Driving to church my mind was thinking of Thanksgiving. Not the day but the attitude, the posture of gratitude and how to convey this as deeply as I’d like to the men. My mind was jumping about as usual thinking of how grateful those with little are and how thankless those of us with plenty can be. All of these thoughts tumbling around in my mind as I got off the exit for the Center. The small-framed older man who is usually standing there with a small sign was on the opposite side of the road and another man taking his place as though he’d pushed the older out-of-the-way. As my car got closer I knew this man. This younger lanky man who was at his work therapy assignment in our kitchen last week and not standing holding a pitiful plastic cup in his hand, dirty and sweaty. All thoughts of thanksgiving dropped from my mind as I stopped the car and lowered the window.
“What happened, man?” I asked. He knew me. He wasn’t in a stupor (yet) that he wouldn’t recognize me but then how many women in a uniform does he know? He didn’t lower his gaze or shake his head in shame. He simply said, “I think we know what happened.” I asked him a few other questions and he simply said, “Don’t ask me anything I can’t be honest about.” Part of me wanted to say, to holler, “If you don’t want to talk to me then get off this exit! You’re two blocks from the Center for Pete’s sake.”
Perhaps it was the light turning green that saved him as I raised the window and drove on. On to a time of worship with this man on my mind. This man who has never looked comfortable when he’s been in the Center and he’s been there at least twice. He’s never stayed long enough for me to get to know him. Often I’ve had to get his name in mind before I could confidently call it. This man who needs to know of thanksgiving and how God is thankful for him.
When I told a few men at the ARC I’d seen V their response was “already?” As in, two days and he’s on the street panhandling? I don’t know what the “usual” time would be before they’re out there again but yes, I got what they were saying. Carson said before V left he told Carson he was too old to change. He has prior’s and he was just too old. (He looks to be in his 40’s) Carson, only in his early 20’s but he knows of wearing the path thin between him and authorities. He told V he wasn’t too old. If anything, he’s too old NOT to change. Sad. All I can say is sad. Every time, everyone. Sad.
We gathered in the chapel for worship. Eric, graduated and living on his own for some time, sits behind me almost every week. I’m not sure why he said it but he said he was thankful to be on this side of the ground. I don’t remember our chatter being about thanks or anything of the like but that’s Eric. That has been his attitude from the time he came through those doors over two years ago and I needed to hear those words at that very moment. It doesn’t erase seeing one on the street. It only reminds the heart it’s a choice. Eric and Carson and many others chose life today. God willing they’ll choose life again tomorrow.
And I’m thankful. Thankful for them and the freedom to choose. Knowing too often I make the wrong choice, too often I abuse that freedom and too often I don’t thank but complain. Today, just today let my heart be raised with thanksgiving that tomorrow I can say this again.