood the relationship, that he was a part of it. He knew and followed in the works of Jesus. Stephen stood up and spoke truth to the power, to the ones who had the power to put him to death. He enraged them with his truth. Still, as he knew he was about to die, as he knew how angry they were, he shared his vision – “I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”

Other that this one time by Stephen, Jesus is the only one to use the phrase, “Son of Man”. Stephen knew the way.

And perhaps the Council did also. Maybe that is why they were so angry. They chose to not believe Stephen. They chose to believe that their way was the right one.

Stephen is known as the Patron Saint of Deacons and as having special gifts in evangelism. “Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people.” (Acts 6:8) A good part of what caused the Sanhedrin to be so outraged was Stephen proclaimed that the Temple was unnecessary. 

People could seek reconciliation with God anywhere. He declared that the people are called out of the Temple and into places unknown and foreign, just as were their ancestors. He boldly reminded the Council that “the Most High does not dwell in houses made by human hands,” that as God created all that is, so is God in all. Stephen accused them of doing the same things as their ancestors had done – killing the prophet that God had raised up for their disbelief.

This accusation caused their fury to overcome them, they covered their ears as if to block his words, the truth. Still, knowing that he was in the presence of God, Stephen asked that they be forgiven for what they were doing. And he died.

As the first deacon, Stephen reminds us that our work is in the world, outside of our places of worship. Sometimes in places as close as the Memorial Garden or in these times, as far away as the internet can take us. This has never been made more clear than it is now in COVID-19 time. Shut out of our worship spaces, we have created sacred spaces in our homes, in front of our computers, on our walks, or simply staring out of the window at the amazing Spring. I don’t know if this a particularly lush Spring or if I am experiencing it more from a ground level in slower time. Whatever, I am seeing it fully in God-time.

Jesus tells us that he is the Way, the truth, and the Life. Do not let our hearts be overwhelmed with anxiety. Believe. Trust. Remember, we have a choice.

We choose to believe … and we choose who we believe.

This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in this day.


Wednesday, May 06, 2020

We are Not "Normal" People.

