Category Archives: social work

thickness of thin space

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Here I am in an empty church. In it, between the rows of pews, on the tile floor, under the silent cross, I walk along a boundary, a place in between heaven and earth. The Celts called it thin space….The church calendar calls into consciousness the existence of a world uninhabited by efficiency, a world filled with the excessiveness of saints, ashes, smoke, fire; it fills my heart with both dread and hope. It tells of journeys and mysteries, things “seen and unseen,” the world of the almost known. It dreams impossibilities: a sea divided in two, five thousand fed by a loaf and two fishes, a man raised from the dead. 

– Nora Gallagher
Things Seen and Unseen: A Year Lived in Faith

It seemed as though every few breaths had to be wrestled quietly to keep exhales from becoming tears. I don’t think tears of any kind of sadness, although some seem wrapped together with a letting go of things that no longer fit but were desperately and perfectly holy when they once did. Others pregnant with promises that are only clear today after all this time of begging for clarity. Others coated in laughter of flying monkeys and brave children.

After being on the road––or in the air––for nearly a month, I returned to the desks and sessions and meetings and paperwork and conference calls of the work week last Monday. With the promise of daylight savings time still a terribly long week away, I traveled back from exhilarating speaking and learning with stellar servants in Seattle and Memphis and the slow and holy days of the beach with lifelong and new friends, to the pounding of alarms in the still-dark mornings of my own still room.

The threat would be, of course, that the magic only happens when things are outside of the routine. Only with toes buried in the sand and waves ruining the back pages of novels do we cross into the thin spaces. Only with lecture halls and presentations and learning credits pending do we feel the rush of the practice and the theory. Only with the frantic boarding runs do we surmise that we are living something exciting.

But then, on a Monday morning as regular as any other, the shower makes us look a little more alive than we feel, the coffee makes us a little friendlier in a few short moments, and the first meeting, the first client, the first conference call reminds us that we love what we do and the people we get to do it with.

And the thin space becomes so thick we can taste it and name it and break it as if it were in itself that holy meal.

So today, a week later, with more travel on the edge of the next few days, I’m giving thanks for a week of clients, a week of paperwork, a week of surprise parties and the lies they require, a week of out of town guests and in town friends over drinks.

So today, a week later, I find myself at the altar, imagining that table that spreads all the way to family in Nicaragua and all the way to family in Cape Town, and all the way to family who have already moved a little closer to something better on the other side of time, and I was wrestling breaths in order to exhale without bursting into tears. Tears of letting go and holding on. Tears of the promise that I have no idea what I’m doing, but somehow I feel alive while I’m doing it and I feel loved getting to do it with such incredible people, and I feel honored doing in on behalf of those so often not welcomed at the table.

So today, a week later, I find myself at the altar recognizing that the thin space has become so thick at this particular moment in time, that I let it win and with the tears that hit the hands that hold the bread and the wine, I give thanks that he withholds no good thing from us.

Not a thing.

djordan
Pine Tree Dr.

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a faint sound of something

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I could hear it
our shoes making a shoddy moon
on the fifteenth floor looking out over the city.

I can always hear the other
the sound of killing
shooting, the ringing of it
the sound of racism
silence, the subtlety of it
the sound of oppression
cash registers, the shininess of it
the sound of isolation
weeping, the breath-stealing nature of it

I can always hear the paranoia in the shadows of the other
I can always hear the anger in the panicky crisis
I can always hear the hopelessness in the news banner
flashing across the bottom of the screen

but there
moon-shaped shoes filled with
women and men now family and friend
the best and true of both
standing up and holding hands in prayer
as if holding hands kept us from blowing down
or blowing apart
or blowing away

thy kingdom come
thy will be done
on earth as it is in heaven

thy kingdom come
to the ringing
to the subtlety
to the shininess
to the breath-stealing

and make things whole
we asked.

