Every Tuesday morning I serve breakfast at Blanchet House, a hospitable place that offers meals to the homeless and those in need in Portland and is also a transitional house for about 25 men. I've come to look forward to Tuesday mornings, despite having to wake up at 5:30am in order to be downtown by 6:15am. Some mornings at Blanchet are very enjoyable and I actually have fun serving breakfast. Some mornings are uncomfortable and I wish I could shield myself from the problems of our world today. Some mornings are really tough and I'm faced with the dark reality of the complexities of people's life situations.
This morning, a woman with short tangled hair and no teeth walked through the doors of Blanchet. I walked over to her table, said "good morning" and set a plate of eggs, a banana and a bagel down in front of her. She grinned and thanked me and I walked back to my position by the kitchen. It was a slow morning (it's the beginning of the month and people have plenty of food stamps and possible paycheck money right now) so I stood there looking around at the crowd in front of me. My eyes kept drifting to the woman with no teeth. At times she was laughing or chatting with her new table friends, but for the most part she was sipping on her hot coffee with a vacant look in her eyes.
I wondered what she was thinking about; what worries she had on her mind. I wondered what her life story is; how she fell into this life situation. Was there anyone out there who really cared about her?
And then I thought about my worries; my life story; my current life situation; and all of the people who care about me and support me.
Our lives are different. Very different. But we are the same in that we both have complexities and simplicities in our lives.
And then I thought about the prayers I present to God; the worries that fill my mind; the things I stress about; things that many people refer to as "1st world problems" or in this case "privileged life problems". Example: last month I was stressed about whether I should take my paid time off to go on an Alaskan cruise with my family or a roadtrip to Canada with my friends. 1st world problems.
I tried to imagine the prayers this homeless women might present to God; the worries she is facing. God is listening to her. God is concerned for her, and he cares about what is going on in her life. I'm guessing that she is not a theologian or scholar whose mind is filled with questions about which religious group is closest to the truth or how Bible translations change the meaning of the gospel. I'm guessing that her thoughts and requests are pretty basic and simple, yet urgent and essential. And though the world may view her as a less important member of society with a somewhat meaningless life, God views her as equal to any of us. She's actually our sister, whether we're confortable with that or not.
Our lives may seem complex and complicated and stressful and less than what we would wish for, but try putting that in perspective. If you are reading this, you are a fortunate person. Because you know me and I know you and we support each other. Because you have money to have a computer or iPad. Because you have time to leisurely read a blog just as I have time to write a blog while eating dinner rather than wondering where my next meal is going to come from. Your life is important - equally as important as your homeless sister in the eyes of the God who sees and hears us all.
Easy Life/Hard Life
One of my coworkers once told a story about a woman she met in Haiti. The woman was probably about 50 years old, but her wrinkles and tough skin made her look about 75. She asked my coworker where she was from to which she answered, "America." The Haitian woman put her frail hand on my coworker's face and said "Easy life." She then took my coworkers soft hand and put it on her Haitian face and said, "Hard life." I don't know why each of us is given the life that we are, but we can't take the credit. Most of it is our circumstances.