Offered for Christ Church Cathedral, St. Louis, MO, April 26, 2020 COVID-19 Time

Acts 2:14a,36-41, 1 Peter 1:17-23, Luke 24:13-35, Psalm 116:1-3, 10-17

As I read the Gospel for today, I thought of the collect in Evening Prayer. It asks Jesus to stay with us, because night is near and the day is past, to be our companion in the way, to kindle our hearts and awaken hope that we might know him both as revealed in Scripture and in the breaking of the bread.
This is a time when many of us are afraid and lonely. We miss the people we love, both near and far. Our hearts ache for community and our arms for physical hugs. We want to know we will soon be close again. We strive to remember that Jesus is with us even as we feel alone. We yearn for those moments when Jesus is known to us in the breaking of the bread as we gather again, in the communion of all the saints. We hope that time will come soon.
Surely, the apostles felt that same way. All that was known to them was suddenly gone. One moment, Jesus is with them, telling them that the bread is his body, and the wine is his blood and they are to remember that each time they eat or drink. They hardly have time to consider that before everything changes, and he is gone. This anxiety keeps them from fully remembering that he told them that the Son of Man would suffer many things, be killed and then on the third day, rise again. Or that he promised that he would be with them always. We can empathize them.
Right now, we are hearing a lot about Traumatic Stress and how we are being affected in this unprecedented time. I wonder about the disciples. Can we imagine the trauma of loving Jesus, giving up everything to follow him, going with him everywhere; suddenly he is taken away, arrested, tried, lashed, humiliated, and nailed to a cross? He dies in agony. The grief. Oh my God.
And then, Mary Magdalene and the other women telling them the astounding news that the tomb is empty, Angels saying he is still alive! How can that be!
I can imagine the emotional whiplash they experience as the sensations flash through them. And now, here they are walking with this stranger, telling him of the past few days. It is the third day – What was so different about his physical self now, that they did not know him?
Perhaps they are so caught up in their own shock that they could not recognize him in that place and time. He seems amazed that they do not understand or remember the things they had been taught, so, he begins to teach them. And they listen.
Because night is near, the two disciples invite the stranger to stay with them. So, he does. At supper, the man they still did not recognize takes the bread, blesses it, and breaks it, then he gives it to them.
And they know. “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us?”
The collect for today says: “Open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work!”
The eyes of their faith are opened. Even though he is now gone, they know!
Talking with a friend this week about the Gospel and these times, we lamented the idea that we feel as though we are on a rollercoaster with no buffers. Everything seems fine and suddenly with little warning; we plummet into a new low. Those buffers that might ordinarily soften the impact of the unexpected are missing right now. We are extremely vulnerable.
Surely, this must be the way the disciples felt. The highs, the lows, the shock, the grief, the hope, the joy. And all the points in between. Sometimes the memory of the promise of resurrection is lost in the middle of the moment’s anxiety.
Resurrection is a very big deal to believe. Our bodies dying, rising from the dead, life made new, eternally. Forever. It is a promise. Believing in resurrection is THE thing.
We are not “normal” people. We are Easter people. Even in our busiest times, we continue to be an Easter people because we believe in the Resurrection, daring to imagine what our lives in Christ are about.
Resurrection is so much more than we can dare to imagine. Yet we do dare, every time we pray. We remember that to love God, to love one another, to allow ourselves to be born anew again and again by that imperishable word of God. Are not our hearts always burning with that understanding? Even if the disciples were not able to recognize him with their eyes, they surely knew that Jesus was with them. They knew in their hearts, in the eyes of their faith.  
Easter is about Transformation. Surely, we are in times of transformation in the midst of this pandemic.
This threat came into our lives, untamed in its potential, unbound within our understanding of normal. This tiny virus disrupted our world. Unwanted, unheralded, what is this tiny thing opening before us? Maybe, even in its chaos and damage, this is an opportunity for us to see with new eyes things that were always before us. `
One of the special things to come from this pandemic is the opportunity to pray with others the Daily Office throughout the week. The number of people who are now praying in this new way is amazing! In our physical separation, still, we can pray with one another any time of day. The same is true for Sundays as we worship with people we love -- online.
Perhaps, this time is an opportunity for us to use what Walter Brueggemann calls the “Prophetic Imagination”, looking more deeply into those things which we often take for granted. Prophetic Imagination asks us to know through faith beyond our fear and anxiety. That does not mean that these fears or anxieties are not real nor that we can make these go away. Simply, it asks us to remember that God is with us always, regardless. That even during the most frightening times, there is something new that God is doing in our lives, with our lives, for us and for this world and that we are a major part of that.
These are anxious times for many who are concerned about housing costs, job losses, grief, or health concerns. For others, it has offered moments of reflection, rest, and possibly boredom. Then there are those in between. We know there are great discrepancies in our societies’ economic levels. What helps the least of these, helps all of us. Thinking about it economically or spiritually, when all have equal access to food, water, housing, education, and healthcare, society as a whole benefits. This is an opportunity to see more clearly the injustices in our society. The prospect of intentionally working towards righting that which is unjust awaits us as we come out of this.
As we look toward to what Dean Kathie Adam-Shepherd calls “re-membering” our parish communities and our society, of once again being with each other physically, hopefully, we will remember the discoveries that we are making. Whether these are the injustices that beset so many, or the amazing awareness of the new spring growth, or the long walks, the moments spent playing or new ways of praying – hopefully, we will hold onto these. We can forget these moments when we are rushed. We do what needs to be done as the demand arises. Yet, if we can hold on to the new awareness, to see with the eyes of our faith, to cling to the knowing that Easter is here, this can carry us into whatever new thing God is doing.
“Lord Jesus, stay with us; be our companion in the way, kindle our hearts, and awaken hope, that we may know you as you are revealed in Scripture and the breaking of bread. Grant this for the sake of your love. Amen.

