Not long ago I was at a conference on how to raise money for missions serving homeless people. The conference took place in upper-crust Orange County. Newport Beach to be precise. I see the irony, but I’m not complaining. I’ve seen the irony for seven or eight years now. Haven’t complained once. If anything, I’ve developed a sense of vocational entitlement. After all, people who serve the poor don’t have to subsist themselves—I’ve heard. They don’t have to work in impoverished conditions. Do they? The answer to that, like the answer to so many questions of this sort is: that depends. But what clear-eyed child has ever been content with, that depends?
There is a larger question here. How do we live, any of us who are affluent, in the awareness that our neighbours are impoverished? Yes, moderation, modesty. But then there are those nagging examples like Francis of Assisi.
What is, after all, my responsibility? My call? And who lives a called life anymore–besides my siblings maybe, and Francis? A calling is so non-postmodern…or is that non-postmortem. (Do see the wonderment of English?)
I decided—for the third time—that I wanted to write, maybe be a writer, when I was living at 2.3 Acres—and empty lot just off downtown Victoria. I had a spot behind a willow, a sleeping bag, a chewed Bic pen and scraps of paper. I wrote "thoughts." I never dared to show or tell anyone.
And here I am, still writing scraps of thought. But daring to show and tell, and hoping occasionally to write with heart, wit, humility, intelligence. And hoping to have my work mean something. "My work!" Now that sounds lofty. I’m a whore for an approving glance. ("Approving glance," is a phrase I stole from James Alison.)
And now I’m flat. I have nothing. Perhaps what I had, if had, is gone. I feel a depression moving in. I’m so celled in by comparison. I trudge like a tramp through this late half-lit smoggy afternoon. I park my slight shadow on a bench. My shallow collapse will not register. There will be no butterfly effect. The water will close in leaving no trace of me.
I was afraid of that empty conference hotel room. I needed the distraction of a large screen and a remote. Where have my victories gone? “The Victorious Life…” Do you remember that Sunday-morning salvo arching toward your chest like a live grenade? Kaboom!
Hold on, wait, I do have a "victory,"…a wife who is a friend. Oh, and a quiver full of kids–precious, you know, hmm…like things that are precious (thanks Moe Szyslak). Oh yes, and I have a divine community that I can slink back to, sink into, that will give me a glass, and even help me raise it.
And I have Emily and her lilies and Teresa the Little Flower, who when asked to choose one of many coloured ribbons said, "I choose all." And I have Jesus and all that wine and spikenard.
Enjoy life in time. Enjoy its gifts for to refuse them is an offence. Endure life when you’re lost or stuck. Roll with it. But look for brightly coloured hallways. Be generous without evaluation or comparison or consternation or judgment. Recall that all flesh is grass. Recall that grass blooms and flowers and dries up and waits again for spring rain. Fast. Pray. Cultivate peace. Move to simplicity. Resist little. Don’t harm; farm.