it's about 545PM and i'm heading with my buddy lauren to meet some friends, our bags filled with pb&j and little water bottles in the back. we join up with our six guy friends and begin driving, to areas most of us haven't been or don't want to go. we are physically pulling ourselves out of our comfort zones, each boundary line a little different, but by the time we hit 10th and Troost, we all feel it.
as we step into the darkened KC streets, there is not one of us that doesn't feel a little bit awkward or uncomfortable. as casually as we are dressed, we stand out with our brand name sneakers and my white and orange bag. ok, I stand out a lot. but ten white people on a neighborhood that most white people choose to avoid or at least drive through are going to stand out. i'm sure they are all asking the same question we are, "what are they doing here?"
Jesus said that to do to the least of these, you do to Him. you feed someone who is hungry, you are feeding Jesus. you give someone shelter, you are sheltering Jesus. this was the driving force behind our night, but more than that, i wanted to share in the humanity of our city. you can drive through KC in your locked car, tunes up and miss quite a lot of it. i wanted to sit and eat with them, to look into their eyes and extend acceptance. i wanted to hear their stories and learn from their life. but all of this requires that initial contact, that first entrance into the city. and it was similar to jumping in a cold pool headfirst.
we stopped at the bus stop. we walked all around various blocks. people crossed the street when they saw us coming. but as we walked, the pulse of the city began to rise up. the fear and insecurities i came in with fell away, fluttering on the pavement like strewn paper; as i ate my pb&j on a bench and smiled at passing people, and they smiled back; as i approached a man named John with a bloodied face and shook his hand; as i looked into Darryl teary eyes and Kevin's heavy ones. and in their place, i felt love and connection rise up. these people are my brothers. my fellow humanity. people that for one reason or another have been discarded by we who call ourselves civilized. i don't even care why they are there - all i care about is if they are hungry and willing to eat with me. if they need to talk and want to share. if they are thirsty and willing to drink with me. my goal was not to end their poverty or "fix it" or even to tell them about Jesus. my goal was simply to live with them, and not just once hopefully, but in a sustaining way that extends friendship. granted, i am leaving shortly, but i know that there will be part of my community growing with their community. and that gets me excited.
and in all of it, i became that much more excited to leave for Peace Corps. this is what i get to do for the next two years...to move into a place of living that is much poorer and different than my situation, but is currently home to my future family. i will live as they live and learn from them, trying to experience the world through their eyes. i can't imagine a richer experience.