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This month’s newsletter was originally published on August 1, 2016. We hope you’re still enjoying Christmas and now the new calendar year. Grace and peace to you in this beautiful new year.

***

The van was filled to capacity as we waited at the stoplight on the intersection of South Ridge St and Patton St. It’s a long light before you can turn left down Patton to make the trek up North Main hill, so I had a little bit of time to find a good station on the van’s radio. Each month, we borrow the van from one of our partner congregations to give rides to and from the big meal we host with another partner congregation. While people are often subdued and quietly thankful on their way to the meal, they are more likely to sing and joke on their way home—they are also more likely to want to have the radio turned on. While before the meal the van is a borrowed vehicle, after the meal it has often transformed into a rolling extension of the meal and God’s jubilee. Those who needed the sustenance of the meal join with those who needed the fellowship of the meal until it’s hard to tell the difference between them. Of course, there never was really a difference: they’re both hungry.

As we settled on a popular radio station, we were just in time for a song that is guaranteed to get stuck in your head for hours (if not days!) at a time. “My blood runs cold. My memory has just been sold…” the radio proclaimed as I turned down Patton St toward the river. Before I could reach up to change the radio station or turn the radio off—even road noise would be preferable to J. Geils Band—I noticed that there were several other songs already being sung in the van. In hope that they might have something better to sing, I listened.

As we passed over the bridge under which one of the riders of the bus—one of our brothers and friends—had once taken shelter, I could hear him softly repeating the refrain of a favorite song: “In the name of the Lord,” he sang as he passed over the place where he had once found meager shelter. He had been living there when we first met him and he first started eating with us. Eventually, he moved up to the Northside to a place of his own choosing, where he provided a measure of hospitality to those in direr need—he didn’t have much, but what he had, he shared. Still thankful for how God was moving in his life, his quiet, repeated chorus sounded to me like one of fledgling hope finding root in community.

Passing the elementary school on North Main St where so many of our younger brothers and sisters had once attended, I noticed the crowd of children singing, “The wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round, round and round…” Their school had been shut down when the city made budget cuts and many of them were now bussed to a different city school. Though their little school had once had a greater than 93% free and reduced lunch rate, it had been one of the highest performing schools in the city. Its students, in the middle of one of the largest food deserts in the city, had outperformed the meager expectations of those who didn’t know their powerful potential with the help and guidance of loving teachers and administrators. But, their school was older and smaller in a city with fewer and fewer students, so it was closed. As several of the parents joined their song, I thought about how some of them were still succeeding, but others were falling behind. I wondered if they sang that song when they didn’t have to ride the bus to get to school; I wondered if there were any better solutions. Yet, in that moment, their song sounded defiantly joyful.

As we drew closer to our stop on North Main, we passed a side street where a number of our dearest friends have struggled with their own sobriety. A particular house on that street was a perpetual source of slavery for our friends who struggled against addictions. It was near that street that I heard Evan singing, “Shut the door, keep out the devil, shut the door, keep the devil in the night” with a voice so insistent that I nearly reached for the door handle. Evan had baked and brought two pies that night: a lemon meringue pie that everyone raves over and a chocolate pie that is his personal favorite. He was very pleased to carry back empty pie tins to his tiny home where he keeps meticulous watch over a little, but constantly expanding, garden. That night, in addition to his very popular pies, he had also brought with him a 1-month-keychain from Narcotics Anonymous for which he was equally proud. His catchy chorus was joined by another sister who shared his struggles, but who had recently relapsed. In her mouth, the song sounded less insistent and more pleading.

As the last chords of “Centerfold” faded from the radio, I gave thanks for the other songs being offered in the van and the voices that lifted them up quietly or boisterously. A part of our commitment to living life in community and to the practices of hospitality, simplicity, prayer, and relationship has meant learning new songs and how to sing them—not just the songs we sing at prayer and on porches, but also the songs that the neighborhood sings in its heart; the stories it tells to those who will pay attention. If we cultivate the ears to hear, and the eyes to see, we find that the siren song of our world and its temptations ends up sounding like a forgettable, synthesizer heavy, 80s new wave hit. That is to say, cheap and inauthentic when compared to the vibrant songs we learn to sing of God’s goodness from those who’ve experienced it profoundly. We’ve got to sing better songs, and if we don’t know any, then let’s borrow a song from somebody who does. In hopes that they might have a better song to sing, let’s listen.

