Three incidents from Sunday 09/18:
(1) I caught the racial vibe as soon as she came in the room.
(2) In the middle of worship, I looked at my situation. I needed to touch base sometime during the service with _____, _____ and _____, any of whom might give me cash; for smokes, bus fare and candy. I also needed to touch base sometime during worship with each of three other people ISO a ride “home.” My petty, material, selfish neediness so preoccupied me, I couldn’t get into the spirit of worship at all. This did not feel good.
(3) At the shelter, in the shower, for a washcloth they gave me a strip of fabric that had been torn from a towel, two inches wide and six inches long. That was to be my washcloth.
I responded as follows.
(1) Accepting others’ prejudices
In praying for myself earlier that morning, I had asked why there has been no improvement of my material circumstances. Based on “Your Heart’s Desire” and “Essay on Prayer,” I have been convinced, had the conviction, that the creation of spiritual prosperity — specifically, goodwill — inevitably produces material prosperity — specifically, shalom, that is, peace, health, happiness, and wealth. This is what I have preached and sought to practice as the path out of poverty. I have hoped to see this manifest in my own life; I have hoped to become a role model for others. I have thought I have done the best I know how, and have been at it for some time now. No change.
The answer came, “You still have a long way to go.” As well as I do do, and as much progress as I’ve made, I still spend far too much time when my mind and soul are idle — while on a smoke break, for example, or walking to and from the mission — dwelling in anger and resentments at the way things are, the ways other people act.
Things won’t change until I change that.
Related: Learning curve
Afterwards, came this encounter.
After service, downtown at Dunkin’ Donuts, I nursed my coffee and pondered.
I hadn’t seen this young lady in weeks. Every day, at a certain point in my prayer routine, I pray for her by name, with no words and no ideas (See “Desire as prayer.”); albeit we are alienated. I pray for her because I am directed to. I have no clue what good my prayers are supposed to do her. If I have a mind to omit her name on any given day, I wind up being directed to pray for her anyway.
In fairness to her, her situation is complicated. In fairness to me, my response must be simple.
It’s not my job to uncomplicate her situation. Rather, it’s my job to live my life according to my chosen path.
Her kind have thousands of reasons to resent people who look like me — thousands of pretexts for malice. It’s not my job to unravel them all; or even to concern myself with the fact that the malice is there.
Seemingly contrary feelings can sometimes co-exist. Anger and love may co-exist when a parent disciplines a child. The parents of a bride may experience sadness and joy together, at the same moment.
Resentment and hope cannot co-exist, however. I may alternate between them, even several times a second. But I cannot feel them both at once. Each one excludes the other.
Every second that I spend dwelling in resentment, or dwelling on others’ resentments, is a second I do not spend dwelling in hope (that is, prayer) for the improvement of my situation.
If this other person is prejudiced against me, I am best to just accept it and move on. Dwelling on resentments — my own or someone else’s — is a luxury I cannot afford.
(2) Feeling in the opposite direction
I could have sat there bemoaning, resenting, my neediness, for the duration. I chose to seek better, both for the moment and for the long term. Ambrose Worrall said, “The way to overcome [an] unwanted thought is to think its opposite.” What’s the opposite of seeing myself as needy?
I chose to dwell on hope that I become generous. I imagined myself generous. I spent time praying to become generous. Then my own needs will be met, and I will be giving, not taking.
(3) Taking things in stride
Sometimes I think “they,” meaning the programmers who work in the laundry room, etc., regard us homeless as second-class citizens who deserve humiliation at every turn. They give us socks that should have been thrown away, and make no effort to match up socks in pairs.
In this instance, I could have fumed about that “washcloth” no end. And accomplished nothing. I could have fumed about it throughout my whole shower time, and had no reward but 10-15 minutes spent in unhappiness.
I chose to be grateful for the shower itself, and to simply wash as best I could under the circumstances.