This morning, in the early morning hour on my way to the beach, I saw a familiar vehicle parked nearby…. and I avoided it. It was in the parking lot next to my house. You might wonder why I’d bother avoiding a parked vehicle, especially one parked nicely in a lot. It’s not like I’m not used to them, except for the fact that this one was actually between the lines, which, I’ll admit, can be a rarity around here. It wasn’t the car, it was who I suspected was sleeping in the back of the car.
During my 10 years here in the urban world, I have become acquainted with a great many homeless individuals. A handful of them have become more than casual encounters. I have developed personal relationships with them. In the lives of these individuals I have seen homelessness from a few different angles. I have seen it come as a result of mental illness, as was the case with a man known as Father Joseph who, for some reason known only to babies and dogs, found me to be a sympathetic friend. I have seen it as a result of life circumstances, being privileged to play a part in a fresh start for a school friend of my daughter. I also get a courtside seat to witness it as the result of stupid choices. I know, being the respectable pastoral artist sort that I am supposed to be, I should put it in more PC terms. I should say that they are “poor” choices” I’ll stick with “stupid” thank you. Don’t write me letters unless you have people who are homeless ,because of their own repeated stupid choices, parking outside your window in the middle of the night so that they can catch up with you and whine about the results of their most recent stupid choice.
As a pastoral artist in a community of faith that teaches the Bible as the Book of Books and the Word of God, you might be surprised to hear that I am pro-choice. Let me clarify, you don’t want to experience unwanted pregnancy? … then choose not to participate in the activity that leads to it. You don’t want to be tossed in jail as an accessory to a crime?....then choose better friends. You don’t want to be wandering, sleeping in your car?... sometimes that might mean (and I said might, so relax) making better choices when they are presented to you. I’m not talking about addictions, illnesses, or circumstances totally out of your control. I’m talking about choices. We live in a culture which has invested heavily in trying to eliminate the consequences of poor choice. I was somewhat starry eyed I guess when I began the calling that I am in the midst of. I thought that when you presented better choices, people would at least consider them. Now I understand that my role is better defined as presenting a better choice, then being there to help pick up the pieces when the same old choice has been made anyway.
Life is a series of choices. It is my personal belief that worldly success is simply the owning of your own choices along with the results that come from them. Imagine what would happen if we owned our own choices and where they led us instead of wasting time, money, and effort finding someone else to blame. Imagine how many lawyers would be looking for another line of work. Imagine how many counselors and psychologists would have the time to diagnose their own issues. Imagine how many people of faith would actually live out the beliefs that they claim. Imagine how many resources would be made available to those who truly need them. Imagine the parking lot next to my house without anyone sleeping in it…… “it’s easy if you try”.
I might be a bit selfish, but I’m not a heartless SOB. I’ve known plenty of individuals who are homeless not by any choice of their own. I work at shelters regularly. I volunteer with food banks. I buy newspapers from the guy or gal on the corner. I extend a hand nearly anywhere I can. But I also know choice when I see it and the poor choice people, parking their vehicles outside my house in the middle of the night are making it more difficult to choose compassion.