Mortal, you are living in the midst of a rebellious house, who have eyes to see but do not see, who have ears to hear but do not hear;
For my first few months living in the city it confused me that there was only one homeless guy living there. I’d been told by a neighbor that he was a Vietnam vet and he resembled a really dirty Jesus: gaunt, unworldly, with a long beard and hair. He never asked for money, he just walked around town. Sometimes I’d see him in the park and one time I found him curled up asleep in a doorway. I went into the bodega next door, got a buttered roll and a coffee and left it near him. When I came back the coffee and the stained, brown bag were exactly where I left them and he was gone.
Not long after that I started working at the homeless shelter. Every day the shelter received at least a couple of bags of clothes often with their tags still on them. More often than not they were donated by well -heeled neighbors who were cleaning their closets. That’s why very few of the shelter guests were any more noticeably dirty than I was at the end of the day and they were often better dressed. The one homeless man I’d seen around town was never there but every night by dinner the shelter was packed to capacity often with a line out the door.
After just a day or two at the shelter I began to see homeless people everywhere, on their way to work, having lunch at McDonalds and hanging out at the library. They’d been there all along but now my eyes were different.
A guy named Max Hawkins used to work for Google where his job was to make sure the information we search for by computer is tailored for our consumption. That way, when they go online, bikers never have to weed through ads for ballroom dancing classes and professors at small, liberal arts colleges won’t be invited to watch Snoop Dogg music videos. After awhile, Max realized that his own, custom made life had become a straight jacket. He only knew people with similar interests and political leanings and most every day of his life looked just about the same.
Max went about solving this problem like a computer developer and designed a “randomizing app” that notified him about near-by events that he would have had no prior interest in, like a spaghetti dinner at the Elks Club or an Indian Court Dancing festival. Eventually, Max used his app to travel around the world, seeing places and meeting people he would never have known.
Sometimes when I’m getting on a train and trying to give my neighbors as much space and privacy as I can in a car with standing room only, I wonder how much more I could “see” if I knew them- those ladies in burkas, the teenager with sagging pants playing his music too loud and the grandmother reprimanding the giggly little girl with sticky hands in Spanish to stand still.
I imagine in that somewhere in the crush of people must be the heart of God. Experience has taught me it’s got to be in plain view but impossible to see without veering off my own path, possibly embarrassing myself and missing the next appointment.
Every day God seems to make me a standing offer, in trade for all that, She would give me eyes to see.
Your sister in Christ,