And it was in that moment
over and above and beyond and inside and all around
I could hear the faint sound of something
a symphony of some kind
a little more melodious
a little more beautiful
a little more free

I could hear a faint sound of something
–a symphony of some kind–
and it sounded like hope.

djordan
Rosemary Beach

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responsibility and recovery | an interview

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A friend of mine who is currently working on his Social Work degree asked to interview me as a clinician and community advocate who work with a population wrestling with substance use and abuse for a course assignment he is working on. After being forced to pause during the business of work and reflect on his questions, I realized how valuable the exercise had been to me. I’ve decided to share it here, and invite your own comments for those of you working or living in the field. And to all my clients and colleagues in the work, this is a small testimony of your importance to my own development as a human being.

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Dear Donald, 
I have to do an interview with a person who works with substance abusers and since I know you work at Jackson’s Drug Treatment Court and with Pathways Youth Recovery services, I thought you may be a good person to get in contact with. So without further ado, here are the questions: 
1. Why did you choose this occupation? 

I feel like it chose me. Apparently, as a child when I was told I couldn’t help mom or dad do something, I would tell them “If helpers can’t help, they die.” While a little melodramatic even at that age, my heart is with being there when people discover something is possible they thought had already been ruled out or even something they had never thought of before. People dealing with substance abuse and addiction who are seeking recovery are the most honest, holy people I’ve ever met. I learn from them, and they learn (some of them) that there is more available for their lives than they could ever have imagined.

2. What are the unique strengths and challenges of this population?

I often feel, whether in small group IOP (Intensive Outpatient) therapy groups, one on one in outpatient counseling, or in AA / NA group-led self-help meetings, that people coming together, admitting their crap and the crap it has caused, refusing to respond to others in judgment because they are aware of their own need for support and peace, and honestly believing that every day is the beginning of another possibility. These are all strengths. That’s what makes A&D work a holy exercise; it puts the pretense that actual church services can often be to shame. Some of the challenges include, obviously, the incredible chemical, relational, emotional and neurological effects and consequences of addition, and the ways these affect people’s relationships with all the systems they will need to move into recovery. 

