Matt and I walked to a popular spot on Vincennes street – a stoop that sits in front of an empty lot. An abandoned house once stood on the lot before homeless squatters burned it down. They were trying to stay warm in the winter. Several of our homeless friends still hang out at the stoop… drinking, getting high, and getting into trouble.
On this particular day we saw Linda, Ryan, and half a dozen others.
Linda, as usual, was barking orders at everyone.
Ryan (also known as “Stabber Ryan”) was drunk but being his gentle self.
Dan had drunk himself into an afternoon nap in his wheelchair.
Phil was glad to see David, and kept smiling at him, but David ignored him.
A little grill sat at the top of the stoop. The family of homeless friends had made hot dogs for dinner.
I sat and talked with Ryan for a while. He kept asking me, “Are you really here?” This was not a rhetorical question stemming from his gladness to see me, rather, he was genuinely wondering whether or not I was a hallucination.
Eventually, we got to talking about grace and religion and faith in Christ. He listened as well as he could.
But Linda kept interrupting. “Preston, do you mind if I smoke this joint?” she asked.
I responded, “If by ‘mind’ you are wondering if I love you and don’t want you to smoke pot, then yes, I mind. But if you are just wondering if I can handle your smoking a joint, then yes, I can.” I thought this might guilt her into abstaining.
She lit up.
Before long, it was just me and Matt with Ryan and Linda.
They wanted to pray.
As we circled up and joined hands, our friend Darryl arrived. He grabbed a hot dog and started eating. We asked if he wanted to pray with us.
“Okay,” he said, “Just let me throw this hot dog at R.J. first.”
Sure enough, he proceeded to throw his half-eaten hot dog across the busy street at a man I’d never seen before.
“Oh well,” he said, “lets pray.”
I went first and offered a typical prayer. Thanking God for his blessings and asking Jesus to help us.
Linda started up but Ryan interrupted.
When he finished praying, Linda apologized to God for Ryan’s interruption.
Then she prayed a long prayer.
She asked for justice – real justice on the streets of New Albany.
She asked for a home. Not just for her, but for her homeless friends, too.
She asked God to watch over the drug addicts and take care of their needs.
She thanked God that she wasn’t addicted to hard drugs, only pot.
“And God,” she said, “it sure would be great to have a bag of weed.”
Ryan chimed in, “Honey, don’t ask God for a bag of weed.”
Linda continued to ask God to help her start a revolution of homeless people to take over the abandoned houses in the city that should be theirs in the first place.
“Help us claim these houses like the Indians, ‘cause I’m a Shawnee, and a Cherokee, and a Seminole.”
“Lord, bring justice to these m*^&#r f@&#rs who talk s&!t about me and try to get me arrested!”
“And Lord, I’m glad I don’t like whisky, ’cause I’d get addicted, being that I’m a Cherokee.”
There was a lot more to her prayer, these are just the highlights. I appreciated her honesty.
After Matt finished the prayer circle, I looked up and saw tears streaming down Linda’s face.
“You guys brought out the Irish in me,” she said.
Our prayer gathering wasn’t perfect, but it meant something to those in attendance, especially Linda. And finding meaning in a tearful prayer is a good place to start.
Oh, and Linda wants to have a regular church service on the stoop, with music and preaching.
I think that’s a great idea.