Dangerous Compassions

sad stationery on a windy day

When I see Thanksgiving cards and Halloween cards, I think of when I was penpals with my cousin who was in jail.  I would send him cards for any reason. 

When I see those cards in the store, I feel tender and sad–the loved ones in jail, something colorful to put in the mail to try to give them a smile and help them feel connected to the family of humanity.  Something to remind the prisoners they’re still people, when they’ve been cut off intentionally by a government who makes a lot of mistakes, convicts people for victimless crimes, lets off the rich criminals and punishes the poor ones.

Lately I feel not belonging–I feel to the side.  I’m used to be being an outlier, for 20 reasons, but it can be very tiring.  Yes, I will be misunderstood.  Yes, my needs are weird and my behavior doesn’t match everyone else’s.  But I’ll show up anyway and try.

I’m glad to be free–it’s a gamble.  I want to love who I am as I do my best, but at times, I feel like it’s not worth it.  I want to be able to talk with all kinds of people and sit at the table of life, weird but present.  But some days, I just want to give up.

I heard: The big thieves hang in the little ones.  It’s wrong to murder one person, but it’s not wrong to order the deaths of thousands of people, or to have a job carrying out those orders. 

Here in Las Vegas, drone pilots drive out to Creech Air Force Base, kill other desert dwellers overseas by remote control, and drive home to their families.  Strange world.  Something tells me they’re not getting the support they need.  A war is a mass shooting that the shooters get praised for.

This morning I served on the soupline.  Toward the end, someone thanked me for serving.  “I really appreciate you coming out here to do this,” he said.  The wind was blowing.  I was sprinkling cheese on pasta–eaters lined up, stuck out their plates, and I sprinkled shredded cheese with my gloved hand.  “I just wanted to thank you.  You probably don’t get thanked enough,” he said.

It was hard for me, but I maintained eye contact with him.  I tried to be there with him and accept his love.  I didn’t know what to say and mumbled, “Sure.”

I was crying when I showed up with Ming at the serving site.  Seeing someone lying alone on the sidewalk, bundled in a blanket against the wind, sleeping or resting while waiting for the morning meal–it was too much sadness.  I cried in the minivan a while, then wiped my tears and walked to the dirt field where we serve. 

We all have our pains and struggles.  No place to live is a really basic one.  Homeless people are told by culture, “You don’t matter.  Some people are worth saving, but not you.  You didn’t play the game right, so you don’t get the prize.  You are worthless.  You wasted your chance.  You’re trash.”

Or else it’s based on someone else’s terms, like sobriety.  “You only deserve to live if you stop using drugs.  You’re not capable of handling your life, so we’ll do that for you.”

A child is abducted, and cell phones light up with Amber Alerts to try to find the abductor.  But who cares about the homeless person.  No one is saving them, and they’re in plain view.

Pro-life people will protest hard to try to protect the lives of unborn babies, stepping over the homeless people on the sidewalk by the clinic–the homeless people wasted their chance.  They’re presumed crazy or drug addicted, so they don’t deserve the love these precious innocent ones deserve. 

Actual people who are out in the world, suffering, can be hard to love.  Like the homeless people are already ruined.  Babies are a symbol, I guess.  Homeless people can be dirty and sick and shouting weird stuff, as we dish them breakfast.  Babies can’t talk yet.

I know some serve the homeless on one day and protest Planned Parenthood another.  I know some pro-life people support single moms and buy diapers for them, or even adopt.  But when I went to the clinic for birth control and got yelled at, that was never a good day for me.  I didn’t enjoy people intentionally making my day harder.

Our friend’s wife is out of town, so we’re spending extra time with him so he can be social.  Lately I’m trying to show up.  I hope I can be an appropriate social person.  Soon we’ll head to Chinatown.  I’m trying to think of a present for my friend.  I know he likes chocolate, but he’s probably such an aficionado, he likes certain types.

The wind is wild.  I’m trying to feel the air is alive with movement and feel I have a place on Earth.

By Laura-Marie

Good at listening to the noise until it makes sense.

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