another day down

This summer, I was back in Louisville three times, leading poverty education programming at UrbanSpirit and wrapping up the summer with our interns. I developed the poverty simulation that we do at UrbanSpirit, and have facilitated it many times over the past 10 years. And no two simulations are exactly alike.

So, two things happened that have stayed with me.

One morning, I arrived at the church to start our morning program, I saw two men sleeping on the back steps of the house next door – the house where our groups were living for the week. They were tucked in soundly. Not in the yard, or under a tree, or on the sidewalk, but on the back steps, one of them snuggled up against the back door, as if guarding it. or something. The group was still in the house, though they were supposed to be already in the church building waiting for me. I hated disturbing the men, but I needed to get in, and our group would need to get out. So I began talking to them gently, sort of like my new alarm app on my phone – softly at first, then more insistent, until they finally awoke; then, while I turned my head, they crawled out of their sleeping bags and pulled their pants on. They introduced themselves, Mickey and George, apologized for being in the way (while I was apologizing for disturbing them), and said they were new in town and this was the safest place they could find to sleep. I told them they were welcome to sleep there, but needed to be moved away from the door by 7 each morning.

And I thought of the indignity, the insecurity.

Later, as I walked from church to my truck, I passed a man walking with groceries. The grocery store was a mile away from where I encountered him, and he wasn’t home yet. He was cutting through the parking lot to save a few steps. I greeted him in some inane way. Like “hey, how are ya.” And he replied: “another day down.”

Another day down. I have probably said a similar thing in a flippant sort of way. Or maybe in a burdened way when the day was busy or challenging or I kept getting interrupted or there was a line at the post office or the coffee spilled or the printer was out of ink or the stapler inexplicably quit functioning or someone gave me a look for no good reason or I forgot to put out the recycling or they were out of whatever I couldn’t live without at target.

This wasn’t like that. This wasn’t a half-smile “oh you know how some days just are frustrating.” This was “another day down.” And his face and energy and body language told me he had no reasonable hope that tomorrow would be any different.

My bad days aren’t really as minor as the printer-target-coffee-recycling kind. Neither are yours, I’m guessing. Mom fell and broke something, family doesn’t live up to expectations, the truck needs work. We go through death and divorce, moves and major illnesses, upheaval and unraveling. Stuff happens and life seems untenable. And if we have resources – and unless our brains have rebelled against any sense of well-being and hopefulness – mostly we get through it.

But what if I had no resources?

Another day down. Because today sucks and tomorrow isn’t going to be different.

The question looms: why are we church?

The answer haunts: to mend a broken world.