It is 7am, and last night was the first cold night. and I am sitting here at my kitchen table, and I don’t want to go to work.
Last night was the first frost, the first time this season we have dropped below freezing. And I know some 10 folks that I know didn’t get into shelters, that I know slept in tents or in their cars. I know they did, and I know they had lots of blankets and that they have survived countless nights like this before.
I know all of that. And I know that when I see them, we will talk about how cold it was last night, and they will tell the stories in ways that will make me laugh, told that way on purpose because they don’t want me to worry.
And that is why I don’t want to go to work this morning.
When people tell me why they don’t want to engage people who are homeless, I am often told they don’t want to have someone “put a guilt trip on them”. But today, I will see probably 50 people, and none of them are going to put a guilt trip on me. I won’t say they are fine living outside, but they have largely accepted it as reality, just the same way you might wish your house was larger, but you realize this is where you live right now.
No, the only person putting a guilt trip on me today is me.
Because for all of my preaching about the value of community, about avoiding the desire to fix and embracing the desire to know people instead, the people I am friends with who live outside are much better at that than I am.
They don’t want me to figure out how to solve their problems – they want me to be their friend. Just like I don’t want my friends to go about solving mine.
Eight years in this, the desire to solve the problems of other people is still something I have to fight daily. And I know that when I go to work this morning, I will feel the old familiar guilt that I am not doing enough, that if only I cared a little more, that if only I was stronger or wealthier or a better fundraiser or a better leader or something – if only I was a better person, in other words, then I could solve the problems of homelessness once and for all and all my friends would sleep inside.
But I can’t solve the problems of homelessness, I can only fight the loneliness of homelessness. And while that is not enough, it is what I can do. And I know that.
But I still don’t want to go to work today.
I was asked last week to speak to the World Religions class at Meredith College about Christianity as a force for good in the world – a form I like to call Engaged Christianity. A Christianity that works to change the world, rather than waits for a new world to arrive.
The audio is a bit rough, and some stuff happened off camera that got me distracted just before the filming started, so I am a bit discombobulated at the beginning. But, it is the fullest explanation I have made to date about how I engage the Christian tradition, and was designed to be shared with a secular audience, so I thought I would share it with you.