Monday, April 9, 2007

Life Happens in the Margins

Here's something I've been thinking about a LOT over the past three or four months. I think that life, real life, happens in the margins (though I prefer calling them the fringes). Then I read about The Last to Believe in Easter, again by Willimon. He said:

Here is a God who tends to work the margins rather than the center, who does not limit divine revelation to the "in crowd."

I think this is going to become increasingly evident to the world.

In this quote Willimon is referring to women in ministry, but I think the Margin is about more than just individuals. It applies to the way we live.

When I spend my days following the common path, going along with the norm, the expected happens. Days move on, pretty much the same. Life is safe, you rarely get hurt and you feel comfortable. The problem is that living this way never allows you to grow.

There's a family in our church who recently began spending every Easter morning by going to the sunrise service on the Mall in D.C., then handing out bag lunches to homeless people they met on the street. I've gone and handed out meals myself a couple of times, and I can tell you there is almost nothing more memorable and moving.

One of the absolute hardest things is the first time you'll ever approach a homeless person and offer them a meal. First, you're going up to a stranger. Second, that stranger is living either on the street or in a shelter. Third, that person could be crazy (c'mon, I know you've thought homeless people are crazy or weird, otherwise they wouldn't be homeless, right?) Fourth, what if you get rejected, or worse, attacked?

There really are a bunch of reasons not to take the chance and approach someone on the street ever. Growing up in the city there was an unspoken rule that you didn't make eye contact with people and even if something incredibly unique or interesting happened you looked away and acted like nothing happened.

As a side example, I once saw a dead body on the sidewalk while driving somewhere. I glanced at it, and then continued on. I certainly wasn't the only one; many others were even walking down that street averting their eyes.

The point is that direct contact with a stranger wasn't normal.

Once you break through your own barriers though, meeting these people will change your life. Stepping completely out of your comfort zone and approaching someone to offer food immediately connects you with the person. Some simply accept the meal while others are excited to tell you their stories. How they ended up where they are. It's amazing how many of these people led completely normal lives until they got laid off or something else happened beyond their control and they quickly ended up on the street.

Every time we've handed out meals, most of the people in the group come back different. They'd grown in all kinds of ways. Almost always they came back more outgoing and willing to approach a stranger. They also came back more understanding of others and with a new realization that every person you meet at any level of society is still a person.

Going beyond and outside our comfort zone is where life happens. How will you spend more time in the margins?

Peace,

+Tom

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