Yesterday was not my finest day. I think I started complaining the minute I woke up. From the guy cutting me off in traffic, to a meeting I needed to help facilitate, to being hungry during said meeting- EVERYTHING was frustrating and annoying me. I am not proud of this- in fact, if you’re reading this it’s because I lost the debate with myself as to whether or not it would be okay to just erase this part and admit to nothing. At one point I stated to a friend, “I should be quarantined today, take away my phone and all human contact, I think it’s most beneficial thing for society.”
As you might expect, that didn’t happen, life had to go on as did the workday much to others’ chagrin I am certain.
Right now at Skid Row Housing Trust we are in the middle of leasing up a new building, which essentially means we are in the process of identifying and then housing 60+ new residents, bringing them off the streets into their new home. To say this is an honor would be a huge understatement, but to say it’s insanely stressful and often times confusing as all hell would be too.
In the afternoon we were slated to hold a workshop for 32 folks that will soon be moving in; these workshops are neat in that we get to spend time with the people that will soon become familiar faces, but they are also harrowing- they consist of A LOT of paperwork and working around what feels like 3,000 yards of proverbial red tape.
As the workshop began a man named Tony walked in. I didn’t recognize Tony by face or even by name, but assumed it was just because I’m still getting to know these folks. As it turns out however, I didn’t know him because his previous documents had somehow slipped through the cracks and we hadn’t been tracking him at all. Ugh. [insert multiple cuss words here.] We ended up having to send him back by bus to his referring agency, which was roughly 15 miles away, to retrieve his forms, however when he made it there they turned him right back around and sent him back to us empty-handed. To say I was mad would be putting it mildly. These are people’s lives! I screamed in my head. Why would somebody be this careless?! And now I am charged with telling him that we can’t move forward? Awesome. [Expletive] awesome.
Almost in tears I went to him and explained the situation, apologizing over and over that things were unfolding as they were. I expressed to him that I couldn’t imagine how frustrated he must feel and promised him that we would follow-up and straighten out the situation at hand, to which he replied, “This day has been ummm interesting but not frustrating. God told me a long time ago to stop worrying, so I don’t. It doesn’t make any sense to worry- I’ve never been promised simplicity, but I have been promised grace.”
I sat there with my mouth agape as he went on, “A problem is not a problem really, Miss Rachel- a problem is merely a solution waiting to be realized and once you realize the problem you can act upon it and it becomes history. We’ll get this mess figured out, don’t worry.”
I don’t know if the kids these days still use the expression “you got served,” but if they do, I am fairly certain this qualifies.
I sat there humbled and appalled by my own arrogance, entitlement and impatience with others’ imperfections, reflecting on how much I think I am owed by the world before Tony came back to THANK ME for listening to him. WHAT?! He thanked me?
I was speechless.
That is grace.
That is love.
That is peace.
That is the gospel.
While Tony is obviously pretty incredible, he is not alone in his faith either- it’s close to impossible to talk to three people on Skid Row without hearing God’s messaged preached to some extent or another by at leasts one of them. “I can’t imagine it would be very comfortable to be an atheist on Skid Row,” a local pastor recently told me, “there is a culture of Jesus marked all over this place and it’s real. Knowing genuine need tends to connect those dots in a way that I may never understand- to be honest, I think most of this community probably has a better grasp of Him than I do.”
It’s true. I am asked often what it looks like for me to “bring Jesus to Skid Row”– my answer: “You mean, how do they bring Jesus to me? Because I think that’s probably more accurate question. I know Jesus better because I know the patrons of Skid Row.”