Rosemary attends the Community Dinner every Tuesday night. Attending, can be defined as drinking Bud Ice at the bus stop and screaming obscenities into the air. Alcohol and yelling usually attend our community gatherings. The first time I met Rosemary she was “attending”, and “participating”, in the evening service. One of our well-meaning volunteers told her that she needed to be quiet or leave. Much to Mr. Well Meanings surprise, Rosemary was not interested in complying. I was also not interested in having her leave or comply. After all, we meet in a parking lot surrounded by alcohol and screaming. She is a perfect match for our church. Over the next few months, she would stop by the dinner and get a meal or a coffee. She would pace up and down the block, screaming things that actually made me blush. She told me her name, got mad when I remembered it, and hugged me. Throughout the week, I would see her downtown, screaming in front of different bus stops. She would remember me and my clerical collar, hug me, and we would pray.
Two weeks ago, I was irritated at the dinner church. The meal was messy. The weather was messier. Wind was blowing cold rain on us. The tent was dripping rain onto the fruit salad. Volunteers were few and running late. When the weather is that bad, homeless people try to find a dry place to stay. Food, and my charming personality become less of a priority. I had a lot of leftovers that I was able to bring to messy, wet, homeless encampments. I finished the evening thinking, its always important to be consistent. Showing up on time, all the time, speaks more than any words I could ever say.
The next week I was recharged and ready for action. I had a renewed sense of calling and purpose. It wasn’t raining and I was determined to be a blessing. We pull up to the parking lot and Rosemary is waiting for us. She is drinking a Bud Ice and asks if we are having church tonight. She asks if we would pray for her. She tells us that she isn’t walking with the Lord like she should. She tells us that her methamphetamine use is a struggle and a problem. That the devil keeps tempting her with drugs. My coworker Ben prays for her and our messy, alcohol soaked, scream filled church service has begun! “Those who abandon everything in order to seek God know well that he is the God of the poor.” Thomas Merton.