Disposable

 My coworker Ben and I are walking around downtown doing outreach. Ben knows the couple we are approaching and says, “we are going to be here for a while.”  Sometimes a person’s reputation proceeds them. Lola and her husband Josh are in front of 7-11. It’s late at night and they have been permanently barred from their shelter. They are eligible for all the services offered to the homeless in the city and have lost access to all of them. They seem to be unable to get stable. Unable to receive help. Lola is tiny and animated, a nonstop talker. She has a tattoo that covers half of her face. Like her story the tattoo is unfinished and incomplete. She is scared and believes the doctors are doing experiments on homeless people. “I know they are storing dead bodies and lying about it. Everyone who goes to get treatment ends up getting even sicker. People either end up missing or dead.” She shows me her neck and wonders how the scars got there. It’s clear Lola has experienced serious trauma in her life. To escape a life of abuse and neglect, her survival has depended on living in a world of fantasy. She is a master storyteller. Currently, she has everyone believing that she is pregnant. She tells me she has been pregnant for three years. She was staying in a domestic violence shelter and kept smuggling in her husband. Her chaos can disarm even the most experienced social worker. She believes she has cancer and is going to die. She is convinced that she is terminally ill. She tells me that nobody cares about her and homeless people. “It’s like everyone thinks were disposable.”

I offer to pray for Lola, and she accepts, bowing her head in reverence. The Spirit of God falls upon us and we are enveloped with light from the 7-11 sign. A group of pigeons are pecking around the trash can for dinner. We thank God for being created in his image. For his love and care. We pray for healing and truth, for balanced understanding of our lives. When we are done praying Lola says thank you. With the voice and mannerisms of a five-year-old she says, “It really is true that God loves me. I really am a child of God!” Yes Lola, you are not disposable! “So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows (Matthew 10:31 NLT).”

Michael Cox

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