A Lenten Feast

Things have felt kind of same-old, same-old recently. Meals have been going fine, the family is stable and healthy, the community dealing with the usual ups and downs. So in the everydayness of living at the house, the last place I thought I would end up on an Ash Wednesday was in a line at the counter of a McDonald’s on Independence Ave.
Mark and I had just helped our friend Amir find a different bed–one that hopefully wouldn’t hurt his back. We loaded it into the big white van and drove it to his tiny, run-down apartment. Amir is lucky to have any apartment, he had been homeless for quite a while when I first met him. Two years ago I remember counseling him on strategies to put his social security check to better use. He would stay in motel rooms until his check ran out and then stay at the mission until the next one came. He hated staying in the mission, he’d tell me all the time. So one day I just said to him as forcefully as possible: “Amir! Why are you staying in the motel rooms? Stay in the mission for a whole month, save up your money so you can get an apartment and then you’ll never have to stay in the mission again!”
I don’t know if it was my advice that did it, but now he has an apartment and has been stable there for a number of months.
Amir is a kind and generous man, and so he wanted to treat us after our hard work of moving the bed. He took us to McDonalds and wouldn’t take no for an answer. So much for Lenten fasting!
It was the McDonald’s House Catholic Worker there for a few hours. We saw a number of our friends come in and out while we were there, and I talked and listened as Amir chattered along about all kinds of subjects. People filled up on coffee and chicken nuggets. The food wasn’t that great, but the companionship couldn’t be beat. A gentleman who was sitting next to us struck up a conversation about religion and homelessness with Mark that started with the loaded question, “Are you all religious?”
I had been reading in Psychology Today that Americans are suffering from a lack of public spaces, and so they are constantly upgrading and expanding their homes to make up for that essential need. Yes. Affluent, suburban Americans are suffering from a lack of public spaces. But those of us who cannot upgrade our homes, those of us who perhaps have no home at all, will continue to make use of whatever public space we can find. Right now, that happened to be a couple of swingy-style chairs at McDonalds.
I don’t know how Amir eventually ended up in an apartment. If I can get him to listen long enough, someday I will ask him. But I bet that however he got there it took some sacrificing along the way.
We can all spend our lives in motel rooms, spending up our check every month and having no place to call our own. I guess the lesson is the sacrifice of Lent, giving up some things in hope of the Resurrection. Letting some things die so that others can live. Eating some Chicken Mcnuggets as a sign of our humility, our reliance on others and therefore our reliance on God.

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