Sunday, August 05, 2007

Garbage for dinner and the spaghetti vat

I've eaten a lot in my 29 years of existence. And I've eaten well. Maybe too well, I began to think Saturday when I saw a teenage boy lift the lid to a trash can at Pioneer Square and peer inside. The way he probed the container told me it was routine. A man tossed garbage into the can while he was still digging through it.
"Do you want some food?" I asked.
He did.
I asked him to wait while I crossed the square to our cooler, hours ago packed with sack lunches. It was nearly empty, but there was one sandwich left. I regretted eating my own lunch. I wasn't even hungry. I certainly didn't need the Fritos.
But I hurried back to the spot where I'd left him, ready to apologize that it was only half a lunch. He was sitting patiently beside the trash can, army green backpack still on his back. He seemed so thankful that I'd returned. I don't know why I didn't talk to him more. Maybe I felt the collective shame of the situation. Maybe I just wasn't thinking. I told him there was a spaghetti dinner Monday in the park.

Probably the most enjoyable part of the whole mission trip for me was serving up spaghetti in the park. Half the fun was scooping it out of this big cooler. The other half was looking into the faces of people from all walks of life and blessing them. I saw the homeless teen from the trash can, and he brought two friends.

I also met Will, a former volunteer firefighter who had difficulty getting his "mind and mind to work together" since an incident with a "flying tree" caused his brain damage. The accident left him with the mental capacity of the sucessful trial lawyer he once was, and the emotional capacity of a teenager. "I'm a highly-functional, mentally disabled person," he tells me. Then later he sighs, "I'm an orphan." The gray-haired man explains that his parents died ten years ago. I see the mind and the mind struggling to synch.

As Will got his hair cut, I found I had much in common with a man named Michael... He is scraggly, with a long gray beard and hair. He's wheelchair bound, one leg lost to gangrene. He's gay, but yielded to God. Michael, like me, loves Japanese food and likes art. And would like one day to open a shopping mall as a tool for the gospel. I could have talked to Michael the whole evening, but as I had to leave him to serve in the food line, he said he wanted to take Joe and I out to eat at an expensive seafood restaurant. But only after his welfare check comes.

I couldn't accept, God already invited me over to eat humble pie that night.

Will and Michael live in the same building, and though they aren't the best of friends, they ate our spaghetti dinner side by side. I got to savor the scene from the food line.

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