Tonight I drove my codeine cough syrup addled ass down to Nickelsville for a 7 pm "strategy meeting" to discuss how the homeless campers were going to deal with their eviction, scheduled for sometime after 5 pm tomorrow. The media keeps asking us for a convenient time to arrive for the requisite dramatic footage. The answer, for the record, is "We don't know. Ask Greg."
The meeting was all about morale boosting and solidarity building. With media and cops in attendance, little actual planning was either possible or desirable.
There were numerous moments that made being there worthwhile. Within moments of my arrival, for instance, El Centro de la Raza Director Roberto Maestes greeted me as "young man." While this was probably because he couldn't remember my name, it still did my about-to-turn-48 heart good. This is a guy who was in the thick of Wounded Knee when I was just a pimply thirteen-year-old stoner.
I also spoke with a mysterious man named Harry. The last time I saw him was when we met at the Camp4Unity demonstration last June. A few hours before my arrest, we had a brief conversation that culminated in him handing me a hundred dollar bill he'd found on a sidewalk. "I don't want you to just pay the electric bill with this. Do something special." I told him tonight that one of our more challenged vendors had told me that he and his equally challenged wife were having a very tough time, and he just wished they could afford go out for dinner. I was able to say, "I'm going to make you very happy. Go somewhere nice." This, in turn, made Harry very happy.
Jim Page told me that if Mayor Nickels evicted the campers, he'd retaliate by playing a concert on his front lawn. This is the most original threat I've heard in years.
I told Nickelsville organizer Scott Morrow that I'd been spending my idle moments while home sick pondering what his life was like right now. This made him smile.
But the moment that had me thinking on my drive home was my conversation with the young man in the tan cap. He was PTSD, he said, and had lost a good ninety jobs in recent years. "I can't stay in shelters," he said. "I can't cope with the people." His cap said Heb. 10:10 across the bill. "What's Hebrews 10:10," I asked.
He grew slightly agitated and reached for his pocket bible. "You'd think I'd know this by now," he said, "since people keep asking."
He found it. "By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all," he read. His face grew serious and he looked me dead in the eye. "I think that if Jesus were alive, he'd be right here in Nickelsville."
"Jesus is right here in Nickelsville," I said, believing every word of it. "Places like this, where people come together to love and care for eachother, is where Jesus lives."
As I drove home, I considered how it is that I, an existentalist agnostic if ever there was, could say such a thing and actually believe it to be true.
The answer is surprisingly simple. God is love, and you don't need to believe in God to believe in love. Our notions of God are just framework for what's real. What's real is love, and love is real. And anyone who was at Nickelsville tonight knows just what I mean.