Wednesday, August 27, 2008

I Bet You $1 You'll Read This

That's what the guy's cardboard sign read, held in grimy hands, resting on red, inflamed legs of an emaciated man sitting in a wheelchair outside the Petco Park where I was about to go to my first Padres baseball game. I read it. I didn't give him a dollar. I went inside and had a great time, between great company, home runs, and a win for the home team it was the quintessential summer San Diego experience.

On our way out of the stadium, I saw the man again, people milling around him. He was staring off, his eyes were downcast and a pale blue made more dramatic by his dirty, olive-skinned face. His eyes were sort of beautiful. I asked my group to wait a minute as I dug around in my purse. I produced a granola bar and presented it to the man asking, “Are you hungry?” I realize this was sort of an absurd question, but it was enough to jolt him out of his thoughts. He graciously accepted it. I reached for his hand and gave it a squeeze and said, “Take care of yourself”. More than anything, he seemed surprised by my touch.

San Diego is home to so many more (at least visible) suffering from poverty than I was used to seeing in Lincoln, and this Monday, my bemusement with the number of homeless I see on a day-to-day basis outgrew my complacency. I participated in an outreach called FloodLove, organized by my church during which a group of us meet at a supermarket in the heart of downtown, buy up some groceries, and hit the streets to seek out the homeless. They’re not hard to find. We ask them what they need, water, food, talk to them and learn their stories, make physical contact, and, if it feels like the right time, witness. We gave away eight bibles this week, we only give them if the person asks for one, they know we’re from the church so they’ll typically ask if they want one.

It was an incredible experience, but as we walked away from people calling after us “God bless you” and “Thank you so much, much appreciated”, I saw incompletion in the small piles of food on soiled blankets or being eaten with dirty fingers. What good will our snacks and kind words do by tomorrow once hunger and discouragement return?

Luckily, I know this amazing woman, Lindsey Partridge, who just so happens to work at the San Diego Rescue Mission to aid the homeless. Their mission, as she explained to me last night, is not only to provide meals and shelter, but to also transition the homeless into functioning citizens with purpose. She added that several former clients of theirs now work in the office. It fills me with hope to think of one of the men or women I met on the street going from a shopping cart and blanket to a place to live, a change of clothes, and food in cupboards. How often I take these things for granted.

So the plan is to collect some pamphlets on and educate myself about this organization so I can offer a next step should someone be interested, and trust me, many of them are.

As I conclude this lengthy post, know that this is not a page in the Charitable Life of Meg Schudel. If it were my choice, I would be sitting on my butt watching a movie rented from the library sipping a glass of wine in my cozy apartment (which may or may not be my plan for this evening). In fact, Monday evening, one hour before I was supposed to meet up with FloodLove, I didn’t feel well at all. It’s been so very long since God’s actually said anything to me, that I’ve forgotten what his voice sounds like. I still talk to Him, but I’ve ceased to even expect a response. But I asked God, “Okay, I feel like crap. But I think going is the right thing to do. So what do you want?” immediately, I heard “Feed my sheep”. It sounded like my voice in my head, but it had not come from me. I know because it was so automatic, so without process or consent.

So whatever else comes from this new purpose God has for me, I have to tell ya, I’m just glad He’s talking to me again.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

How am I? Better to ask, where am I?

Today my body and half my mind went to the office. That's most of me; a pretty good margin, anyway. The other half of my mind was elsewhere:

-I stood in the stands at the Olympics and smelled the sweat coming off the athletes and looked up through the hole in the Bird's Nest and watched clouds sail by. (Obviously, my imagination transcends both place and time, but whatever)

-I flew to Venice and reclined in a gondola, trailing my fingertips in the water as I glided past the architectural feats lining the canal.

-I lounged in an opium den in India and let myself myself be the water, the smoke be the tea that steeped and saturated my clothes, hair, and senses.

-I sat around the long table at the cabin in Estes Park playing cards with my family, calling each other "sorry ass" and laughing so hard everyone's glasses came off as we wiped tears out of our eyes. "Y'act like you haven't got any sense," Grandma said which only caused us to double over in laughter again.

