The Caritas Village. Picture it, Sicily, 1923... haha, okay, that's from the Golden Girls.
Seriously, though... The Caritas Village--or just 'The Village' over here--is my place of rest for the next half-hour or so. I'm sitting on a lime green (very comfy) couch, with a glass of water, and a stummy (stomach + tummy = stummy) full of their delish chocolate chip cookies. To my right is a crooked picture of MLK, Jr. and a big statue of a pitbull with a chain around its neck. This piece of art, which just arrived here this week, apparently, is representing the pitbulls who fall victim to dogfighting in this neighborhood, I assume. anyway. To my left is tons of artwork (all by a guy named Frankie) who has captured the Bing in his artwork. Lots of it is that kind of artwork with stuff on it.... is it decopage? I don't know. Objects such as used cigarettes, bus passes, crushed Colt 45 beer cans and a condom or two, representing the struggles of the neighborhood, but first you notice all the bright colors he uses in his art. I think this is because Frankie knows there is beauty underneath it all. Straight in front of me is Josh, whom I just met, and the African-American mailman, who is stopped in here for a break and conversation. I only point out their racial difference to point out what you often find in here. Lots of black and white sitting around tables (which also means Africans, because we have some beautiful Burundian refugees in the Bing!) chatting it up about politics and mowing the grass and this and that and this and that.
I am reminded why I love it here. This little haven, the Village, is the picture of what most of us hope can happen on a much larger scale in Memphis one day. But we know Jesus likes to start one-by-one, with personal conversations and relationships (which also mean disagreements and racial tensions) but if you want the beauty, you've gotta take the mess.
Some of you have seen this place; we bring all our Family here, but I wish you could come, too.
Yesterday was hard; Below is what I wrote.
Peace to you, Family.
I’m feeling frustrated. What am I going to do when he calls back on Monday? He will call back. And if he doesn’t, he’ll show up at the front desk, and I’ll hear my name paged that a young man is looking for me. He’ll probably have tears in his eyes—fake or real, I won’t be able to tell—and I’ll feel my heart start to bleed and wonder what in the world I’m supposed to do.
What if his story is true? And how much does that matter? I’m thinking of how Jesus would respond (or rather, how He is going to respond through me.) Jesus would have responded. In what way, I am unsure, but he would have responded, even if with an admonishment to “go and sin no more,” or a place to lay his head for the next week. How can I, with all my inconsistencies, help this man and his family? How can I use the resources I have to really help this man?
There is this enormous, self-imposed pressure on my shoulders to fix everyone’s problems, particularly because all the questions and needs come directly to my office, at my desk, on my phone. And time after time, I don’t have answers. There is the occasional referral I can make, but time after time I hear, “I’ve gone down the list; I’ve tried everyone.” Many are good at this. Yes, many people who call consistently make bad decisions and rely on other places (specifically churches) to come to their rescue and provide a free service for them.
How can we empower and enable folks, build relationships with them, without constantly providing a crutch? Aren't we supposed to be meeting temporary needs, too? Isn't this the door to enter someone's world and help them more? And what about those who will never choose a better lifestyle? Don't we still get to love them, frustration and all? Is this possible when we feel so disconnected from the outside world? Is the whole church feeling this way, or just 4488 Poplar Ave.?
The harvest is plentiful. And today, I feel like the workers are…. Few. To say the least.