Monday, March 4, 2013

An Awesome Day of Experiences

On Saturday, I got to go to the Vancouver (WA, not BC) UMC Leadership Training and co-lead a workshop. This is a fun story to tell, so let me share:

As I would do in college with papers or studying, I super procrastinated writing out what exactly I would say at this workshop. Also, I was not really sure what to expect other than the fact that I would be telling people "How I became a US-2." To me, workshop meant an interactive experience, but the title of my workshop sounded like I would be itinerating and the only person talking.

I had the day off the Wednesday before, and I planned to write out the bullet points of what I wanted to say. Of course, I tend to do nothing and stay in bed all day when I have off, so I didn't get anywhere. There was a chance that I would meet up with Katherine Parker, a missionary who has served the past five years in Cambodia and will soon be moving to Nepal, but she was on her big itineration tour, and it didn't work out. Somehow, I was motivated to go to the grocery store, and in walking there I realized that it was a beautiful day, something I hadn't experienced in weeks! So I decided to eat lunch and walk to the beach to pray and write.

Of course, as it does in Seattle (and Williamsburg), it started raining and the sun disappeared. So I knitted and read and also procrastinated cleaning my house. So come Friday night, after finally getting to see the inside of the new Emergency Family Shelter and getting my clothing assignment for Tuesday from one of the kids who is now my personal stylist, I was feeling the stress of needing to get this worked out.

So I avoided it some more, figured out my bus/train/carpool plan which would start at 3:00 the next morning, and planned out my talks for the churches and college ministries I'd be visiting in April. When all that was done, I started to write and realized that I spent a lot of time on my life story before US-2, and I imagined the audience would want to know more about my life now, but at that point it was already 10:30 and my sleeping hours were slipping away. So I scrapped it, went to bed, couldn't sleep because I was worried about what I would say, had a dream about giving a tour of Mary's Place, had to convince myself that a tour was not part of the plan for tomorrow, and finally woke up at 3:00.

At 3:20 or so when I decided to actually get out bed, I was reminded that I am getting old and can't pull all-nighters anymore because I get a little crazed in the head. I jump at noises, am terrified of shadows, and talk to myself a lot when I haven't slept. I also get really scared of taking a shower because of all of these factors, but it had to be done because I knew I wouldn't be getting home till late at night.

I got to the bus stop at 4:00, rode the bus ok, and got downtown by 4:30. The first Light Rail train didn't leave until 5:06, but there wasn't another bus that would get me there at a better time, so I got there pretty early. Early enough that the gates to the underground were locked, and I had to wait outside. That wasn't too big of a deal. I was actually more scared in Ballard when I was absolutely alone on the street than Downtown where there were lots of people around, and the influence of the shadows, noises, and me talking to myself didn't help. I recognized though that had I not been working at Mary's Place for the past 6 months, I would actually be scared to be Downtown late at night, and I was happy about that change.

I waited outside, and there were a few guys there too, so I stood the next doorway down just in case. Leaned up against the building like I was tough, and got some gum in my hair. Classy. There was one guy who was mumbling to himself and pacing back and forth, and he ended up dropping a piece of paper. He didn't notice it and decided to stay by the gate, so I picked it up and gave it back. I don't know if he really needed it; it was like a coupon paper without the barcode, so maybe an advertisement or something, but I've learned here that what is important to people is not always the stuff that I think is important, so I gave it to him. It was really cool to just have that interaction, and he seemed really grateful.

We're really great in the US about ignoring each other, and often the homeless feel that more than others. As I get to know the women at Mary's Place, I'm reminded of what I learned at the Jeremiah Project, that God's Kingdom is here. It may not look like it at a secluded camp in Northern Virginia, or in the homes of chain smokers with scary dogs, or on the streets of a big city in the middle of the night, but God will surprise you if you let Him show you where to look. Staying in that place of ignoring each other is buying into the lie that this is all there is and it's all about me. If you can chip into the walls we're taught to put up, you'll find a whole new level of wholeness.

So yeah, I was having this "Oh dang, God!" moment, and two security guards walk up to open the gates. I gave them a polite smile and looked away, and one of the guys goes "You wanna come inside? Get away from all the CRAZIES?!"

.......I was like "what."