3. What do you think are the most effective interventions in working with this group?
Such a tricky question, here. There are TONS of interventions that are evidence-based and therefore effective. Some are indicated more so for certain groups. We used a highly cognitive-behavioral model at Pathways with you, and we use a different motivational interviewing and behavioral model at drug treatment court. I’ve used narrative practices against addiction in one on one therapy before in individual outpatient. A strong therapeutic rapport, good evidenced-based practice, and a judgment-free, dignity-filled therapeutic perception of the client are all major players. And of course, the choice always lies in the client’s hands as to whether any intervention is ultimately effective. Not to shrug my clinical shoulders and wash my clinical hands so much as to honor the reality of the client’s own ability and acknowledge that her success in recovery belongs to her and the system of support that she has created.
4. Do you have any thoughts about what the future will bring for the group? 
Not sure what this question means. My work on the federal and state levels with SAMHSA and TDMHSAS reveals that there is a strong push that continues to be difficult to highlight co-occuring disorders, and to merge the substance abuse and mental health worlds into an effective, connective system of care. This leads to questions of collaboration between multiple agencies, staying with tension and conflict regarding competing agency and group agendas, and how to make decisions about models and interventions and policies in ways that best serve both client and organization. And “best serve organization” always reflects in part how services can be funded and how services that are initially funded by grants can ultimately be sustainable and interwoven into the fabric of the pre-existing system of care. 
5. What has been your most rewarding experience working with this population?​
I learn about myself, my own growth, my own shortcomings and desires to hide them, my own responses to rejection, isolation, stigma, piety, and despair as well as the others’ responses affect me in turn. I always tell group members during one of their initial group sessions, “There’s no difference between this group and ‘those people out there.’ Some have become brave enough to tell the truth about their shortcomings and hopes, and others have yet to find a way to tell the truth. Welcome to the table.” In turn, I am at risk of not being welcomed to the table by the group. They are generous enough to let me in and share incredibly personal things with the table. That’s courage. That’s honesty. That’s holding onto and being honest about, as Parker Palmer would say, the tragic gap between the way things are and the way things can be…and the willingness to stay there long enough for our hearts to break open and new solutions to pour out from it. I am in church every time I’m in group; the good, the bad and the ugly of church. 
6. What has been the hardest part of working with this populace?
Taking responsibility for someone else’s recovery, holding out false hope by getting ahead or withholding needed hope because I don’t yet believe I have no idea what the participants are capable of. There’s always the risk of heartbreak, or heart-crushing perhaps. But it’s the risk that makes people finding their whole lives again possible…and always worth the risk of a crushed heart. It has to be. 
7. Do you think that you will continue to serve this population in the future?
Definitely. 
8. What is some advice you would give to people who are going to work with this population? 
You aren’t saving anybody. People don’t need saving, they need finding. We can help ask the questions that allow individuals to be found. It’s not an “us” and “them,” and stay clear of any professional or individual who ever communicates in a way that sets them on a higher plane than those they serve. The biggest risk is entering the work thinking we are above or over or ahead of those we serve. All are changed in the work, so if you aren’t willing to take the same risks you are asking your clients to take, don’t start to begin with. And, ultimately, the success of those you work with is out of your hands; your excellence and hard work and perseverance and ultimate respect for others is completely in your hands. Don’t blur the lines…for your own sake and for the sake of your clients. 
9. Would you say that this population is a population that is heavily discriminated against?
Yes, but so is every population in one way or another. They don’t need pity or sadness, they need the same kind of encouragement that there is hope for something else just like all of us need. They are on an uphill climb, though, as people associate addition with choice alone, so it becomes a moral issue the way other diseases or not. So not only does this population have to work to regain trust in order to secure work, housing, and relationship, but they have to constantly battle the stigma of being ‘bad people.’ The church should lead in chaining this tone, but AA and NA are doing a much better job at it presently. Luckily, or divinely, the church is all in AA as well. 
10. How has what you learned from your clients affected your practice?
I feel like questions 1-9 address this question. Hope this helps. It is always good for me to stop and reflect; thanks for asking.
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djordan
Madison Ave
Memphis, TN
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crossing the street to find your way home | thoughts on “the hundred-foot journey”

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Our greatest fear, of course, is that we might be viewed as in some way similar to the “them” to our “us”. We’ve worked desperately for centuries now at defining clearly and bloodily who we are with and with whom we are not. Who we are like and who we are not like. And when the “us” and “them” becomes less theoretical and more the new next-door neighbor, less conversation and more colleague, less hypothetical and more here-and-now, we find our heart-pounding pulse and back-of-the-neck skin overrun with the fast-beating terror that there is no longer enough space between us and them.

In terror and anxiety, thus in our most not-yet moments, we move on anxieties and insist certain actions that involve thinking, moving and working in ways which keep the lines clear, humans separated, and enemies inhumane are needed. We have to keep the peace by keeping the road as clear barrier between our home and theirs, and the hundred-foot journey in between.  

But once in a while, perhaps because we have a kind of holy blood in us because we are human, we can’t help ourselves. We cross the street, take one-hundred steps, (counted in fury and scheming at one point and now counted in calm humility and prayerfulness), and appear at the front door of the other, the non-separate, the human beings across the street. The front door of his home, bearing witness to his family and their dreams, their hopes, their stories, their legacies, their fears, their burdens and their dirty spots. We appear at the front door, newly-terrified and deeply-anxious, but already too far across the street, already there, already one-hundred steps too many in to turn around.

So we meet our neighbors. We learn their names. We hear their stories. We sing their songs. We sit at their tables and we eat their meals. 

And absent-minded of our terror and anxiety, we realize that in traveling the distance we have found our neighbors, in making the journey we have found our place, and in crossing the street we have made our way home. 