“The OnBeing Project: Walter Brueggemann – The Prophetic Imagination”
Found on April 24, 2020

Monday, September 30, 2019

For Dennis Kinealy Who Left This Life on September 16, 2019

“In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?”

I am the Rev. Barbi Click, Deacon and Manager of Trinity Food Ministry. 

I had not been Manager of the Trinity Food Ministry very long when Dennis came up to me with his hand outstretched for a shake.

“You don’t know me, but I know you. My name is Dennis and I used to be somebody.”

His statement stunned me, shaking many preconceived notions. It also humbled me and taught me a valuable lesson. New to the ministry of working with people who were unhoused, it had never occurred to me that losing one’s sense of identity was even a possibility.

This incident was simply one of the many times that I learned from Dennis in the six years that I knew him. He taught me that being homeless was only one small aspect of who he was as a child of God. A bigger lesson, I came to understand that love and addiction will always be at war, but that love will win eventually, no matter how long it takes. My job was simply to be there and offer my love.

Dennis helped substantiate what I had already begun to learn. Everyone has a story; some people have many; some of those stories are tragic. He could not be identified simply as “The homeless”. He was Dennis Kinealy who was so much more than what his current condition implied. Through him, I came to understand the profound depth of what community means. Sharing our stories is vital to building relationships. These stories lead us past the exterior into the real life, opening a new understanding that we are all connected, that we are one in the body of Christ.

And Dennis did love sharing his stories and the pictures he carried with him!  Las Vegas cab driver, farmer, urban mountain man, adventurer, teller of tales, son, brother, uncle, father, Trinitarian, Episcopalian and a member of our Beloved Community – these were just a few of the terms that described Dennis.

He loved being called Dennis the Menace. His grin just got bigger when he heard that term. He loved being funny, cute, even coy. He loved people loving him. Of course, for many of us, loving him was easy because it required little of us, we had no expectations of him and his power to hurt us was very limited. He came and went as he pleased, with very few demands. We at the Pantry met him where he was and walked with him for a little while. We were often his audience as he played the stage. Yet love is complicated. The toll of worry and concern on those who loved him longer was much heavier, more broken and far more painful to them and for him.

He was a proud man, pleased with some of the things he had done, proud of his family, of being a part of Trinity. He was proud to have had the actor Debbie Reynolds as a passenger in his cab. He had a pride in having owned a bit of land at one time. He was honored to be the father of his two sons. He almost burst with pride when Debbie, his sister and her family came with him to the Trinity Art Club.

However, he was a man of many sorrows. Some of these things that made him the most proud also were the source of his guilt which brought him such disappointment in himself. He was unable to forgive himself for not being the son, the brother, the uncle, or the father that he wanted to be. He knew that he had a lot of grief for people he loved.

He knew that his addiction drove a wedge between them and himself. But that is what addiction does. It burns bridges with no regard for love. The addict becomes a passenger in a runaway vehicle. Being out of control is a very lonely place to be.

I don’t know the back story of what brought Dennis to this place in life. There were times when his sorrow rushed out of him in a torrent of tears. His pain and guilt were so evident, so real. I and others reminded him that we are called to forgive, not only others but ourselves. He simply could not see, on this side of the veil, that we all fall short of the glory of God. Yet, that is God’s promise – forgiveness, regardless of our lack. He did not see himself as worthy. That is the wonder of all of this – he was and has been and is now forgiven, just as we all have been for whatever we lack.

Most times, he was happy. He loved to talk, especially about being an “urban mountain man.” He was one of the most resourceful people I ever knew. I would introduce him to people new to the streets so that he could give them pointers on how to survive. He helped a lot of people.

I teased him that he was like a cat with nine lives. Something was always happening to him that would have laid out a lesser man. I cannot count the number of times that Dennis would burst through the doors and head straight for me. His hello would always be sidelined by, “You won’t believe what just happened to me!”

