May I let my voice be a clarion call. I will use these words for justice. I will use these words for truth. And humour.

Sunday, September 30, 2007


Today at church, had me pulling hair out of my shaved head

I was an usher today at church. It started ta 11:15, and generally goes until 12:30 or so. I signed up for ushering before my new work schedule came out for the semester. So I was supposed to work when the library opened at noon. I stepped outside briefly at noon to call the shift supervisor to let her know I'd be about an hour late. She was fine with that.

Just as she picked up the phone, a man advanced up to me quickly and was asking for money and help, so he could get a shower and something to eat, which rattled me a bit since I'm not such a good multitasker, especially for unexpected things. I regained my composure on the phone and finished up my conversation, and then spoke with him. He told me that he has been living in the bushes over by the freeway, and that some people had assaulted him a while ago and his shoulder was dislocated, and he needed my help as a brother in God. He pulled off his shirt so I could look at it and it didn't look good. The skin was all right, but underneath, the musculature and skeletal structure were pretty fouled up. I asked him if it was OK to touch his shoulder, he replied affirmatively, but he recoiled away at the slightest touch (I'm not sure how much was emotional and how much physical, but obviously there were issues he needed to get resolved.) He needed assistance getting his shirt back on and buttoned as well.

I gave him some money and told him he really needed to get to the ER to have it looked at, and that I had to get back inside to usher (it was really rattling to me that I was supposed to be inside really soon to pass the plate, and wasn't sure exactly when that was happening). I got back in with about a little time to spare, and noticed that he had followed and come in through a side door and sat in the back row among the other parishioners. As I was getting composed and gaining understanding of the greater context of the situation, it was all too frustrating that I had opted for the middle way* and now his welfare depended on the people he was sitting next to. I spoke to the other usher and explained about how I needed to go directly to work after the service, and could she put him in touch with the services we had in place for when someone comes calling like this?

Her response was a bit like what I suspected. We don't have a system or procedure in place for this kind of help. The person next to him would be able to find out and hopefully help. He got up and left before the end of the service and I'm not sure how much assistance was offered.

The toughest part for me was that our service was about community, family, Ohana (the Hawaiian word for the family of community), and was titled "No One Left Behind." I was collecting the offering and thinking of what we were collecting it for, if not to be able to help him. (I recognize here that we do need to raise money to reinforce the building so its safe in case of an earthquake. Presently, if there were a sizable earthquake during a service, there could be 200 casualties. I also recognize that there are many other programs that need financing, ranging from countering oppressions, and other forms of community outreach beyond services for the poor/homeless.)

*As should be clear from the story, I hardly feel myself absolved in any way. The middle way to me here was as if from the JC parable where the guy gets beaten up by robbers and left at the side of the road. The pious people all walk by and do nothing. The Samaritan takes him to the inn, feeds him, and tells the innkeeper to put it on his tab. I gave the man some money and left him to fend for himself with it.

When people are sleeping at the side of the highway with broken shoulders, I think its high-time we all realize that the government is barely providing for the welfare of the people, if at all. Who shall take up the slack? And when is the government going to stop taxing us at these high rates, if they're no longer providing for social welfare and education (I'm reminded here of the Oakland school kids who stand outside the grocery stores to sell this or that, so that they can have books...). I want that money for the churches, schools, and non-profits.

lyrics: Fu Manchu, The Action is Go.

colors: clear as water

mood: how do you suppose?

chant/prayer/mantra: peace begins with community.

pax hominibus,

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wow. that's a powerful story. I can imagine the frustration you must have been experiencing. I do find it revealing, in a good way, that it bothered you so. Too many people wouldn't have noticed. It's hard to be so sensitive to everything that's going on around us, and not be able to do enough to change it. Keep up the fight, J.
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