Monday, August 09, 2010

Locked out

At 7:30 am this morning, my neighbor found me, soaked in sweat, in clothes that looked (and had been) slept in, sitting up against a wall, a backpack full of my belongings by my side. "Are you all right?" "I'm fine, except.." I had to admit I was locked out.

I'd walked to the church last night, to be an overnight host for an interfaith network that houses homeless families. My parish is hosting this week. A breviary, toothbrush and novel were all I had in my pack. Four boys, two mothers were staying, striving for some primacy. The oldest of the boys was the same age as my youngest, and I wondered how hard it must be to be uprooted from friends.

I spent the night on an air mattress in an un-air conditioned classroom, a fan sieving tiny sparkles of coolness from the air and sending them cart wheeling in my direction. As I sat cross-legged on the mattress to make my Examen, the bed wobbled underneath, sending me diving for my breviary and promptly tumbling my rosary and pen onto the floor. I wondered if I would have the equanimity of the women across the hall if everything under me was as uncertain as my bed.

I saw them onto the van at 6:30 this morning, helping to marshal the last of the boys into the back. In the process I managed to lock myself out of the school. I left the keys in the back sacristy and walked home. Halfway there, I realized I had no keys, and I was locked out of the house, too. No one was awake at home to let me in. So much for the cup of tea I wanted, or the shower…or any thought of making it to morning Mass.

I still don't know what it's like to be homeless, but this morning keys were handed me for more than doors.

1 comment:

  1. Maybe it's a universally discombobulating experience.

    When I did this last summer, the other overnight host was a man I didn't know. Due to the excessive heat, we slept (on those awful mattresses) on beds under windows on opposite sides of our church's little chapel, huge fans bearing down on us, and our conversation was consequently brief.

    He told me that he had joined our church to do things like hosting the homeless, but he wasn't really interested in worship, or in religious stuff particularly, and I told him that I was in seminary and was completing a certificate in spiritual direction.

    He gave me a lot to think about in terms of who shows up at church and why.