***
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This month’s newsletter is written by Jessica Hearne, a Grace and Main leader and founding member, Jessica is supported in her work in our community by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, where she is “Field Personnel.” You can read more about her work and find ways to support her directly here.

***

“How do you do this with children?” When people start to learn about our work and way of life, this question is often at the front of their minds and soon upon their lips as well. Like most families, children in our community are very important to us, and we would give practically anything to give them a leg up, open all of the doors, and give them their best possible chance in life. But when people hear that we are inviting people into our home – people who have personal experience with poverty, addiction, homelessness, and hunger – their minds run to how Josh and I and our community can protect Lucy, our 5-year-old daughter, from the unknown and unknowable dangers that they suppose people in these circumstances might bring with them. My mind runs there too, sometimes, but more often it runs to Darius.

We’ve known Darius since before he was born, not quite four years ago. Grace and Main has provided some help and stability to his parents through the years as they prepared for his birth and learned to be a family after his arrival. We know Darius’s extended family members, who all share the responsibility of raising him, making sure he has food to eat, a place to stay, and people around who love him. Darius is pretty quiet and a little bit shy when he comes around us, and I can’t blame him. We’re different: we look different, we live in a different kind of house, and we speak differently (my northern accent still stands out even after more than a decade of tempering in Virginia and North Carolina).

But do you know who doesn’t notice the differences? Our bombastic daughter, Lucy. She saw Darius at a big Grace and Main dinner this summer and immediately decided that he was going to play with her, whether he knew it or not. Lucy ran up to Darius and said, “Let’s play!” then took off to run a lap around the room. To the surprise of everyone who knew him, especially his cousin Sal who had brought him to dinner that night, Darius followed! They played chase around the room for a while, then created an obstacle course using the bottom 3 steps of the loft staircase and some pews that line the walls of the fellowship hall. Then they had a dance party around one of the columns in the middle of the room. When it was time to leave, Darius asked to ride with Lucy. We took him to our house, and they played in the hammock and the sandbox while we waited for Sal to walk over and pick him up.

Even better, it wasn’t a fluke! The next month, at the same regular meal, they did the exact same thing: chase, obstacle course, and dance party. Darius sat next to Lucy and me to eat, and then they were off again. We took him back to our house, and they played outside until Sal picked him up on the way home from dinner. I was glad to give Lucy and Darius a chance to play together, and even happier to offer Sal a few minutes of quiet at the end of a long day. Darius didn’t make it to our most recent big dinner, but Lucy’s obvious disappointment worked on Sal so that he promised that he would make sure Darius is there next month. Lucy and Darius claimed each other and we all just followed right along.

So how do we live this way with children? The best answer we’ve found is that we have to figure it out as we go along. We make friends, invite people in, serve dinner, and pray, and we do it with Lucy – and any other children – present and welcome. Perhaps a better question to ask is, “Why do you do this with children?” Making friends with people who live at the margins, who have personal experience with hunger, addiction, and poverty, teaches and changes us, and it is teaching and changing our daughter. Jesus said that anyone who wants to enter the Kingdom of God has to receive it like a child. Lucy and Darius, by choosing to be friends in spite of the differences that might try to separate them, have a piece of the Gospel that we struggle to find on our own. Sometimes, it seems, the Gospel involves impromptu obstacle courses and dance parties.

We invited Darius to come to Lucy’s birthday party in September. We rented a bounce house, and had pizza and cake with a handful of Lucy’s friends. When Sal dropped Darius off in our back yard, I could tell that he was nervous about the other kids running around. He and Lucy are fast friends, of course, but he’s still learning to play with bigger kids. However, it only took a minute for Lucy to see Darius and pull him into the bounce house with her. The kids bounced and played together for nearly 2 hours, stopping long enough for quick lemonade breaks before running back to bounce. We do community with children because anything we could build without them wouldn’t tell the whole story of God’s love. At five years old, Lucy is not yet able to explain our way of life and community to others, but her jubilant expressions of hospitality tell me that she knows all about it already because she’s been learning it alongside us.

***
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***

“Wait, guys, I’m coming down,” Ed shouted from his second-floor apartment door. He patted his pocket to check for his keys before pulling the door shut and walking quickly to the stairwell at the end of the motel turned apartment complex. This wasn’t the particular apartment we’d helped him move into a few years previous, but it was in the same building. He had moved out of the building we sometimes called “Little Calcutta” in one of our neighborhoods after taking part, and leading, in the justice that God grew there. Ed’s new building wasn’t the nicest in town, but it was leagues ahead of his previous place. More importantly, it was better than nearly all of his accessible and affordable alternatives. Ed insisted he was blessed because he could pay his bills and drink his coffee, even if it was out of a cup he borrowed from a hospitality house.

