P1020582When I came around the corner of the breezeway in the church, I was a bit surprised to see a shopping cart stuffed with suitcases, and on the hall floor a rectangle of lumpy sleeping bags and blankets. Then it came to me; a bedroom had been set up in front of my office door, the lumps, under the blankets —  people sleeping.

I had just walked to the office from a large room down the hall where polling booths had been set up and volunteers were in place to receive the ballots of people coming to vote in the special election of a new senator.

There the stuff to make a senator; here, a temporary homeless camp.

Sleeping bags, ballots, blankets and voting booths — the ebb of life mixes the levels and layers which ferry us along, some on concrete, some on mattresses, some with acceptance speeches in their dreams, some harboring alarms and starts and stops and frights all night.

I recognized them, woke them, offered a bit of food from our pantry, and sent them off with some little plastic bowls of peaches and a kind goodbye. They had been at church on Sunday and it came to me with a slight shock that I had never before woken parishioners sleeping on the sidewalk of the church.

But really, this is no anomaly. This is life everywhere. The poor and rich rub shoulders all over the world, one huddled under a dirty blanket, one housed and roofed and clean and safe and voted into power not far away.

It is our nature to seek out a compartment, a place, a niche and corner for the classes, the races, the ages and the genders. You live here, you over there, you up high, you down low, you in this church, you in that, you with this role, you play that, you sleep here and you can lay out over there. We tend too much to craft walls of common social bricks, of preferred addresses, and of identical building blocks.

We tend to set up our camps where we get what we want, moving to the suburbs for the schools, the inner city to blend in with our people, moving downtown to be upscale, moving to the country to get away from the city. We move west or east or north or south to find that little nook, that sequestered cranny, that briefly quieted corner where we can toss out a blanket, lie down a moment with our people, shield off something fearful and recover from our differences.

But when I go to my church, and I see the mix, the family who drove over in the Lexus, the family that walked over from the homeless camp, the one who took the trolley, the one who came in the Mini Cooper, the family from Peru, the one from Porta Rico, the beautiful woman from Jamaica who lives alone, the man with the addiction to power, the one addicted to meth, the woman who just moved up from Mexico with her children, the navy couple from the east coast, and I see them sing the same song and lift up the same hearts in the same place, then I know the truth, we are much the same.

Mix, toss, mash, mingle and lump together — the church is a sacred corner, a wooden floor and a cross-covered roof where we may see we are the same. There we all, with hands raised — children of one father, with identical hearts weighed down the same sins, weak and strong all in need of the same forgiveness — there, we cry out to the same savior.

I like the mix.

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