You’ve asked me if I have seen Salem or Ruth or Remus recently.
Yet I have.
I look for them when I’m in their neighborhood. But over 35,000 people live in the Tenderloin, a community just blocks from Union Square and upscale shopping, but where drugs, prostitution, sex trafficking, and homelessness abound.
I hear from Ruth from time to time via text. She reminds me to keep my eyes on Jesus and those texts always come at just the right time.
I have seen them in the faces of others I meet though. Yesterday, I was walking the underground station at Powell Street and my mind was ahead of my feet, wondering how many would be finding shelter from the rain. I counted three men. Two asleep. Another in his wheelchair reading the Bible. One of the men who was sleeping only let his feet be seen. My pace slowed down despite the fact I was late to pray at the church. In my slowing down, I wondered if I had a water bottle and a cloth, would I have woken him from his sleep to offer a foot bath? Would he have even wanted that? Feet have never bothered me. His were no different.
This neighbor of mine, tired from having to stay alert and vigilant in the dark hours of the night was getting rest in a well-lit station with only his feet to show for it. Oh to cover his feet with another blanket. Oh to offer a foot bath. I had neither. I offered neither. I let him sleep.
To the other side of the tunnel sat a gentleman with his book open. I did not interrupt him either. But he interrupted me. He had my attention. Did he have the attention of other commuters on their way to work, appointments, and business as usual? God has his attention as he consumed the words on the page. And that got me learning.
How did he see our sleeping neighbors? Were we all the same kind of different? Two resting. One reading. Me walking. Is it our circumstances that keep us from paying attention or is it our perspective or lack thereof?
I’m guilty of seeing the outside of humanity and then determining they are suffering, they are the least of these, they are the marginalized. So how do they see me? Clothed? Capable? Cared for?
I kept walking. This wasn’t a one time experience. This is my city. My neighbors. Our issue. Our community.