“Sorry, guys,” Ed said before adding a slight shake of his head and a pursing of his lips to his meaningful pause that told us what was next before he continued, “I can’t make it tonight…you know why.” Of course, we did. Like so many of our brothers and sisters around Grace and Main, Ed’s circumstances mean that he is perpetually at the mercy of other people’s schedules and calendars. If he needs something from the more traditional organizations that help him and offer some form of needed and appreciated support, then Ed often has little control over when they come. So, on many Sundays when we go to pick him up for prayers, Ed cannot come because his help hasn’t come yet. On those Sundays, we remind Ed that he is loved, promise to pray for his mother as he always asks, and insist that we will pray for him, as well.

But this Sunday, our visit didn’t follow its semi-typical script. Ed waved as I put the van into gear and said not too loudly but still insistently, “Hey, wait!” With my foot on the brake, I waited for Ed to continue. “Once they come, I would love to get some dinner at the KFC across the road,” he said as quickly as he could get the words out, “I mean, I don’t need it but I sure would like it.”

I knew I didn’t have any cash in my wallet, but I still patted my pocket before saying, “Sorry, brother, I don’t have any cash on me.” Ed nodded with understanding. But Robert, who was riding in the passenger seat of the van having just been picked up five minutes previous, was already fishing his wallet out of his pocket and flipping it open.

“I’ve got it,” Robert said with a quiet nonchalance while pulling out the last few bills out of his wallet and handing them over to Ed.

“That’s real kind of you,” I said while Ed offered his own more profuse gratitude to Robert. “Seeya next week?” I asked Ed as I prepared to continue our drive.

“Oh yeah,” Ed intoned with a smile that told me he was already thinking about chicken livers as soon as his time was his own again.

Later that evening during a period of extended silence in our prayers, I was reminded of Robert’s generosity so I turned it over in wordless contemplation. I knew that Robert and Ed receive the same kind of monthly check and that money can be equally tight for the both of them. This was certainly not a case of minimal sacrifice; eight dollars was a lot for either man. I wasn’t feeling guilty either because I hadn’t lied to Ed; I gave up lying or deflecting about the contents of my wallet several years into my life with Grace and Main. But, still I was struck by Robert’s generosity—I felt like I had missed an opportunity to do what Robert had done. That is, to be generous not because of a deeply felt need but because of the innate joy of giving for both recipient and giver.

Robert is one of a few Grace and Main regulars who makes sure that my daughter rarely has to go without a Reese’s cup for more than a week or two. In exchange for his gifts, my daughter is keen to remember him in her prayers and often quite eager to greet him. Robert once brought a harmonica to Little Calcutta when he knew that he’d be staying a while after the roving feast to play some music. He passed it to one of the residents who always listened but never had an instrument to join in the impromptu jam session. The new performer didn’t necessarily make pretty music, but it was made beautiful by joy and generosity. One Christmas, Robert bought a pair of boxing gloves for a friend of the community. He had heard the man had been a boxer in years past but had lost nearly all of his possessions in some personal and anonymous disaster. Those gifted gloves weren’t much use for boxing, but they were excellent for the memory of a more hopeful time.

Of course, Robert also gave Grace and Main a number of gifts over the years. His prayers have been constant. He recently finished three years of sobriety. He was also the one who pestered Bruce to come to one of our meals all those years ago. So, in his own way, he gave the community the gift of our dear brother.
I dropped Robert off last that night after prayers so that I’d have a few minutes to ask him about his generosity and why he was so keen to give gifts. Robert acknowledged that he wasn’t sure his gifts would actually change much and conceded easily that they didn’t always address needs so much as wants. “But you like giving, don’t you?” I asked him.

“Yeah, I do,” Robert began, “I like to give because I’ve not always been able to. Now that I can, I really enjoy it.” Rounding the corner toward his home, I hesitated to say anything for fear that I would disrupt his word for me. My silence was paid off when this kind, introverted man continued, “You know, the truth is that sometimes they’ll enjoy what I’ve got more than I will. Just because I’ve got it doesn’t mean I’ll spend it better than they will.” As we pulled up to his door and I thanked him for his time and requested his prayers for something like the thousandth time, he gathered his hat and bag. Robert turned and offered a final word from the gravel path leading to his door, “Sometimes they’ve got better plans for my money than I do—so why not let what I have be theirs?”

