I received a text from Judy, one of our leaders, saying, “The hot water heater is leaking.” She discovered it, because it was dripping on her head. Yes. On her head.
They overheard a woman (who is also part of our Community) in distress. A man was in her tent, and she was shouting, “No. Stop! Get off me!”
Now here he was, four years later, and looking lots of years older. I went to him and said, “Malcolm! It is so nice to see you! We have missed you!” I hoped for a hug, but he put out his hand. I shook it and invited him to sit down at a table with me.
He’d stand on the front sidewalk and smoke a cigarette, and he’d talk. Not to other customers. To himself.
I put my hand on his arm and told him to calm down, that we’d figure this out. (I was doing the best I could to keep my own anger under control.)
The message is basically that we need not get frustrated when we are sitting under a tree and pigeon poop lands on our head. The pigeon is simply doing what pigeons do.
I kid you not. At one point, all four Vietnamese voices together began to sing,
So . . . I did a thing. I got a tattoo. On my face.
One night he got confused. His mind doesn’t process things well. He was pushing the four wheeler through the long parking lot (where it would have been okay to ride). He got to the intersection of two main streets, climbed on it and rode it through the intersection. A police car was sitting right there.
I no longer practice a faith that is determined by a list of the correct beliefs. However, I live in a culture where the contracting kind of Christianity dominates the landscape.
He hung his head and told me he was sorry. He said, “I know I shouldn’ a done it.
“Went and knocked up some other woman. Got hisself some other kids. But we was his first childs. He just left. How do you do that?!”
Then I heard something. It was quiet at first. I wasn’t even sure I had heard it. I listened closer. Stevie Wonder was now singing, “I just called to say I love you. I just called to say how much I care.” But there was another voice,
Frank smiled. Then he asked, “Does your iced tea have healing powers?”
It’s a very public space, and most everybody knows if you leave something, it’s kind of at your own risk. So the barista reminded her of that, to which she turned and said to everyone in the room, “This is my food. I’m coming back for it. Nobody eat it. K?”
The judge looked at me and asked, “Who are you?” I told him I am this man’s pastor, and I am here just helping him to be in the right place at the right time.
Tears welled up in his tough-man eyes, and he said, “They beat my other cat to death. I couldn’t let this one die.”
But sometimes the mountain of failure and shame is just too big, too hard to climb, and the path is impossible to trek alone.
There he was, lying unconscious in a pool of his own blood. I pushed my way through the gathered crowd, caught the eye of one of the cops, and announced, “I know this guy. I have all his information.”
One even felt like an inquisition, in which my answers were to be discussed amongst a group of “elders” who would make a determination to uninvite me from a previously scheduled event.