We pray that our new neighbors would move in, and that we would cross the street to find ourselves. As we are bold to pray for terrifying things because we’ve been taught to do it, teach us what it means to come home in your kingdom. 

djordan
Pine Tree

Don’t miss The Hundred-Foot Journey on the big screen. If you miss it, you’ll regret it…and so will your neighborhood. 

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remembering my first class ever

In preparing for a brand new online class, created from scratch, I’ve been reviewing a lot of the materials I’ve used for other classes. In wondering how to teach through an online class, my first ever, the 5 Guiding Questions that I use in every class I’ve ever taught, I came across a blog post from the very first college course I ever taught. They appeared one day in class, to help guide the conversation, and they have been on the board, in the conversation and on the tests and quizzes for the nearly 10 different classes I’ve taught since then.

In reflecting on them this evening, and reflecting on where they were coming from as I was teaching that first class ever…in reflecting on the friendships and colleagues that the students in this picture have become, in reflecting on what I’ve learned since then, they become even more meaningful.

I had agreed to teach this course while still working at a church. I found out between accepting the role of teaching this course while working at the church and when the course would actually begin that I would be encouraged by the pastor to give my resignation because I didn’t fit with his vision. I realized later, in that same conversation, that the problem was I viewed leadership as engaging the people, the congregation, the community in discerning what God was doing and where we should be going.

I learned then, and later, that these five guiding questions had guided me out of a job that I loved but could not stay in, and into several jobs that I’ve since fallen deeply in love with. To my students that very first class, you really were the best first class ever. You taught me much, and your friendships have proven invaluable, restorative, and inspiring.

djordan
Pine Tree

The original post can be viewed by clicking here. 

I debated before my very first classroom teaching experience whether or not to pretend like I knew what I was doing. Whether or not to tell the truth when we began that they were joining me on a journey that was the first of its kind for me, or “Don’t let them see you sweat,” as I’ve heard people in leadership say to me before. It never settled well with me. We all sweat. Why shouldn’t they see it?

I think when I walked into the room, I still had not made up my mind. They were seated quietly (this once), waiting to see what the shape of the class would be. I was just as curious as they were.

“Well, I tried to decide whether to pretend like I know what I’m doing with you folks, but, I feel like I should come clean: This is my first undergraduate teaching experience. So there. Now you know.”

Apparently, my mouth had decided the game plan but had not remembered to inform my mind.

“Uh oh…” someone said, then the room laughed, and then we began one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve ever had. Definitely the best first class ever. Admitting that I would likely sweat that very first day allowed us to sweat together, and made something very communal, spiritual and human possible and present in the room.

We engaged for the next semester in a class about “faith-based social service,” and the wheres, hows, whys, and whats of how the church and people of faith bring the good news that God through Christ will make right all things cursed by sin, bringing his kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. Things you can get fired for talking about. Things like the human heart, sex-trafficking, homelessness, planned poverty, economic injustice, christian arrogance and ignorance, poverty, greed, pride, loneliness, mental illness, individualistic idolatry, systemic injustice, abuse, trauma, and on and on and on.

“As far as the curse is found,” the old hymn reminds us. And it’s found far beyond only our human hearts and inside our churches, but in our broken communities waiting to see and hear the good news all the same. The big and broad good news that has more to do with everything else than it has to do with us.

And as a class, we began to engage these issues, tried different typologies out on them, dressed them in different best-practice approaches, and delved into scripture to see what it is we work toward and how we are called to work toward it. Throughout, we explicitly tried to guide our discussions and studies with a few questions that we would ask of each other, authors of the texts, practitioners in the field, and pastors in our churches:

1. Is it a bad either or?
Are these bad either/or scenarios that we are working within? Have we picked a side on something that may not (although it very well may) be a real either/or situation? How can we back up enough to see this clearly?

2. What are the assumptions?
What assumptions are we working from but ignoring as we move forward? Have we questioned these assumptions, and are we okay with them if we are building on them? How can we notice these assumptions? Who or what can be engaged to reveal them to us?

