I’m sitting here in my office on a Friday morning, trying to make myself work. It’s 7am and the neighborhood is waking up. My kids are home asleep – no school today for them. But here in the neighborhood kids are already on the move. I’ve seen a couple of young hispanic men from the youth group already, walking to a friend’s house to catch a ride, or crossing the street to watch the neighbor’s kids until it’s time for them to go to school. A homeless man who often spends Sunday morning with our congregation is walking past the church on the sidewalk. He’s probably headed down to the Quick Trip to grab some coffee. He looks cold.
I sip my coffee and wish I was eating a donut or something. It’s Friday during Lent and I’m fasting. I know that I’m not alone, though. Church members all over town are waking & wishing for their usual breakfast, just living with the craving to see what it might teach us. I’ve already received one cheeky fasting-related text from a church member this morning. It read simply: fasting is dumb. At this precise moment I couldn’t agree more.
I walk outside and see the cops sitting in their car in the parking lot. I’m not sure why, but they often hang out there surfing the internet in their cars. I wave to him and unlock the door for Jesse, a homeless man who was just released from prison. He’s coming by later on to meet Bart, a man from our church who is going to help him with some paperwork. Jesse was born in the 1950’s in rural Kentucky in his family’s hearth room with only a midwife present. He’s never had a birth certificate. We’ve got to find a way to get a him one or Kansas won’t issue him an ID card.
I sip my coffee and watch traffic pick up in front of the church. A car from down the block starts up in a driveway, a puff of white smoke shooting from the tailpipe. This guy’s muffler is clearly not entact. Quite a massive sound for such a small car as he makes a left turn right in front of my window and heads off to work. If I’m sitting here at 4:30 when he heads home, I’ll hear him coming from a full block away.
I breathe deeply and the Jesus Prayer emerges from somewhere deep inside me. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner. The words link up with my breathing and I sit here, listening to the hum of my space heater and feeling content. I’m ashamed to say it’s a bit of a foreign feeling for me. I stop praying to wonder why. Why am I content? And then it hits me.
I am surrounded by neighbors and I am grateful.