Wednesday, October 31, 2007

spread out skies

Wow. It seems to be the only thing to say right now. The fires that ravaged San Diego County last week proved a vicious force. While my own home was not permanently scarred by heat and flame, the homes of many others I know were. The fires drove over a million people away from their neighborhoods, cars packed with what mattered most--photos, insurance papers and passports, pets, and family.

My own family was evacuated. I was pleasantly surprised at myself when I was packing up to leave the house. What can't I live without? Surprisingly, just about everything. I took some clothes, all my photos, my laptop, cell phone, cameras, and ipod. My guitar. My Bible. I surveyed the room, scanning the bookshelves, drawers, and closet, certain I was missing something important. But I wasn't.

The photo above is one I took from the backyard a couple days ago, evidence of the stunning beauty of the world. A brief moment of grace, shining on our broken, burned world. It amazes me how there can be so much pain and heartache and confusion in one day. And then the next...peace. Stillness. Something so magnificently awesome, I could have never imagine it on my own.

Monday, October 15, 2007


A week ago, I was on the streets of downtown San Diego with a church group, handing out granola bars, bananas, peanuts, and bottles of water to the homeless people bedded down on the cement for the night. More than they were thankful for the food and water, they seemed most appreciative of our conversation. To speak and be heard. That was more important to them than nutrition and sustenance.

One guy, who looked suspiciously like a young Santa Claus, rolled over on his back , hands under his head to talk about bowling. Bowling. Another guy told us how he used to play the voice of the Pillsbury Dough Boy and Marvin the Martian. He sounded just like them. Yet another older man sat up and watched the cars go by while he shared how he had learned to run and pray at the same time, like David fleeing Saul in the Old Testament.

They all had a normal, regular life before they found themselves on the street. They weren't born into that life. It claimed them. And somehow, they were stunningly hopeful. I knew I was going to drive back into the suburbs that night and sleep in my bed, under clean blankets, with a glass of water close at hand. It seems so unfair. I could be one of them.

I was trying to hand out the last of my granola bars before we left for the night. I lowered the cardboard box down to one woman, who I had earlier seen meticulously folding and smoothing out a pair of pants that she wasn't wearing.

"Are they soft?" she asked me.

"Umm, I don't know." I picked one up. Squeezed lightly with my hand. Set it back down. "They feel kinda of crunchy," I told her.

"Let me see." She fingered one of the shiny wrapped bars and shook her head as she withdrew her hand. "You show me."

She grabbed my hand and shoved a granola bar into my fingers, holding on with hers.

"I'll take one," some guy I assumed had been sleeping next to her sat up.

I bent over and leaned across the blankets on the ground, stretching out the box towards him.

"No. Have her give it to you," the pant-less lady said, grabbing at my hand again, stuffing a granola bar into it, pulling on my arm to reach him. I nearly fell over onto both of them.

It seemed bizarre. But walking away, I knew what had happened. She didn't care that she couldn't eat the granola bars. Even though she had felt them for herself, she wanted me to show her, not at arm's length, but up close and personal. She wanted to touch me.

It was the first time I had done something like that, and I guess I didn't know what to expect. But it wasn't this. Not people with lives like mine, feelings like mine, needs like mine. They were polite (mostly), intelligent, interactive. To them it seemed the food was an afterthought. They wanted us. I think we could have shown up with empty hands and they wouldn't have cared. It was our voices, our ears, our eyes, our hands. That's what they craved.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

"It is an illusion that youth is happy, an illusion of those who have lost it; but the young know they are wretched, for they are full of the truthless ideals which have been instilled into them, and each time they come in contact with the real they are bruised and wounded."
~W. Somerset Maugham~