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Weekly e-Gram for members and friends of Dublin Community Church

August 6, 2010

THROUGH HER EYES

I was at the church early and I heard some doors open and close and figured someone was around. When I went out into the hall there was a 20 something woman. She said simply, “My family has been thrown out of our apartment. We have nowhere to go.”

I am not an expert at “reading” people, but living life and practicing ministry for 35 years gives one a few skills. I knew immediately that she was telling the truth. Probably the best indication that they had “nowhere to go” was that she offered no more complex explanation than that. She was so shocked about her circumstances that she had nothing more detailed than the obvious. They had nowhere to go.

She sat in the office. Her kids were sleeping in the truck where her husband waited. I made some phone calls and found a receptive place for the newly homeless over on the east side of the city. She nodded off.

When the arrangements were secured. I printed up some directions and a map and wasn’t certain if she or her husband could follow them as they were both so tired from their situation. I asked if they had eaten recently (that sounds like an odd thing to ask, considering their situation but one never knows…) and besides they had a couple hours until the shelter would be open for “intake.” They  said they hadn’t eaten in some time so I got in my car and led them to a nearby breakfast place.
We parked and the woman got out of her truck and the husband said he would wait with the sleeping kids. I walked in to the restaurant with this woman so she could order “take out” which is what they both suggested.

I’ve been to this place hundreds of times in my life and always found a warm welcome and this morning was no exception. But on this particular morning I was walking in with a homeless, hungry shell-shocked woman whose family waited in the car. For the first time in my life I viewed this restaurant as one of great privilege. For the first time I noted that the cars in the parking looked as fancy as those in a luxury auto show room. The people eating were dressed as elegantly as those at a White House Reception. The cooking smells seemed as hearty and appetizing as anything served on Thanksgiving Morning.

In reality, the parking lot was filled with the usual assortment of Fords, Hondas, Buicks and Toyotas (and some luxury cars). The people were dressed in summer clothing; casual and probably bought at Land’s End and Kohls. The food was pretty tantalizing, though. How can you go wrong having breakfast in the morning?

The woman held the menu and took a full 10 minutes to order. She had never been to this restaurant before and was unfamiliar with its selections. As I stood there with her, I felt out of place, like this was a foreign country.

I realized that I was seeing this familiar place for the first time through the eyes of someone else who had just lost everything. And as she slowly and carefully debated each and every selection on the breakfast menu with the patient waitress who sized up the situation, my mind wandered. The place for me, at that moment, seemed as alien as any place I had ever been. Yet it was a normal morning. Families were settling into a good breakfast. There was pleasant conversation. Newspapers were being read. Emails checked on phones. Phone calls being placed.  No one noticed us though I felt in the spotlight.

The young woman carefully selected a meal for her family, oblivious or intentionally ignoring the web of security surrounding every one else in the restaurant. So is this the first time I have experienced something like this in all my years? No. As a minister, I have come up against many situations, which do not mirror my actual circumstances. I am always careful to not tell others at such moments, “I know what you are feeling.”  That’s because I do not know what they are actually feeling. Yet, I can be present and attentive to whatever I might offer.

The woman ordered and we walked out to the truck; their life possessions piled in the bed of the pickup and the kids asleep in the crew cab. I spoke to the husband and explained the shelter to which they were going. I turned and walked to my car, saying a prayer for them and the shelter, which was about to receive them. As a kid, I grew up on the modest, blue-collar side of town, but I fully recognize, I am a child of privilege.

Peace, Rev. Bob Tussing

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