It is a beautiful evening in Seattle. Views of Puget Sound and the Olympic mountains are available to anyone willing to stop and look. The sun is setting, and Seattle’s homeless community begins to make plans for the evening. The Park that we are doing outreach in, holds these two realities of beauty and suffering in epic tension. An ambulance appears and paramedics engage with a group of rowdy beer enthusiasts. A woman tells me that she is a jazz singer and plans to perform soon. She has been homeless for twelve years and demands four sandwiches. She quickly becomes agitated, shakes my hand, and starts looking frantically for her phone. A man who is drunk wants to share a drink with one of our volunteers. Deacon Frank pretends to drink a beer and discovers that his new friend is an Eastern Orthodox Christian. A conversation of lament ensues regrading doctrinal divisions and church polity. A woman walks by and asks if I am a priest. I give her some socks while Deacon Frank blesses a cross for her. “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them (Matthew 18:20 ESV).” A woman in a tent asks us to pray for her. In between paranoid ramblings and compulsive organizing, she tells me that worship music helps her. While holding a dirty stuffed animal she begins to cry, and we pray. I pray about angels worshiping in heaven and protection. She lifts her hands in the air, praising God in agreement. “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come (Revelation 4:8 ESV)!” When we are done praying, she gives me a high five and says, “Jesus does stupid things that make sense!”
There is a man on a bench who is coughing and tells us that he has chest pains. Our friend Molly, who is a registered nurse, is with us, and immediately goes to work. He opens up about his medical history and agrees that a visit to the emergency room is in order. Molly calls a Lyft driver who arrives in under a minute. I walk up to the car, hoping to use some of my white privilege to smooth out the inevitable drama that is about to take place. I can’t imagine a Lyft driver wanting to chauffeur a homeless man. To my surprise the driver is not only friendly, but excited to help our sick friend. The driver tells me that he comes to the park with food and is frustrated when people take pictures of people living in tents. He tells me its disrespectful and dehumanizing when “do gooders”, hand out food to the homeless and make it a selfie. We put two, dirty, overstuffed backpacks with broken zippers into the trunk. Our homeless friend is invited into the front seat and arrives at the hospital safely. “Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it (Hebrews 13:2 NLT).”
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