Dennis used a few of those lives after he was hit by a vehicle in December 2016. I think he coded once at the scene and twice in the ambulance ride to Barnes. Many broken bones and a brain injury laid him up in intensive care for a while. He was totally amazed when Fritzi Baker and I visited him. After his long rehab, St. Patrick’s Center connected him with a group that got him permanent housing. Fr. Jon offered to bless his new home so Jon, Debbie Wheeler and I attended the blessing of his new space. He never forgot that day. He never forgot anything anyone ever did for him. It always amazed him that someone would do things for him.

Dennis is an example of how having a house is simply not enough in this world. Home is where community is, and a place to share our joys and the sorrows. God calls us into community because we need one another. Dennis was proud of his confirmation as an Episcopalian. To him, that was proof that he belonged, Trinity was his space, this was his community.

Dennis looked at small things as great blessings. Every ask might not be met with a stated thank you; however, every offering was accepted with a great deal of thanksgiving.

He told me a few weeks ago that he didn’t know if he could go through another winter like last year, that maybe Maddie from the City would be able to help him find a place. Dennis had burned many bridges with help organizations – they wanted to help him, but they had exhausted their resources for him unless he was willing to make some dramatic changes. I reminded him of what he had to do to get help – go into long term rehab. As he turned to walk out, with a wave of his hand, he said, “yeah, I know.”

Dennis left this world in a flight of freedom. The prison gates of addiction broke open. He was rid of all the guilt and all the sorrow. He finally understood that he was forgiven.

I know that Dennis was not alone at the end. I know that “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” Take my hand and come with me.
I can hear him saying the same words he told me when I first met him:
“You don’t know me but I know you. My name is Dennis and I used to be somebody.”

However, I also know that God immediately told him, “I do know you. I know every hair on your head, I have known you since before you were formed in your mother’s womb. You are somebody because you are mine. I have a perfect place already prepared for you. Come and see.”

 Memorial Service for Dennis Kinealy   
John 14:1-6
Trinity Church, September 28, 2019           

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Joy Comes in the Morning

Swirling through life,
  pulled between yin and yang with no clear connection between the two,
  occasionally joined together to make a whole,
  the only surety is that chaos exists above all things.
My soul longs for rejoicing.
My body aches for warmth.
My heart wants not to be broken.
My mind wants only to rest.
In You alone my soul in silence rests,
  yet … there is never silence.
Where is the One who out of chaos created order?
Where is the Spirit that comforts the afflicted, the disordered?
I fear the silence will not come until to ashes I return.
I know that joy comes in the morning.
I hold onto that while I weep through the night.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

I love you, O Lord my strength, * O Lord my stronghold, my crag, and my haven. Psalm 18:1

Sometimes I get lost in the need. My need to know more consumes my understanding of what I am supposed to be. I need to know more to do – I need to know how to help – I need to know how to FIX things. The fact that I feel unable is often overwhelming.

Yet, I know I cannot create houses for all those who are homeless. I cannot provide the money for all the bus tickets I could hand out daily. I can’t make poverty disappear or fix the broken school system. I don’t have enough blankets or coats or anything to make things well. And neither does Fr. Bob or United Way or Urban League or the Dream Center or any other nonprofit agency in this or any other city. Occasionally, falling in a heap on the ground and curling into a fetal position seems to be the best thing for me to do. I have never done that, but it certainly feels possible at times.

Too often it appears our journey is no longer a journey; rather, it is simply a struggle to maintain. We are so involved with our personal survival that the bubble through which we see the outside world becomes thick with the sludge of purposeful ignorance. As the need and pain and violence and sorrow assail us, the desire to protect ourselves becomes stronger. That means isolating ourselves from the needs of others.

That seems to be the way of our current world, our country. Isolating one from the other. Creating a sense of fear that causes us to grab what we have and hold on tight. All the while, those who have much attain more while those who have less lose even that.
I want a God who responds like the one in Psalm 18:1-20. I want a God who hears the cries of distress, who causes the earth to reel and rock as the roots of the mountains shake, with smoke from God’s nostrils and a consuming fire blasting from the God-mouth, parting heavens and swooping down through the clouds with hailstones bursting and the Most High voice thundering. A God who reaches down from on high and grasps up those in distress from the great waters and delivers them from their enemies, from those who hate them simply because they are not white, they are not rich, they are not male, they think differently or speak with another language or are not straight.

