Street Stories

Weblog of Seattle minister to the homeless Rick Reynolds, Operation Nightwatch

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Location: Seattle, Washington, United States

Caring for human beings seems like the best use of my time, homeless or not.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Praise the Lord

Egad, I wrote "Praise the Lard," which would have to be a piece about Krispy Kremes, instead of another old story.

Every night this humble woman was coming into Nightwatch for shelter -- not really sure what her situation was, but she was wired funny, and would always give me a big grin and "Praise the Lord" when she saw me. Actually, she would do that for everyone, as it turns out.

We'd call the shelters, "Hey, you got room tonight for M?"

"Sure," the worker would say, "send her over, 'Praise the Lord'" -- in a high pitched, little kid voice, like M would say it, even though she's 45 years old, by my guess.

Every once in a while M would ask if she could pray for me, or lay hands on my shoulders and offer up prayer in her prayer language. Undecipherable, but she knew and God knew. And she would tell me about her Bible study at some church in Ballard.

Anyway, one night the room at Nightwatch was packed. People are eating, and waiting anxiously for their shelter assignment. Some drunk wandered in the door. He was being rude and crude. I came out from the back, and had a little talk with him, told him he needed to quiet down or hit the sidewalk, then back into my office.

Suddenly the room of homeless people became quiet.

This is not a good thing. If you're a parent, and the kids in the other room get quiet, you react the same way -- I came running out, wondering what the heck was going on.

Here was M in the corner of this room full of homeless people, and she's singing "Amazing Grace" because the loud obnoxious man was making her nervous, and singing was a way for her to let go of that tension. Her little girl voice, quavering, "I once was blind but now I see. . . " and somehow her singing cut through the drunk's fog. He's on his knees holding M's hand and trying to sing along with her, and the whole room of homeless people got quiet.

Now I think a bunch about human inadequacy and God's ability to infuse power into the most humble and mundane people and situations. We set limits, we object, reign it in. But if the Holy Spirit takes the most profane places (think, Nightwatch shelter dispatch, or Kelly's Bar) and funky type people (ala moi, or M, or maybe you, gentle reader) and does such cool work. . . it gives one pause, no?


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