My office closed early today leaving me with a few hours on my hands before I could catch the bus home. I found the streets of Minneapolis so welcoming. Its definitely my home city. Nearly a year ago, I walked the streets at night alone, searching for some sort of belonging. Now, alone, I feel as though I belong to myself and God. There is no other longing or desire to belong to a building, group or even a person at the tables lining Nicollet. Only the want to give.
I see people supporting causes everyday on the corners with clipboards and brightly colored shirts. The other day some guy from the ASPCA wanted me to donate $30 to the fair treatment of animals. While I do believe this is a worthy cause, I felt that giving to some program isn't what I want to do.
Today, however, some folks from the equal rights campaign, you know the one with the yellow = sign, were getting some petition signed. As I walked past, I became very angry. It wasn't the cause that made me angry. It was the total lack of awareness for real needs.
Before I came across the pair canvasing the mall area, I sat with a 21-year-old homeless girl named Tasha. Her mom kicked her out for a boyfriend. Though I don't know her whole story, I don't need to. She was hungry so I gave her my yogurt. I expect that this is what Jesus did. He didn't walk up to people and say, "Give me some reasons why you need my grace." Or, "Tell me why you deserve money, food, clothing." Or ask, "Will you change your ways if I give this to you?" I bet he did what I did. Just sat and asked some questions, prayed with Tasha and gave something, anything that would meet the immediate and long term need. Because it's not the food that she needs. It's love. I left her with my card and told her that she could call if she needed anything. Hopefully she'll call.
I prayed for her as I left. It wasn't a huge moment. I didn't feel God's overwhelming presence. In fact, I just felt right. Like he was saying, "This is what you're supposed to do. You don't need any recognition." And while I sat with Tasha, two other people gave her a few bucks. One lady even passed by and came back. "Huh, its amazing what people will do when they realize these people aren't lepers," I thought.
So back to the pair. I see them asking people to give money for gay rights or sign a petition for equal rights, and I think, "How about you give those hungry people that money? How about you give people who really don't have any rights some rights, huh?" The truth is, the equality movement isn't about rights. Its about love. People want others to sign petitions for more support instead of asking for the one thing they really want: Real Love.
It's not about the campaign. I love these people. It's not about making them heterosexual. I encourage a few of my gay friends to get more involved in the churches they already attend. Its about getting them in a place where real love affirms them instead of the lusty culture of the Hotel or the Eagle downtown. Places where you're only seen as a pretty orifice. And that isn't what they are. That isn't what anybody is. But somehow, people can't see past that. We're too blinded by lust to see people as people.
Instead of yelling at the couple promting their cause, I walked up to another homeless lady. Her name was Victoria. I asked her what she would want to eat if she could have something right then and there. She said, "Subway. A ham sub with mayo." I said for her to stay there for a bit. I raced into a building. Purchased a 5-dollar-foot-long and raced back. She had shifted her seat, so I thought she left.
I sat and talked with her for 20 minutes. She told me about her struggle. Part of me thought, "Is this woman lying?" But more of me pushed that down and listened with full focus. This woman wasn't defunct. She had visited all the shelters around and talked with Mary Jo (from Mary's Place) down the street. She said it was hard to get her family into a shelter. She panhandles all day to get a hotel room at night. Today wasn't looking as good.
Her husband had passed away in 2007 and she was still heartbroken. I asked her more about that. She told me truthfully that she still can't get over that he's not there in her bed with her at night. She longed for him to be alive again in her arms. She wanted so badly to be with him. She said the pain is not like any other loss she had felt. I watched her as tears fell down her face. I felt so helpless. But then I felt something inside me rise up.
"Victoria, can I pray for you?" She was a believer. I asked God to fill her broken heart with love and to heal it up. I also prayed that she would get what she needs and that she would go to him for comfort. After I ended the prayer, I knew that I had done what I could. God will do the rest.
While I don't know what is to happen next with these people, and many of them will continue to feel alone, I do know one thing: my job is to serve the Lord. My job is to love and give to these people, and if you call yourself a Christian, its your job, too.
I'm petitioning Christ's love. Just sign up and act.