***
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***
This edition of our newsletter was written by Nicole Eanes. Nicole is staff member of Third Chance Ministries and works with God’s Storehouse and a number of other wonderful organizations in Danville.

***
Within each of us there is a silence
—a silence as vast as a universe.
We are afraid of it…and we long for it.
When we experience that silence, we remember
who we are: creatures of the stars, created
from the cooling of this planet, created
from dust and gas, created
from the elements, created
from time and space…created
from silence.
In our present culture,
silence is something like an endangered species…
an endangered fundamental.
The experience of silence is now so rare
that we must cultivate it and treasure it.
This is especially true for shared silence.

In this poem by Gunilla Norris, I am reminded of the beauty and power of silence. I am reminded of the sacred space created when we take time out of our busy lives to come back to the basics — the beauty of breathing, feeling, and noticing which allows us to come back home to the present moment with each other and a little more settled into ourselves.

But, to be honest, I thought it was really weird when I first started praying with Grace & Main folks and I realized they practiced silence together.  A bunch of people in a room, sitting in silence together — it was weird for me. A quick glimpse into the mind of this anxious extrovert would sound something like: “what are they even doing? Are they thinking about something? Should I be thinking about something?” So, yeah, it’s pretty obvious I didn’t really understand the practice.

Slowly, after years of sitting with the awkwardness and unknown of the practice with my community, I began to find my rhythm. And I’m learning that this place of reconnection — this place where I can breathe and feel what’s really been happening in my life– can be found in the most ordinary moments. Sometimes I find healing in the silence shared between Roland and I as we ride together on Sunday afternoons to pick people up and drop them off again after prayers. Other times I find truth in the silence of a shared drink with Walter in his backyard after a long week. And sometimes I find the power of silence alone by the river.

I think it’s easy to avoid this space because it’s where deep, holy, and good work occurs. It requires bravery, honesty, and vulnerability to sit with yourself and others in this silent space. A space that gently shows you all of the limiting beliefs you’ve adopted, the lies of scarcity and fear, and echoes of doubt. But there is hope – if you just wait a little bit longer and get really still and silent, you’ll notice that God is using this space to show you something. Showing you that beneath all of the junk we pick up along the way there is a gentle, loved, and hopeful heart patiently waiting to be remembered. Inside of me, inside of you, inside of all of us — present all the time, but most easily found in quiet.

My hope is that you will find comfort in the fact that silence can be scary and awkward for a lot of us — not just you. I hope you find healing and truth and people to practice with. I hope you know that you’re not alone with your overthinking brain and uncertainty of how the practice goes. I hope you know that you are loved on the days you get it right and the days you don’t. And I hope you know that our community is always open to share some space with you.

***
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***
This edition of our newsletter was written by Karen Conner. Karen is a member of the Board of Directors of Third Chance Ministries and a local kindergarten teacher.

***
A tornado came through my backyard woods. Its visit was brief but quite productive. It destroyed a mountain bike trail that we had just finished building. Some of the trees were twisted off like chewed-up toothpicks after a sumptuous Sunday lunch. Some trees were uprooted and lying desperately on the ground as future firewood or lumber and some now lean like a tower in Pisa. The next strong storm could easily topple them. In its very brief appearance, this tornado made my backyard woods look like a war zone.

But today, as I look out our back window, the trees stand in full foliage. The sun sparkles off the leaves and the trees in their various states of rest and unrest continue to provide shade and oxygen. With only a quick glance, you may not see the destruction. You may well be deceived by the beautiful, green foliage.

Isn’t this so symbolic of life? Sometimes, we only take the time to notice how put together a person seems and how bright the foliage of their life appears. We don’t take the time to look deep in their eyes and notice the pain. Even if we do, though, we are quick to look away from the destruction and back to the foliage. We certainly don’t take the time for the uprooted ones, or the broken ones, or the ones chewed-up like a toothpick.

We glance through life and we miss so much in the glancing.

We glance at the disheveled man pushing a shopping cart down the street. Perhaps we note that the cart seems to be holding a number of his strange items that may be all his possessions. We may even discover in our glancing that his clothes show obvious wear from overuse. But we’re quick to turn our focus back on the foliage. To really study him, to consider how he came to be in this situation, to actually reach out to him, to know his name, to develop a relationship—well that would take more than a glance. It would take time and energy that most of us are not willing to depart from our busy lives.

We glance through life and we miss so much in the glancing.

