Denver Day 2, 2017
Greetings! #Day 2 – This is Ben and Kelsey blogging again and this time we are in Denver (not Chicago)! Today started with Mass and immediately going straight into street ministry for the morning. After lunch, we had an in depth talk about prayer, followed by some debriefing of the street ministry, free time (a.k.a shower time because when you sleep with 40 other people it’s a necessity), a delicious Ritz cracker and chicken casserole dinner (so much better that it sounds) and an epic game of Dodge Sock (Dodgeball game with sock balls – no money = no actual balls). We finished the day with prayer as a community with Christ in the City!
In the Eyes of Our Friends
Year two at CIC (Christ in The City) and things are still cray cray in Denva! The good kind of cray!! Full of the holy spirit kind of cray!! It’s fair to say that at this point in my service immersion experiences “the uncomfortable” is no stranger. It’s less about learning how to “push against my comfort zone” and going even more deeper in leaning into the shoes of “the other”. What this means for me is truly entering into the reality of are friends on the street, learning how to take on their realities with love through listening and conversation. As they talk about their lives (or don’t talk about anything) I learn so much about the story they are trying to tell in their action and words… if people are willing to stop, listen, and recognize they have a story at all.
Today we walked around Capitol Hill in the middle of downtown Denver. As we started walking in our street ministry route, Dillion and I walking in front of the group both made quick eye contact with a man who was sitting alone. This connection drew us in and we approached him to start a conversation. As we introduced ourselves he stood up and became more engaged. We quickly learned that he was from Ethiopia, his accent was thick and it was obvious that our conversation might be a little challenging, to say the least. He talked to us about his life, about his family back home. He talked about love continuously throughout our conversation and how he longs to have healthy relationships. He also talked about the loss of all his teeth and how he would smile if he had dentures so he could share more love. Taryn from our group then told him “Well, you smile with your eyes!”… As cliché as this might sound, it was so true with this man. This man, who society would think would be so miserable, and unhappy, and not full of life… was full of more life than ever expected.
Even though for half of the conversation we could not fully understand what he was saying at all, what Taryn said was so true. It didn’t matter that we had a little bit of a language barrier, it didn’t matter that I had to strain to listen to this man speak – his eyes told the whole story. His eyes smiled and completely captivated you while speaking. When you looked into this man’s eyes you knew that God was there. There was no doubt in my bones that I was staring into the eyes of Christ. And as he looked back at each of us, it was this moving experience, almost to tears. The joy and love that radiated out from just his eyes as he spoke about his life, it challenged me to want to examine my “inner tabernacle”. The eyes are like windows to the soul, even though we struggled to hear through words, everything was communicated through his eyes and how powerful that gaze of love can be in both connecting and challenging those who are beholding the gaze!
Dodge sock, rosaries, late night dance parties and prayer have all been major parts of this week so far, but the moment that I will never forget was the first time I engaged with the homeless by myself. Standing alone, my group engaged in other conversations, I quickly realized that the hardest part of meeting with the homeless was the first step. I would have to engage with people that live in a totally different reality from my own. I would have to force myself to sit amongst prostitutes, alcoholics and drug addicts tweaked out on meth or cocaine. These people could be dangerous and seek only to manipulate me, but there was a reason that I was here. There was a reason for God to put me on this last-minute trip to Denver, Colorado and to meet with these people in their reality. I sat down at a table and tried to introduce myself. It felt awkward. Why on earth would these people want to talk to me? I sat before them in a nice winter jacket, a nice haircut and an unblemished face. Yet they engaged. Soon after introducing myself these people sought me out to engage in conversation. We talked about everything from why there are homeless in Denver to stories about our lives. One guy even told me that he did cocaine with Robin Williams in 2003. Was he telling the truth? Maybe. Was it an interesting story? No doubt. Meeting these people in their own world is not just eye opening, but has changed my perspective on the homeless. These people become lonely no different than we do. Much of what they seek is to be acknowledged and accepted. If we can give them the dignity they deserve we can see how little we truly differ from them.