Do you think i look too skinny?


This year, for some reason, the powers that be have not run off the homeless folks who sleep under the bridge where Lake Shore Drive goes over Wilson Avenue. So a larger congregation than any i can remember has sprung up this year. In addition to the usual piles of blankets there are even a few tents, though they still seem like little protection against the bitter Chicago winter.

Recently i was taking a walk during our Emmaus Day of Prayer, when we shut down all our normal activity and instead gather to pray. I was headed to the park and lake because i usually find it easier to tune into God’s station in open spaces and nature.

As i approached the bridge, a woman looked up at me from her pile of dingy blankets on the sidewalk. Having hung out in Uptown for nearly 20 years now, i recognized the look and prepared to offer an excuse for not giving her money today.

“Do you want something to eat?” she said. I stopped.

“No, i’m good. But thank you.”

“Okay, honey. You have a nice day now.”

Just on the other side of the underpass, a man sitting on the grass looked up at me as i walked by. When our eyes met, we gave one another the obligatory man-nod. Again, i braced myself for the inevitable petition. And again:

“Hey, buddy, you hungry?”

At this point i looked down to see what i was wearing and if i looked like i had suddenly lost a lot of weight.

“No, i just ate. But thanks.”

Over the years at Emmaus, Andi and i have accepted a lot of offerings from our men. It can be uncomfortable. If it’s food, we don’t always know where it came from. I’m sure a couple of the gifts we’ve been given were stolen. (The men we work with have a moral code, but it’s not always the same as the one i grew up with.) But, to be honest, the real reason it makes me uncomfortable is because these men, who often have so little, shame me with their generosity.

In the gospels, Jesus spoke powerful words and performed powerful miracles. But i think some of his most potent actions came in the form of receiving hospitality. He ate in the homes of tax collectors and sinners. He allowed a woman in prostitution to wash his feet. He accepted water from an adulteress. He dignified so many by simply accepting their hospitality and sitting with them.

In this season of so much material giving, may you offer all that you have to our Messiah, and may you receive from others in a powerful way.

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