I love the rain. But the rain means something totally different on Skid Row. The mad dash by street dwellers to our gate and the cries of “we’re full!” from the staff creates a mild pandemonium.
Carrying recently dried and folded laundry across the courtyard in the pouring rain proves to be semi unproductive.
Jeremy tells of how he got his degree in economics from Washington State on a basketball scholarship when I was two years old. He doesn’t look past 40. Paul talks about how he was moved around a lot as a kid which kept him away from gangs and drugs. Linda tells of how she got her Drug Counselor certification at one point but doesn’t work in that field now.
Everyone has a story about how they ended up working here. How few of us actually do what we were trained to do.
Even though I am a fellow felon, I still feel very different. If another client calls me Katy Perry or Lindsay Lohan or Snowball, I swear people will be grateful I can’t own a gun anymore. Today’s nickname, Lois Lane, gets a pass. I like Lois Lane.
It’s black culture. Try as I might, I feel like I’m experiencing life as a foreign exchange student. Here in my own city. There is a language, a manner and a comradare among them that I have never had with people who identify as “white” or “caucasian.” By the way, did you know the word “caucasian” refers to the Caucasus region of what is now Russia? I’m not Russian, my friend. Even if my name is spelled the Russian way.
I honestly need to say that I am jealous of this family attitude. But necessity breeds community and white folks typically don’t have any.
I’ve never been offered more couches and more food off of someone’s plate in my life. Today, Jim offered me half of his small lunch. He had nothing with which to buy his meal and I assume his cupboards are bare. Today was pay day so everyone looked hungry. Jim found two very old microwave burritos he had forgotten he had stored in the freezer. And as he sat down, planning to eat, he noticed I didn’t have any and he gave me one of them.
It was such a strange comparison to my deep struggle to find help and support in the suburbs where I have to pay people to spare some time for my children.
Jim is still preparing for his sermon in April, so he asks Greg if he knows of any good “preachin Bibles.” Greg pauses for a moment and then says “Scoffield Study Bibles are real good.” Jim pauses and then says, “Well, my pasto’ didn’t have nothin like that, but he gave me a real good preachin Bible. It’s called The Message. Have you heard of it? It’s real nice.”
Jim may not have the Scoffield, but he sure does have the teachings of Jesus sewn into his heart. You know, the ones about giving and sharing and loving with brothers and sisters who don’t have what you have. Sometimes where places are the darkest, light shines the brightest.