-I drove to Napa and stomped grapes and paid tribute to bacchus.

-I returned to France to share breakfast on a balcony with a debonair gentleman who refused to make any plans for the day or any following because, really, what was the point?

-I was swept up in a blur of sequins, stilts, and color at Carnival in Brazil.

-I stood before an intimidating Easter Island statue and wondered at how immovable and ancient it was.

-I sat around a table laden with tapas and sangria with my nearest and dearest girlfriends, pulling my shawl closer around me against the cool breeze coming off the Mediterranean coastline only to have my girls make me laugh so hard that it slipped right off again.

That's about all I had time for.

How was your day?

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Sand in My Shoes Due to No Self Control

My pointy-toed leather flats are full of sand. My favorite jeans smell like low tide, and pieces of sea glass clinked together in the pocket as I wriggled out of them at the front door. I stepped out of the jeans and glanced back, it looks as though an invisible man followed me into the house and proceeded to obscenely drop trou. Three hours later they're still there. I ate some pizza and I haven't gotten around to washing the dish yet, two hours later. The contents of my suitcase are strewn all over and I'm not really sure what article of clothing my cell phone is under so sorry if I missed your call. But I'm home. I'm home in Cali though I just returned from home in Lincoln. I didn't know a person could have two homes, I thought you only got one at a time. Wrong.

Today I went to my library by the sea after work. After agreeing to a beading-and-pizza date (because pizza is popular with the young folks, as my adorable librarian Connie said) this Thursday, I left with some books on how to write, much to my blog audience's rapture. But once outside, I could smell it. Though I had made an extensive to-do list in my journal to which I knew I should adhere, I bypassed the way home in order to turn down a familiar street and saw it rise up like a wall before me. I parked, rolled up my jeans (little good it does me, I always go in nearly waist deep) and slid down the worn cliff path to the ocean. I always promise myself I'll return to the car somewhat dry; never happens. The water seduced me into immersing my feet then my calves then my knees until my whole body begged for the sun-warmed waves to take all of me.

I collected sand-worn glass bits. I have no idea what makes such innocuous objects so fascinating. I can tell you that as a kid I was clumsy and, as a result, broke a lot of glass. "Mary Margaret, don't EVER touch broken glass!" I resented my mother for not allowing me to pick up the glass with my fingers; if performed slowly, the process of collecting glass shards is a fairly simple and harmless one. I liked how glass looked when broken with no consideration for shape or line. It was beautiful and dangerous. My mother was right, of course, in protecting me, but someday I intend to bring my daughter to the ocean and teach her that there actually is a perfectly acceptable time to pick up broken glass; once the ocean has had its way with it.

When I stood on the shore tonight, when all the surfers were making their way back to their cars, I fixated on the empty expanse of water and felt, for a moment, as if I'd reached the edge of the world and I was the only one in it. It was so peaceful and I felt more aware of my senses than I had in a while. The broken shells and coral bit into my feet, the water glided around my ankles, and the wind lifted my hair effortlessly off my shoulders. I thought at that moment that I was happy to be the last person on earth left only with the ocean but then a small voice said, "Does it feel good?" For a second I thought, "God?" then processed, registered the voice as that of a child, and looked to my left to see a skinny black girl staring at me. She wore a purple bikini, had pig tails, and huge curious eyes. I rifled around in my mind in order to employ some articulate explanation of just how good it felt but produced only a "Yes." She laughed and said "I like the water too but why am I so scared of it?" and kicked some sand at the offending element. I didn't have any idea what to say, I wish I'd said something sage about respecting the ocean without fearing it and shared a very sesame street moment with her but instead, I just took a few steps deeper, put my hands into the air, palms facing her as if to say "See? Not so bad." She laughed and stepped in further too. There was no more interaction and I loved her for her outrageously overenthusiastic cries at each and every found treasure (read broken seashell and algae bit) just like I used to.

I miss Nebraska already, but I'm here in San Diego with my first and greatest love; the ocean.