I haven't been stood up for a date since freshman year of college (and you know who you are) and believe me it has never happened since...until today. For 10 days in the winter we host a warming shelter for the homeless and it's probably the closest we come to being "church" all year long. I quickly fell in love with one of our guests. The first night he arrived for check-in I swore he was a cross between Captain Ahab and the Gordan's Fisherman. Beard down past his chest, bright yellow down winter coat and I wasn't sure he was sober enough to make it down the stairs- a state that I know all too well myself -and this was definetly a "maybe you should scooch down the stairs rather than try to walk" kind of scenarios...we've all been there!
ID is mandatory for check-in and my dear friend didn't have one. As good Protestants we like to follow the rules and the rules clearly state "must show ID." I was at the pat-down station checking for weapons of mass destructions that our guests may or may not be carrying. I also asked them if they had any items that they needed to declare like it was customs.
Being a smart-ass about it was the only way to compensate for the ridiculous procedures. We were allowed to let people only after 9pm- even though they had been waiting outside ours doors in the freezing cold and rain since 5pm each day- but the procedures stated that we couldn't let them in any earlier because then the other churches would have to as well..."and they might get mad at us." The only statement that kept me from declaring Marshal Law was "and they won't let us do this again next year." Funny that we are only allowed to participate in this ministry if we abide by the letter of the law.
Any way it was when I was at my pat-down command center when I heard the Capt. say, "do I look like I'm faking being homeless, I need a place to eat and sleep. I don't have ID where would it say I lived- in the field two miles from here!""
It was below freezing and these were excellent points but our faithful volunteers couldn't get their brains around the fact that it might be okay to let this gentleman, who clearly meets the criteria for need but that he doesn't have the proper paperwork to, gain access to the services he needed that we were there to provide. The solution was to take a picture of him with my cell phone and somehow that secured his safe passage.
Capt. Ahab has been worshipping with us every Sunday since the Spring. For me it isn't Sunday morning until he slips in the back and sits with my husband and often they talk through the whole sermon like teenagers...although recently he has started attended Sunday School before worship and we drink tea together before class when the whole church is quiet and talk about our week.
Today we were supposed to meet at the church, have some lunch and go do some errands he needed. So I made sure I was driving the super-sporty new car that was just washed, made a CD of music I thought he would like to listen to in the car and picked out a great place for lunch. It was like college all over again....but the Capt. didn't show.
Maybe my turning his request for assistance with filling out paperwork into a whole day of bonding was a deterrant. I scheduled what I thought would be caring and nurturing for him- but the Capt. only needed help with some paperwork- not a new bff. He's always teaching me something!