Early on Sunday morning I stopped by my office to pick up some things and to drop off donated clothes, as well as newspapers for our recycle bins.
As I approached the back of the building, I noticed someone peeking out from inside one of the trash dumpsters. When he heard me pull up, he ducked down so that I would not see him there.
When I got out of my car to unload my donation, I simply said, "Good morning!"
At my greeting, my new friend's head popped up and he replied, "Good morning to you!"
At that point he went about his business of examining a shirt someone had thrown away, before continuing to dig for cans among the trash in the bin.
It was clear that he was relieved to find me basically harmless and it was also clear that he wanted nothing from me beyond the recognition of my greeting.
Later in the morning, as I sat in a pew at the beginning of the service in a downtown church , we heard the loud and disturbing crash, crush and sickening thud of an auto accident just outside the sanctuary walls on the street. Our singing and praying went on without interruption, but the expected noise and commotion of an accident continued. Sirens and the rushing sound of emergency and fire vehicles soon drew near us.
It was an eerie feeling to sit in the church and to be able to hear the sounds of disappointment, hurt, pain, distractionction just outside. Toward the end of the ordeal, I know I heard the wail of a person in the onset of a fierce grief.
Two very different experiences on my Sunday morning.
The intersection of my world with two very different worlds.
One the result of homelessness, possibly addiction and/or mental illness and a combination of terrible circumstances, bad choices and most likely a dose of sustained injustice. I don't know his story, but I've heard the broad outlines many times. The details don't really matter. Here was a brother in trouble who needed my friendship no matter what the reasons for his current location in life.
The other most likely an unfortunate accident that may have ended very tragically. At this point, I have no way to know. But pain was there and a need for hope and comfort and healing.
In both cases the church was positioned very nearby. That could be fortunate or ironically irrelevant.
Of course, that all depends on how the proximity is engaged.
I'll see my new friend again, I know. And, I expect that a number of folks leaving the church after Sunday School encountered the accident that I heard. There could be ongoing connection.
But beyond the details of my experiences, both seem to symbolize the choice communities of faith face today in America. To remain safely cloistered behind our walls of comfort and familiar friendship. Or, to step out into the streets to confront the painful reality that is very close at hand.
I'll think of this Sunday often in the coming days.
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