Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Christ Came To Nickelsville

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.

3 comments:

Trevor said...

Beautiful post. It's the movement aspect of Nickelsville that media is overlooking in their search for storm troopers vs the homeless.

Hebe said...

“You don’t need to believe in God to believe in love”. Ah, the problem of authority. I think that the reluctance to believe in God makes perfect sense if one equates the God with the old testament bully who rained snakes and plagues on everyone -- chosen or not. He was not a fun guy. We all have experienced him in people in our lives who want us to do something for them or give them something.....love, money or a parking space and they ask for it in very alarming ways. Whining, aggression, pouting, demanding, all because they feel that the love-attention, cash-security, or parking space -temporary home will stop for one tinny second the anguish of being alone and out of the loop of love. Sometimes we are one of those people. We want to help but often we too are full of lack -- because we don’t have access to reality....love.

I took a look at Hebrews 10. Apparently God was that guy that wanted the parking space so bad that he road raged the tribes of Israel practically to a frazzle. He wanted love so desperately he tried all the alarming ways we all try to get it. Eventually he decided to try something different and see what the problem with being human was all about. He came on down and allowed himself to be squashed like a bug in a fairly grisly plaything of the forces of evil scenario. He was both the boot and the bug and he saw the bug role up close and personal.

So in Buddhism there is no boot and no bug...peace in emptiness.
In Hinduism we all are both boot and bug...peace in the all.

But in Christianity, after God did the bug thing he saw how hard it is to chose love. He said he would write his laws, (love) in our hearts and minds. No more coercion, just endless opportunities to pause, in any particular moment, root around in our hearts and minds, and if we find the love he said he would put here hand it out to who ever needs it...ourselves or others. He said we could learn to choose love and co-create a new heaven and a new earth. Who would have thought it would be easier to write a check for a hundred bucks than to choose love in certain situations. So is the choosing of love easy? ....nope. Is it pretty radical and exciting ...yep.

As you so brilliantly said, “Places like this, where people come together to love and care for each other is where Jesus lives.” Those places remind us, no matter what kind of life we have had, of a place we want most to be. Safe, sheltered, nurtured, connected and filled with every good thing to pass out to anyone in need when we pass out of our own door.

Maybe ending homelessness starts where love lives, at home.

Robin

Tim Harris said...

Jesus, Robin, you made me cry. That was uncalled for. Or maybe it was.

This made me realize how much I miss you. If you started your own blog, I'd read it. This is wonderful.