So after I got over the initial shock of seeing Sam the Ugly dog glaring at me every time I checked my Xanga, I was okay, so I guess I’ll leave him on there. Ugly dogs deserve love, too, I guess. You guys seem intrigued by Sam the ugly Dog, so here’s a link to the article about him; it has a link to his website–yes, his website–where you can see more pictures of him (he was even on Carson Daly’s show).
My roommate Laura informed me a few days ago that the MC library actually has a decent selection of books and movies; she was thinking of checking out several to read over Christmas break. Since as of yesterday, I was mostly done with my papers and projects (only finals impending), I have been wallowing in glorious freedom, haha. This weekend, for instance, I will begin studying for my Shakespeare final and write a cover letter for my article to submit for Periodicals. Outside that? Endless possibilities. Who knows, I may even write an article I was planning to write over Christmas break.
Anyway, Laura’s promotion speech of the library got me curious, so I got on MICAL and looked up some books just out of curiosity. They had 2 of the 4 books I had put on my Christmas list; I thought about checking those out, but then thought better of it. Then I remembered a book I had not asked for for Christmas, but I had heard (read, really) comments from couple people talking about how good it was–Under the Overpass. So yeah, for once I can actually put on here that I’m reading something–and not just that, but for fun, too!
I got it yesterday and finished it today. For those who aren’t familiar with the story, it’s really quite amazing. 2 college age guys (the author was 20 at the time) who choose to walk away from their normal lives for 5 months and live as homeless men. They live on the streets, with only bare essentials (no, this does not include cell phones, etc.)–panhandling, playing guitar for money, no showers, garbage food, the works. They lived in 6 cities: Denver, D.C., Portland, San Francisco, Phoenix, and San Diego. This book is good, I can’t lie. And it definitely makes you think. So, for this entry, I thought I’d quote some more poignant passages for you, just to share. Some of these things (like what I’m about to quote) are issues I’ve never even thought about, but are definitely significant:
*A little background for the first quote: Mike and Sam, the college guys, while in Portland, hung out with a crew who talked about a guy named Sugar Man. Sugar Man would come with a dolly and sell the homeless drinks for $1. Mike and Sam had an extra burrito, so they offered it to Sugar Man. He picked up on their offering it free of charge and asked them if they were Christians. They said yes, and here’s what happened after…*
“‘You guys are my brothers in Christ,’ he said. ‘I know it. The Bible tells me to love my neighbor as myself. Not even my brother, but simply my neighbor. You share more with a brother than simply with a neighbor and I’m supposed to love a neighbor more than myself. So, brothers, those I love more than neighbors, more than myself in fact, what do you need? Anything I have is yours because you call Christ Lord same as I do. You need a car? I’ve got one. It’s yours. You need cash? I’ll give you everything I’ve got. Place to say? We’ll work that out. So tell me, how can I serve you?’ While Sugar Man talked, Bruno had been packing a large glass pipe with marijuana. When he was satisfied, he and Theresa lit up. Bruno took a long pull and handed it to the person seated next to Sugar Man. Just as Sugar Man finished asking how he could serve us, he got the pipe, smoked it, and offered it to us. We both shook our heads, causing everyone to pause. Sugar Man let out an exasperated sigh and filled the air with thick smoke . . . ‘You guys don’t do any drugs?’ ‘Nope.’ ‘Amazing,’ he said . . . Then he reached for the pipe, took another enormous pull, and sat back. His eyes glazed over . . .What do you do when a good tree bears bad fruit or a bad tree bears good fruit? Look harder. What’s your definition of a Christian? Is it broad enough to encompass the drug dealers, pimps, prostitutes, and broken people of the world? . . . What’s worse? To not do dope or to not love your brother? Why do we kick drug dealers out of the church while quietly ignoring those who aren’t dealing with other, equally destructive sins? Why do we reject the loving, self-sacrificing, giving, encouraging, Jesus-pursuing drug addict but recruit the clean, self-interested, gossiping, loveless churchgoer?”
“An ongoing struggle to find safety, a place to sleep, a bathroom, and food becomes dehumanizing for anyone. One experience at a time, a person’s sense of dignity and sense of self-worth gets stripped away. I don’t kow what the experience would be like for someone who has lived on the streets for thirty years. But I do know this: blithely allowing this terrible stripping to occur is a blot on the conscience of America, and especially on the conscience of the church. If we as believers choose to forget that everyone–even the shrunken soul lying in the doorway–is made in the image of God, can we say we know our Creator?”
“We still had a few minutes before the service began, and Sam had an idea. ‘I’m going to ask the pastor if he can help us out with some food. My stomach is growling.’ He got up and walked away, but was back shortly, looking disgusted. ‘You wouldn’t believe what just happened,’ he said. ‘So, I went and asked for the pastor . . . I asked him if he could help us out, if he could hook us up with someone who could feed us. I told him we didn’t have any money, that the panhandling here was bad.’ Sam paused and shook his head. ‘You know what he said? He said, That’s not what we do here. We’re here to worship. We can’t confuse our purpose. . . .’I didn’t have anything to say to that, so I just nodded and walked away,’ Sam said . . . The theme of the sermon was memorable: ‘Women shall be saved through childbearing.’ In Berkeley, California. In the year 2003. At the benediction, the pastor spread his arms wide and with a shiny smile loudly proclaimed, ‘May the Lord bless you and keep you! May He turn his face to you and give you peace!’ I felt like I was going to be sick . . . [conversation with Sam afterwards] ‘Why do we so often overlook obvious ways to show the love of God we so loudly proclaim?’ Without waiting for an answer, I charged on. ‘If someone’s thirsty, give them a drink! If someone’s hungry, feed them! I mean, this is not complicated stuff.’ Sam agreed. ‘Who is to show the world Christ’s love if not the church?’ ‘No one,’ I said definitively . . . ‘Do you feel loved?’ ‘Nope.’ ‘Do you feel fed?’ ‘Nope. I’m starving! What about you?’ ‘I’m starving and my feet hurt, and that guy back there knows it. But, hey, he’s praying for us.'”
” . . . Should you give money to the beggars? . . . The simple answer is, ‘probably not,’ but I need to qualify that. Obviously, Sam and I survived on just such donations. And we met other homeless men and women whose only income was from money dropped into a hat or cup. Unfortunately, it’s also true that the majority of the men and women we knew on the streets would–within a half hour of receiving a donation–spend it entirely on drugs or alcohol . . . That’s why I recommend you give something other than cash. For example, gift certificates to fast-food restaurants make a good alternative . . . Having said that, I think the most meaningful gift might be your genuine attention and caring. It was amazing how much a smile or quick hello did for Sam and me on the streets, partly because such kindnesses were so rare. When someone stopped to talk, even for a minute, the powerful underlying message was, ‘I notice you, you’re a human being, and you’re worth my time. If you can, consider buying a take-out meal from a nearby restaurant and sitting with the person while they eat.”