I need to know that God is on the side of the oppressed – not just because scripture tells me so but because I see CHANGE.

But then. I remember. There is Love. And where Love is, God is. That is change and it is unchanging.

With every pair of socks, every hat, every scarf, every coat, every morsel of food, it is in the offering that God is there. And every small thing becomes bigger than our need to know more when it is wrapped in that Love. Because, as much as the warmth of a piece of clothing or a full belly, love is often the missing ingredient.

There is only one thing I need. That is, the only thing I need is to understand that God is in the midst of it all and what I do not know or cannot do is not important. The only thing I need is to know that God is all there is. 

I am not alone. We are not alone. 

Friday, August 24, 2018

REAL Reality TV World, Thursday Food Pantry

On Thursdays a group of people gather at the Pantry. They gather there on other days as well but the later pantry time (4-5:30) offers a time for more socializing, I suppose. The traffic at Pantry slows down and they rev up. On that day, everything is much livelier at closing than on others.

Several of the people help with the cleanup. Volunteers begin taking down chairs and tables after C, a tiny woman, maybe 100 lbs, wipes them down. She tells people to finish up with their dishes “so Miss Barbi can close this place up on time.” T, aka Dogg, sits in his place and watches everyone as he sips his coffee. Miss H directs others as to what they should be doing. Pfollows M around as he gathers up all the trash. Reta, the Deaconess Nurse, finishes with her last patient. On the days that he is there, A finishes cleaning up the kitchen. At this point, most of the volunteers have left the building. A couple of volunteers never leave until I give them the go ahead. They are just making sure I am ok. This particular group is always ok.

I wonder if the group of people remaining wait until the other volunteers are gone to be their crazy funny selves. Or maybe it is because I can finally pay attention to them that I actually see how they are. All the drama of the day is over, and the comedy begins.

During the pantry, the drama comes in many forms. From people needing someone to pray for them, right then, right there; to someone bumping into another’s elbow and spilling coffee, threatening the start of World War III; to Mr. W talking non-stop to everyone, to someone, to no one, in his sometimes staccato, sometimes jabberwocky style; to our garden lady (she sleeps there), getting mad and calling everyone the “n” word – most especially black men who happen to get in her way (although I have been called that by her on numerous occasions); to another demanding attention, good or bad; to others wanting me to hurry because they are going to miss their bus. Everyone poking me in the shoulder, calling my name (most calling me “Barb”, some call me Mama), pulling at my elbow, asking for this, asking for that. The need is constant, and one need is always more important than the next.

It is 5:40 p.m. and the doors are locked, the lights are dimmed, the kitchen is closed, the trash is out, the tables are wiped clean and put up. I start singing my closing song that none of them recognize – “Turn out the lights, the party’s over. All good things must come to an end. Turn out the lights, the party’s over and tomorrow starts the same old thing again.” That’s Willie Nelson, y’all. Whatever.

Miss H always says, “The fat lady’s singing.” M says, “Ok, Barb, it’s time for us to go.” P always says, “You’re right, M. It’s time for us to go.”
Then, Miss H says, “Before I go, I need to go to the little girls’ room.” C replies (always), “Miss H can’t ever go before closing time. She has to wait. Now we have to wait on her because she needs help carrying her bags to the car.”

One after another says, well, it’s time to go, but C reminds everyone that they are ‘waiting on Miss H to come out of the bathroom because she can’t ever go before it’s time to leave.’ I remind them that they could just carry the bags outside and wait on her there, to which no one pays me any mind.

P sees a bag sitting on one of the chairs and wonders aloud as to whose it is. One or more of us always tells him that it belongs to M(we know this because it is where he was sitting). P says, “Oh. Oh. This must be M’s.” To which we all agree ...  yep, yep, it must be …

Reta and I look at each other and can’t keep from grinning. No one wants to leave. Reta says that someone ought to film this and put it on TV. We are watching some real reality comedy. It’s called community. And it is beautiful.

