Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Get a Job? They've Got One, Thanks.

Three days a week I walk from South Station to my office on Beacon Hill. (The other two I work from home, lest you think I am a slacker or independently wealthy.) The walk takes about twenty minutes and is a decent workout for body, mind, and spirit.

The body has to move itself up a gradual incline at a decent clip carrying my lunch in one hand and my breifcase in the other. For me, in the shape I'm in, it's a workout. (Especially the last hill which is more than a "gradual" incline!) It's a workout for the mind, too, because I'm usually thinking about the projects on the day's to-do list, or the things I read on my commute, or I'm writing something in my head. And the spiritual workout? That's easy. It's all the people I pass -- especially the homeless women and men, asking for spare change.

On the bus ride in I generally do my prayer bead practice as part of which I say the words, "May I see your face in every person I meet this day . . ." And along this twenty minute walk I encounter half a dozen people or more who spend their days on the streets begging, and their nights on these same streets or in shelters. Some of them I've gotten to know. One celebrated his fifty-fourth birthday yesterday.

I've heard people say that these women and men should "get a job." I say that they have one. A hard one. Can you imagine how difficult it is to spend your day asking strangers for their spare change? To endure the rejection -- the passive and the more aggressive? The judgement? I tell you, this isn't easy work.

But what is the job they're doing? Remember, I said that I was engaged in a spiritual workout, so I am looking at this through a spiritual lens. And when I look through that lens I see people who remind me -- who remind us all -- that the world is far from fair. That those of us living comfortable lives do not represent the vast majority of people on the planet and that part of our comfort comes at the cost of their discomfort. They remind me that there is want and misery and pain and that, as Jesus himself is remembered as saying, "the poor shall always be with you." These people I pass each day put a human face on that proverb.

May I see your face in every person I meet, and find your fingerprint in every situation I encounter;
May I hear your voice in every form it takes, especially those I'd rather not hear;
May I open my hands and let go of trying to control things, and stop grasping after false security;
May I open my heart and live and love more deeply in you.

In Gassho,

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