3. What are the power dynamics?
What power dynamics are at play, and what are they costing us and those we serve? Are we being honest to notice them, or are we trying to convince ourselves that they don’t exist? Whose voice and eyes can help us see them, and readjust?

4. Where did this information come from?
Where did this information come from? Is it valid? Is it biased? (Yes.) So where is the other side of the bias, and have we considered it? Are we looking for the truth, or looking for something that defends our current stance?

And finally,

5. What is absent but implicit? 
Built out of the narrative therapy tradition that has stolen my imagination, this question is important and fresh. What have we left out of our questions, our conversations, our research, our planning, our programming and our praying? And what can its absence reveal to us about how we may be thinking wrongly or ignorantly about the issues? Whose voice, opinion, insight or criticism are we ignoring, and what does that reveal about us and our work?

When the class would be engaged in discussion, and a student would offer one of these questions to help push us into more clarity, I would feel my insides jump for joy. More than any solutions or approaches we came to as a class, or read about in our texts, the impact for Christ and his kingdom that is likely to be had will come from a student being guided by the curiosity and humility that these guiding questions encourage. So when they were thrown into the conversation by the students themselves, I would immediately envision them running organizations, pastoring churches, or working in businesses in the future, throwing out these same questions from the field, the pulpit, or the boardroom.

It makes me beyond hopeful.

And then, the best of all, toward the end of the semester, I was challenged––called out––by a student when I made a comment beginning with a phrase I had warned them to be wary of. In talking about a particular issue, the words, “Well, it all boils down to this: …” came from my lips.

I didn’t hear them. But my students did. One spoke up from the back, “But Donald, does it really?Does it really all boil down to that?” Much like that first class, we all laughed, someone says, “Uh oh….” and we continue with a more honest, more appropriate, more life-giving conversation than ones stifled by a person in the front informing everyone of how complex and nuanced issues “all boil down” to something that they of course do not and cannot. I had been called out, and it was the most rewarding experience of the entire semester.

So to those students, the best first class I will ever have, I give my deep thanks! You have taught me to be comfortable with what I do and do not know. You have taught me that laughing at myself and the clumsiness of the process creates space for honest dialogue and true progress. You have taught me that respect comes in the form of accountability and honesty, not position or title. And you have taught me that making room to be called out can be most rewarding.

And you have taught me that there is much to be hopeful for as you enter the world with the good news of Christ and his kingdom. The practice fields, the pulpits, and the boardrooms you operate in will be graced with a fresh humility and curiosity that will always be pregnant with the hope of all things being made new.

I look with great anticipation toward your futures.

djordan
Pine Tree Dr

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drowning in forgetfulness

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I met with two teenage guys this afternoon for therapy. I spent my time reminding them of all the progress they’ve seen against all the odds that were stacked against them, the odds they had recounted in previous sessions, the bad odds I had not tried to talk them out of because I wasn’t sure enough that they were going to come true.

And yet these two young men actually enacted these bad odds not coming true. They made choices and held out hope long enough that a different kind of future happened against all the odds, really. Over and over again.

But they’ve already forgotten. They are now in the middle of the next layer of stacked-against-them-odds and they don’t remember that they felt as impossibly positioned not so long ago. And they don’t remember that not so long ago they courageously chose to push into something they didn’t know and found themselves on the other side of something that seemed one-sided.

And so I find myself working to ask questions that remind them. And as always when any of us ask good questions of others, we hear ourselves asking good questions that we ourselves must answer.

More time passes in a day and we realize that sometimes we wake up in the middle of the night with worry and fear, drowning in forgetfulness, and we are overcome with anxiety and sorrow. And we find ourselves praying because someone once said we should pray when we wake up and can’t sleep in those dark hours of the night/morning.