Finally, they are all on their way. Reta stays for a minute and we talk about the day. Then she is gone, and I am alone, not only in the South Parish Hall but in the entire building. I soak in the quiet and marvel at what has gone on in that space in the past week. God is present always, even when I get rushed and forget. Moments like these remind me that God is also good, always with me.

Friday, June 15, 2018

On Becoming Beloved Community

One day this week, Wayne clapped me on one shoulder and loudly claimed, “You should have run for mayor!” I laughed, and he then proclaimed, “No one can steal a stove!” To which I replied, “Or a refrigerator!” He clapped me on the shoulder again and said, “Exactly!” Last week, he had told me that he had been accused of stealing the refrigerator where he was staying.

I have known Wayne for most of the almost five years I have been working at Trinity Food Ministry in Saint Louis. Our relationship began as reactionary and tended to escalate quickly. He would come to the Pantry for groceries at least twice a month. The regulation is that a guest may get groceries once per calendar month. To get around that, he would claim that it wasn’t him who came the first time; it was his brother. I was fairly naive so it was allowed for a couple of months.

But then he became more belligerent and irritating, so I shut it down. I told him he had to prove who he was each time he came. I didn’t care who he was, but he had to show me if he wanted groceries.
In that he rarely had his ID, this caused him to be even more aggressive in his attitude. His eyes would narrow, he would “get his face on” and he would ready himself to scare me into backing down. I didn’t.

This went on for at least a couple of years. We had several shouting matches and stare-downs. Then, Wayne didn’t show up for a long while. As is the case on a normal basis, I wondered a few times about him but was too busy to search out an answer. Plus, the Pantry was quieter when he wasn’t there. It was easier.

By the time he returned, I was different. In that period where he was gone, I learned that a big problem with many people is that they do not know they are loved. Or they do not believe themselves lovable. When I saw Wayne return, I greeted him with an exclamation of not only surprise but of joy. I said, “Where have you been? I have missed you! I am glad to see you!”

He looked at me as if I was crazy. Yet his response was a smile. While it took him a few visits to believe me, he came to understand that things were different.

Wayne had not changed much in that time he was away. He still aggravated the bejeesus out of people. He continues to do so. But I have learned that when he narrows his eyes and his face appears to be confrontational, often, he is trying to figure out how to respond to the one causing his confusion. He can be lead away from confrontation by redirecting his attention.

I don’t kid myself. I know that out on the street he has a tough time. He has been put out of more places than I go into. He is classified as a problem and treated as such by most people who do not have the time or the desire to meet him where he is. His life is difficult.

I have watched his mental health decline over this past year. Most conversations are like the one with which I began this. His main themes include his father whom he loved, his high school years, and whether I have Spam or sardines to give him. Interspersed between these themes, a strange statement about refrigerators or stoves or me being mayor will be tossed in. For the most part, he knows he is safe at the Pantry and that I will listen to him for a little while. Somewhere during the conversation, we will laugh.

I would like to say that Wayne is the biggest problem at Pantry but he isn’t even close. But I have found the key to getting along with Wayne. It is to let him know he is loved and that he is worth my time. He knows this because I call him by name and tell him so. He is fed in body and in spirit. For a minute, it is enough.

I try to use that key with others but for some, addiction or mental health problems are just too much of a barrier. These problems filter out love.

Yet life continues.

There are so many things about each of us by which we can be judged daily, moment to moment. Too often, we judge in a flash, mistaking confusion for arrogance, taking one instance and identifying a person by that forever.

We are always beloved, regardless of our knowing this or not. When we get to know one another, when we listen to one another, when we see one another, and, in those actions, we learn that we are loveable and that we are loved. When we set aside our judgmental nature, we enter what Gregory Boyle says is God’s “jurisdiction.”

Within that God-place, we become Beloved Community. This is Jubilee.

Are we there yet? Are we even close? Maybe so, maybe not. For certain, we are closer than we have been.