Thursday, February 11, 2010

So shut off the neon, already!

When Wonderful Husband and I were in seminary, he worked for a homeless ministry and I worked in downtown San Francisco. Not so different on a daily basis. What we noticed that was, even in our off hours -- not at work, not doing outreach -- we attracted crazy people. You know what I mean by crazy people? Everyone from I-can't-get-out-a-single-linear-sentence crazy to just-as-soon-kill-you-as-talk-to-you crazy to I-know-we-haven't-met-but-here's-my-life-story crazy. On the days that the crazies who accosted us outnumbered the other contacts we had, we were certain that we had bright neon signs, visible only to others, that said "crazy people welcome!".

Sometimes the neon would be on and we'd just get a lot -- I mean dozens -- of strangers coming up and talking to one or the other of us. Sometimes it would be less confrontational, like the weeks that one of my classmates had a crush on me and followed me everywhere. Everywhere. Hiding behind trees. Leaving really strange gifts. (Yes, I reported it as stalking. Yes, it stopped eventually.) Or the day that one of the homeless guys we both knew grabbed Wonderful Husband by the throat as we said hello to him. Or the day that another of our guys started daydreaming aloud about the children he'd injured. When the neon is on, it's not about numbers but about quality of interaction.

By and large our church lacks neon. We've had a few challenges -- your average dual-diagnosis homeless men, the borderline personality who would scream at our poor office manager over the phone when I wasn't in to scream at, the really broken soul who didn't realize that it was her own behavior that caused the problems she had -- but nothing constant or really dramatic.

But I think that the lack of neon, the lack of drama, is taking its toll on people. Over the last few months, a couple of our regular members -- clinically sane people -- have started acting out in that oh-so-lovely nice churchy passive-aggressive way. You know: the ones who that whatever whim they have must be a church priority even if everything else has to come to a stop or a full 180 to accommodate them -- until they drop it suddenly because they got bored or distracted, leaving behind angry and confused helpers and unfinished work. Or the ones who whimper about how hurt and damaged they are (no fault of their own) as they systematically work over everyone in their paths. Or the ones who will pick fights with the mother-figure (me) because their spouses won't take it anymore. And, my perennial favorites: the ones who brag about their money, give less than a mite, and then want personalized service (including monetary investment) from The Church.

So Lord, if you're listening, would you shut off the neon, please? Or give me whatever patience you've got, because right now I just want to unplug the whole damned electrical system.

No comments: