The first time I met Patricia she was throwing a garbage can at some construction workers. They had thrown her stuff away and she was not going to let that happen. She told me that she had housing but hated it. “It might as well be county jail. You can’t have visitors in your room and are required to attend meetings. It’s not a home.” The second time I talked with Patricia, the Vicar from the Episcopal church was walking by. Apparently, Patricia damaged the Vicars car. “I’m really sorry about what I did to your car. I’m better now and back on my meds.” Every time I talk with Patricia, she gets mad and then calms down. Extreme outbursts may be her personality strength and her primary method of survival.
This morning I am with a group of public health nurses in front of the library. The nurses are offering hepatitis vaccinations and flu shots. I introduce my homeless friends to the nurses and it’s a big success. The coronavirus has made everyone interested in health care. My friend Patricia sees me and is mad. She can’t get any clothes from the church clothing bank. Her clothes are wet, and she isn’t having it. “I am going to break a window and get some clothes. Why don’t you use your pastoral, collar authority and make some calls?” I listen and agree with most of what she is saying. I explain how the church didn’t want to close, how they were overwhelmed by increased demand and staffing shortages. Patricia understands why the elderly church volunteers had to take a break. “They don’t want to get sick and die helping us. I don’t blame them.”
The feeding program will open tomorrow along with the clothing room. No windows were broken, and Patricia continues to survive with her strengths. A church group is handing out breakfast and Patricia is mad. Yelling, “The church steals from people and oppresses the poor.” Patricia’s friend threatens to punch her for hassling the church people. Extreme outbursts follow, “I will put hands on you. I don’t give a crap.”
Patricia tells me that she is polytheistic and believes Mary was raped by the Holy Spirit. We discuss theology and I am interested in her views. I have never heard that the immaculate conception wasn’t consensual. The Bible story portrays Mary as brave and courageous while Joseph is scared. Patricia wants to know why I am not offended by the idea of rape and the nativity. I tell her that I would rather have a conversation than argue over the virgin birth. She looks bewildered and peaceful. She tells me that she loves me and walks across the street to yell at her friend who previously threatened her. I love you too Patricia. “Heart–shattered lives ready for love don’t for a moment escape God’s notice (Isaiah 51:17).” Michael Cox