Although I didn’t get to visit the actual in-patient himself, I stopped by today to drop off money for phone cards and vending machines.
This post isn’t really about that. It’s about the scene outside when I left. A big group of people were milling about, smoking. Most, if not all, were covered in tattoos, both the men and the women, and I could hear snippets of conversation as I made my way down the sidewalk. At least every other word I heard was the f-word.
I stepped into the parking lot and had this thought. “Those people are so ugly.” Whoa! What happened to my compassion? Where is the calm understanding that “everybody is I.”? (Someone tell me if that punctuation is wrong. It makes the most sense to me.)
Maybe it wasn’t the people who were ugly, actually. Maybe it was just the dark energy that was emanating from them, back and forth to each other, and outward.
Sometimes when I am closest to the population who are on the wrong side of the law, I look at them, with their sloppy clothes, undergarments visible, bad teeth, cigarette smoking, slouching desperation and I just want to straighten them all out. I just want to say, “Take care of yourself. Present yourself the best you can. Show that you value yourself.”
But that’s the thing, isn’t it? They don’t value themselves. I don’t even think a lot of them even understand that concept. Where would they experience being valued? I wonder what would bring some beauty and light into the lives of people who are lost, struggling, and hopeless.
I know plenty of people who would say that is what Jesus does. If it’d been Jesus walking down the sidewalk, maybe he’d have stopped to chat with them. And said something about how he satisfies more than any drug. But, well, it wasn’t, and Jesus was around a long time ago, and I’m still thinking through how to talk with people who are addicted. Of course, I can say hello and just be generally kind and respectful, but that might be lost on people who don’t really get kind and respectful.
But at least being kind and respectful would be a step above walking by and telling myself they’re really ugly. What would you say if you walked by? Would you speak to them? How would you try to connect?