There's only been two times in my life when I've felt terrified and sick because of what someone said that was completely opposite of God. One was in Farm Fresh when a guy was going through my line calling others a fag and trying to get me to agree with him, and the other was a few months ago on the bus when a lady was verbally attacking the people around her, calling the women fat or a slut and claiming the men were inappropriately bumping into her.

This wasn't exactly one of those moments because it was an isolated statement where the others continued for a few minutes, but it gave me the same feeling. Like he was trying to hit on me by dogging on the people around me, including the guy I just had a moment with. I was seriously concerned for a second about being the only female underground with these two security guards because of his statement. I wanted to be like "Really? You just said that to the wrong person. Do you know where I work?" But it was a security guard. And the way he said "Do you want to come in?" wasn't like someone who cared that I was a young woman outside at night but like he was inviting me into his apartment. Seriously creepy. So I looked at him for a second, like whatthe, and said "It's not that bad out here." I really wish I had said more.

I got my ticket and went down to the bus level, and of course by then I was all "Yeah, I would have told him! Man, if he came two minutes earlier and saw me talking to that guy and said something like 'Is he bothering you miss?' I would have been like 'Naw man, we're having a conversation!'" I'm pretty tough in my head.

I got on the train, and after a few stops this guy comes on and sits right behind me. Now when I describe this, it will sound like I'm quoting the MadTV skit "Can I have your number?" which I LOVE to reenact, and from which I got my drag name, Terrell. HOWEVER, this really happened, and it wasn't funny at the time.

He goes "Heyyyyyy" and I was like ...oh gosh... and I considered ignoring him, but I'm really critical of people who ignore others, especially when they rudely blow them off, so I was like ok let's see what he wants. Shortly after, I realized he was really drunk and not so dangerous, especially since I was meeting my ride at the airport and he couldn't really do anything to me on the train when I was surrounded by other people.  I don't remember what he started with, but he ended up asking how I'm doing, where I'm going, all that. And then he was like "So can I have your number?" and I was like "Uhhh no, cause I don't give out my number." He was like "You don't? Man you mean right? Look, you got a friend? You know, like a friennnnnd?" I was like "Nope, no friends." He was like "You know, like a boyfriend? Girlfriend?" And I was like "Nope, and not looking for one!"

So more of that, and we talked about Virginia, and how he used to live a few blocks from me (I'm sure), and how I was meeting someone at the airport. No, not my boyfriend. No, this ring doesn't mean I'm married. No, I'm not sneaking away in the middle of the night to meet my boyfriend. Finally I realized that we were on the way to the last stop, and I had figured from this conversation that he wasn't going to the airport, so I was like "Um hey, where are you getting off? We're almost to the airport." And he was like "Mannnnn you made me miss my stop man! Made me miss my stop!" And I was like "I think that's on you dude!"

So we both got off at the airport, and he went to the other side to catch the train back to wherever, and I told him to take care and that I hoped he made it back ok. I was glad that he wasn't a creepy guy, although it's kind of scary to be approached like that, especially when that person is drunk. And I was satisfied that I hadn't said something really mean or moved to another seat or ignored him like I've seen a lot of people do in those situations.

But then I thought about it: what if this guy was the one I was talking to in my tough-girl scenario when the cop asked if he was harassing me? Would I have said "No, we're having a conversation" ? I realized that wow, I'm not really sure. Did I care about this drunk guy as much as I did the guy who dropped his papers? Did I even consider them on the same level of worth? Not really. And yet God does.

Wow, what a morning! All that before I even would normally wake up! Between these lessons and finding out that the workshop would be more interactive than preaching, I was SO PUMPED to talk about what God had done and was doing in my life! Katherine Parker and I shared the workshop and relayed the importance of mission being about relationship and walking with the people you met. How you need something from them just as much as they needed something from you. Her experiences of community were inspiring, and I loved being able to share about the community I had found among the homeless women and children of Seattle. How they will endlessly give their last dollar to someone that needs it on the street. How they will walk an older woman all the way to Mary's Place because the free ride zone is gone. How they have embraced me when I had no family or home here.

Mm. God's Kingdom is beautiful!

1 comment:

  1. Tara,
    Thank you so much for sharing yourself and your God encounters with us! The world is so blessed that you answer God's call even when you are afraid, and among people who act the opposite of the way God asks us to behave.
    You are a great example of one not putting the light under a basket!
    I hope you keep writing, I look forward to reading more!

    P.S. I am glad I am not the only one who is tough in my head!!