Thursday, August 28, 2008

CSM Toronto: Homeless for the Weekend

For a class assignment, I was to eat a meal at the Scott Mission, a soup kitchen. This was to help us understand better what a homeless person goes through. As I got ready that morning, I put on my grubbiest clothes and decided to take transit across town. Driving to the mission somehow didn’t seem to fit. As I waited for the streetcar at the corner of Queen and Sherbourne, (a popular intersection for the homeless) I looked at the clothing many of the street people were wearing - most of the clothing was better, was cleaner, and more stylish than the outfit I had on. But still I stood out. As much as I had tried to look the part as I went to get my meal - I didn’t. It wasn’t about what I was wearing or how dirty my clothes were. The difference, I observed, was in my face.
I lined up at the mission and waited for my meal. We were herded in. Not much talking. My table quickly ate, anxious to move on and out. Just as we were finishing up a guy passed our table. He stopped and looked in my direction, "Carol?" he said. "No" I quietly replied, a little nervous. Since I often mumble my name, Carol, interestingly enough, is often a name people hear when I introduce myself. The man was still at my table, "I’ve seen you around here, haven’t I?" He didn’t look familiar to me. But the Scott Mission is one of the sites I volunteer at with our CSM groups. I just shook my head. I didn’t really want to have to explain
what I was doing in the moment. I had been trying to blend, after all. As he went on his way, the man across from my table spoke up for the first time, "Ah, he uses that line all the time..." he chuckled, partly to me, partly to himself, "you don’t see faces like yours around here much." Faces like mine. There it was again - my face.
Life on the street is hard. It wears a person down. No matter how much you dress up or dress down a person, the lines on our faces tell of the journey we’ve had. No matter how much a person might try, it follows them forever. I don’t think you can fully understand what a person has gone through unless you walk in their shoes. Even then, you can only relate so far. To help our CSM Toronto summer staff better understand homelessness, on day two of their training this past June, they were sent out to "be homeless" for a weekend. This was in conjunction with the summer team at Evergreen (where Chris works) While out walking the streets, Jemica and Jennifer were pulled aside by a Green Peace worker who was trying to recruit them. He started the conversation and asked lots of questions trying to get them to sign up.
He prodded so much it finally came out that the girls were working with CSM that summer and living on the streets for the weekend. Since they were working with the homeless and marginalized they wanted to experience the other side of service. That’s why, they explained, .we are dressed like this...Oh, the guy replied looking them over, .I didn’t actually notice. I just saw young faces..
Try as we might, we make all sorts of judgments by outward appearances by the faces we see. James asks it well (2:1), "My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ?"* Interesting, eh? James asks hard questions. He seems to be asking if we can really believe in Jesus if we favor some people over others. If we treat one face different than the next. My prayer is that our actions as Christians will speak for themselves, and say to the world, "We believe!"
-Tara McPherson, CSM CSM Toronto Co-City Director

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