So we pray that God will show us how to listen, and that we can learn what it actually means to love our awkwardness juxtapositioned to the honesty of others. And we ask for sleep knowing, owning for one damn time, that we aren’t orchestrating all of this and we need some help to be able to find any peace at all, waking or sleeping.

And we might finally catch some rest before the sun rises, or we might not.

But it doesn’t matter either way, because we realize that we are all learning from each other, and we need the people around us to remind us that we are capable of and intentioned for more than we could ever think to ask or imagine.  And though we often drown in our own forgetfulness, a sleepless night that reminds us to ask for eyes to see and ears to hear might just be what we need to remember that he is making all things new and he is the God of doing things against all the odds.

Even in the middle of a sleepless night.

djordan
Pine Tree Dr.

 

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digging for the possible

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On days where I’m ready to practice my craft, and I’ve slept long enough and I’m not trying to finish other things in my head while pretending to listen to someone else, I find myself digging for the possible with the clients who sit and speak and hurt and wonder in my office.

On days where I’m not ready to practice the craft, or on days where I forget it is actually a craft to be practiced, or on days where I’m so absorbed in my own speaking and hurting and wondering…it’s on those kinds of days where I don’t dig for the possible, but rather restate the obvious. My laziness or distraction pushes me to remind others of their own faults, hurts, weaknesses, and burning realities that they––no doubt––know and feel and ultimately honor much more than I ever could.

But on the days where I’m tuned in, dialed up, hunkered down, it becomes magical. To be a voice given some privilege in a room, I get to ask the questions that  uncover the great strength and fortitude and creativity and resilience of the people sitting in my office, telling stories more honest than I’ve every dared to tell.

And as we dig through the rubble for the possibilities of their futures, I become immediately honored and terrified that what might happen in the room depends to a certain extent on the state in which I show up to work.

And with the stakes so high, if stakes are viewed as gifts, to whom much is given much is required.

djordan
Pine Tree

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my hands are tied

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I looked down at his wrists, bound together with metal handcuffs as he moved his body toward the front of the police car obeying the silent index finger of the police officer. He had not made eye contact with me yet, and I felt myself staring at the handcuffs themselves.

I realized in that moment, looking down at his handcuffs, that I felt like my hands were tied as well. I then also quickly realized that I have never been handcuffed. Ever. I don’t know what metal against my wrists feels like. I don’t know what obeying the silent finger of a police officer feels like.

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We’ve been working for the last two years to get this program off the ground. Through research and relationship it has become obvious that once you are on the down and out, short of a miracle you will never be able to get back on your feet again, much less work, pay your own bills, and be spoken to and interacted with as someone who is not defined as “down and out.” Through this same research, we’ve come to discover that it’s only through job creation and long-term support that there is any hope of moving toward self-sustainability. Not the kind that means we don’t live in community, but that kind that means we are able to live in ways scripture refers to as working, building our own houses, and resting in them.

We have been partnering and depending on churches across our small, Bible-belt, semi-rural community for the last seven years to house men who are homeless in our shelter-less city in their churches, eating dinner with them, watching movies with them, laughing and crying with them, and learning each other’s names with them. Seven years later, we are all changed from this interaction.

And from these new relationships, a case management center and daytime hospitality center has been created, an eight-bed safe haven for homeless men has been taken on, and in the last few months, a transitional work program has begun. Two years in the making, we are now able to create jobs for the men of our homeless and housing services to be able to do good work for a paycheck.

Problems aren’t solved, but it’s a start.

With the transitional work program, we’ve created enough work over the last few months to now have multiple lawn care contracts across the community, including one contract with the city government itself. The men themselves as well as the staff who work with them are at it hard nearly six days a week.

Progress is made, it feels. Work is being created, income is being generated, and the “down and out” are able to move a little closer to a kingdom vision of what it means to have the chance to work and be paid for your work, and to then pay for your own needs.

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Tonight, as I’m trying to run in the office doors of our small nonprofit to work on last minute details for our big fundraiser later this week…the fundraiser that will help support these work creation programs for the homeless in our community… I park in the lot to see the very police officer who is now directing the actions of a grown man by the silent pointing of a finger.

