She said she was pissed because some girl with a ghetto street name was wearing her son's shirt. She'd rifled around in her drawers while she was at work, this near-stranger who lives in what used to be her home but has become just a roof and four walls. Who the hell does that? These were her words, not mine, but trust me, I'm editing, and sometimes, I grow weary of it. Sometimes I want to tell you like it really is, give you all the throb and every bit of the tension that bangs around a room jammed with broken people.
Maybe someday I'll tell you about the song I was sent to help me understand what it feels like to be an addict and how for a fraction of a second, a single atom of me understood. It didn't matter that it was loaded with the f-word. I felt just one molecule of the despair and it made want to rage. It made me want to sob until my sides ached and I wondered if God is really big enough to rescue someone from meth. And if he is, why not here? Why not now?
I wanted to share it with someone, but I wasn't sure who could handle it or who would want to. We're taught not to invite suffering and I won't overstate it, I can't suffer for a song. But I also can't escape this one, and I'd like another person to absorb it by half. That's how I feel a lot of the time. I want to unburden, but who wants this load?
I don't know these answers, so I edit.
I hold back out of fear of offending, and I'm the one left wondering. Who are we to be offended? Where do we get off?
I want you to know that this is what they think about when they think of us. They believe we cannot handle them. They think we'd never want to. They see us as too clean, too good. They hate us for it, because they believe in their bones that we're better than them. Even if we are a bunch of hypocrites.
Over time, their gut knows they are unholdable.
It's not the streets that teach them this. It might be the needle, but just in part.
We could blame their record or all their baby daddies or the ones they wanted who didn't want them back.
We'd only be half right.
These are their wounds, but we bring the shame.
Driving across town just an hour ago I saw a man in a different broken-down neighborhood. In a Land's End half-zip, he held his to-go coffee while he spoke to a woman on a bike. His eyes were filled with kindness. I'm lucky I didn't drive straight into his neighbor's front yard the way I whipped my head around.
I don't know the story, but I wrote one anyway.
He lives in that house with its suspiciously bright white paint.
No one quite understands why, and that includes his people and theirs.
He loves his neighbor.
And he's waiting for someone else to see that the "his" and the "theirs" are marked off with a soluble line.
I'm dying to know him. I want him and his unfussy wife with her homemade quick bread in my kitchen and I want them here yesterday. I want his rowdy kids hovering over Minecraft with my own. I want them to tell us everything, because I need to hear it. I want them to tell us nothing at all, because I already know.
He's a middle classer. I see it like I see the first-hand boots on my own two feet and our second freezer full of meat. I know it like the tea in my hand and the curtains pulled wide at my window. I can't say exactly why I know it, only that I do.
And if it's true for him, it's true for me.
I will never blend in all the way, and this causes me more angst than you will know.
But I saw the way he cared for his neighbor, so I wrote the ending, too.
He loves them.
He refuses to turn away from their pain.
He stands with his coffee and talks to the lady on her giant tricycle bike and it's worth it if he's a few minutes late to work because some of them love him back, and that's what wooed him there, not just to love them, but to be loved by them.
I don't know most of my neighbors and I don't love any of them like I should.
The human part of me wants to chisel off all my hard edges, become someone entirely new, who feels and lives differently, unafraid and unselfconscious. I want to be friendlier. I want to kick language barriers in the mouth, bake cookies, and take more walks.
It doesn't come easily for me, and I wonder if that's the whole point.
If nothing else, it serves as a constant reminder that I'm the one waiting to be rescued.
I close the distance between me and whomever stands nearest, that much I can do. Accidentally, I've arrived at a place where I don't flinch when God and prayer and f**k fall cleanly in the same phrase.
Sometimes, secondhand smoke is the fragrance of Christ himself, and I pull a long drag.
I stand close to their flame and my edges melt. But theirs do too.
This can only mean that I carry some burn of my own.
They can handle what I've got. They don't turn away with the Jesus that falls from my lips or the opinions I'm prone to offering without invitation.
Real love does not apologize, and we keep on learning the way truth can cut chains.
God loves me exactly the way I am right now, in my Goodwill sweater and my morning hair. He loves me, and I can be sure, because I stare hard at faces lined with pain and all I can see is His glory, shining off their hard surfaces, lighting everything around me like a fuse.