I find out, after brief conversation with the police officer, that one of the guests of the homeless day center has stolen a leaf blower from the trailer carrying the equipment for the transitional work program for other homeless guests.

“That leaf blower is evidence, and we can lock him up for a few months at least,” he says, then phoning in his partner who is holding the man a few blocks over, telling him to bring the man and the leaf blower to the office. My mind begins reeling through Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow.” My memory conjures up the words of another man in my counseling practice earlier today dealing with a lifetime of abuse and neglect, then drug use and criminal activity, then prison, and now the words “I can’t go back to prison. I can’t go back to prison.” My gut screams at me suggesting that we all should have known it would be a homeless man who stole the lawn equipment being used to create jobs for homeless men.

But my eyes go to those handcuffs, and my fragile little white, well-educated, privileged wrists that have never felt the pressure of metal, and I think to myself, “I feel like my hands are tied.”

And I hear the words come out of my mouth, “We don’t want to arrest him. We don’t want to press charges. We won’t, officer. I’m sorry.”

I want to look the man in handcuffs in the eyes and tell him again that there are people out here trying our damndest to help him. I want to wave my index finger and make it very clear that when he steals from us, of all people, it makes us mad as hell. I want to both send him to jail and also to invite him over for dinner. I want to cuss him out and let him cuss me out because I have no idea what his world has been like. I want to scream at him and cry with him. I feel like I can see what is not right about all of this, but that I have no idea how to begin making it right.

I see the other police officer almost roll his eyes at me, fill out a trespassing form, and leave soon enough. I feel like I’ve let the cop down. I know this man will likely steal again, and that will be seen as my fault for not pressing charges now. I try to look the other police officer in the eyes, but his eyes never come up to meet mine.

I feel like I’ve let the homeless man down. I see his skin pulled tightly across the muscles in his neck, and I wonder about his drug use, I wonder what it was like to grow up a black man in the 70s at the beginning of the “drug war.” I wonder what change we might see if we spent what it costs to incarcerate a man for three months for stealing a leaf-blower on counseling, rehabilitation and community development services. I try to look him in his eyes, but they are down on the roof of the police car.

As he’s been finger-directed.

I wonder what we are doing all of this for, any of this for, when even at our best it feels like all of our hands are tied.

Soon after I see the remaining police officer unlock the handcuffs, I stick my hand out. I call our homeless guest by his first name, and he raises his hand to shake my own: a gift. He raises his eyes to meet mine: humbling reminder of our desperate humanity.

“We want the very best for you” I hear come out of my mouth. I hope it’s true as I hear myself say it.

But my hands feel tied.

Come, Lord Jesus. Make us whole, and set us free. All of us.

djordan
108 S Church

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the ways of the king and the kingdom

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He’s stressed about work and life and pressure
and as we pray for each other
he uses the words
“on the chopping block.”

I’m waking up in the middle of the night
thinking about what has to be done, finished, started, explained, reminded
trying to remember more than I stress that the work is good work
and the ends do not depend on my ability to think up the means
because the rules of the kingdom of heaven
don’t follow the rules

but I hold my breath
and I clench my teeth
and I hunker down
over computer
over printer
over keyboard
over paperwork

hoping that all works out
so that we can do the work we hope to do
because God knows even on our worst days we know
that those we serve deserve it.

The trick, though
is that on our worst days
we forget that it is the kingdom they long for
we forget that it is the king they are waiting for
and we take on the pressure of the kingdom and the king
when the only pressure waiting for us is
the pressure of getting caught up in
the ways of the king and his kingdom

So as I wake in the middle of the night
with him in mind
neck on chopping block
and with me in mind
sanity on chopping block,
I do my best to remember
that the kingdom comes.
period.
and my prayer is to be caught up in
the ways of the king and his kingdom.

djordan
Pine Tree

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