My family is committed to rebuilding the mountain bike trail destroyed by the tornado. We’ve had to spend some money obtaining the right tools to clear literally hundreds of trees from our property. It’s going to take time—a lot of time—and even more energy. There will be setbacks and difficulties figuring out how best to do this. We will definitely have to focus on the uprooted ones, the broken ones, the chewed-up ones, and those about to topple. We can’t afford to focus on the foliage and believe its lie that everything is okay. We can’t just glance our way through this work.

It’s really not so different from the way we must know and care for those who are struggling in our cities and towns. It will be a huge undertaking to reach out to those who have been uprooted by tragedy, broken by circumstance, chewed-up by broken promises, and those about to topple. It will take time—a lot of time—and even more energy. There will be setbacks and difficulties. We will need the right tools: mercy, forgiveness, compassion, and grace. We will need lots of grace. We glance through life and we miss so much in the glancing, but I look forward to the day when we do more than glance and see the beauty that waits behind the foliage.

***
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***

Marlon always calls me when I’m out of town. Over the last year or so, I’ve accumulated a collection of different phone numbers that Marlon has called me from and have saved each one into my phone’s contacts under the name “Probably Marlon.” But, without fail, Marlon calls me when I’m traveling. When his name flashes across the screen of my phone, I can’t help but think of Marlon’s broad smile and throaty, understated laugh. Marlon is a big man with a shaved head, a cheerful presence, and ears eager to hear how others are struggling. He’s just as comfortable sitting on the porch and talking as he is moving furniture and loading or unloading a borrowed pickup truck.

The first couple times Marlon called when I was traveling, I figured he must need something but was deferring his ask when he found out that I wasn’t in town. After all, the summer brings a number of things with predictable regularity in our work, but perhaps none so regularly as increased need in our neighborhood. It wouldn’t be surprising if new needs were creeping into Marlon’s life and he was turning to the community of which he has steadily become a part. We wouldn’t dread the ask—we’d celebrate the trust it showed.

But, Marlon still called me even when I know he knew that I’d be out of town. Talking while we both helped to prepare a community meal, Marlon said to me, “I hear you’re headed to Atlanta. What for?”

“Oh, school,” I responded, “I’ve got class and need to get a ton of writing done.”

Nodding with what might have just been polite interest, Marlon continued: “Oh, well, are you driving or flying?”

“Flying this time,” I admitted, “because the timing is too tight to drive.”

“Oh, I’d go to Atlanta,” Marlon insisted, “but I’m not flying—that’s too dangerous.” With these words, our conversation sprawled into a neighboring duo of Grace and Main leaders, who were checking the contents of the ovens. Over the next fifteen minutes, we had a harmless and shifting conversation about the relative safety or danger of air travel. Like so many of the conversations we share in community, this one was marked by joking and playfulness.

Eventually, Marlon conceded, saying with a wink, “Well, I guess it’s safe for you, but it’s not safe for me.” As we left the meal that night, Marlon grabbed my elbow and wanted to know the precise time of my flight. He assured me, with a smile that called back to the kitchen, that he’d be praying for me. I thanked him and promised that I’d see him in a week or so at evening prayers. Of course, Marlon called me from one of the “Probably Marlon” numbers while I was in Atlanta. After all, Marlon always calls me when I’m out of town. He didn’t need anything, but he wanted to make sure I didn’t either. He wanted to make sure I was okay.

For a while, I wondered why Marlon seemed so worried about my safety when I was away. I wondered if perhaps he had lost somebody in an accident in the years before we knew him. I wondered if his own limited travel experience made it seem more daunting to him than to me. I wondered if it might be a family tradition he was carrying into life in community, as if his family gave special attention to traveling members while they were separated. I wondered if this might be an extension of the way he prayed with us—thoughtfully reflecting on the needs in the room, eyes scanning, before producing a short litany of requests like ticker tape while staring at the rug. I didn’t know why he called but I knew that he did, even if he had to remember again my memorized phone number and borrow somebody else’s phone to do it.

I came close to asking Marlon about it once. As we sat on the front porch one night after prayers and told and listened to stories shared with whoever was around for the telling, I told Marlon how much I appreciated his calls when I was traveling. But, before I could segue into asking him why he called, he smiled and said, “Oh, well, you know I’ve gotta check in on you,” before continuing with a softer, less-joking smile, “because you belong here with us.” I assured him that I knew that and thanked him again for his prayers and thoughts. Usually, I’d respond to words like those by assuring him that he belonged here with us, too. It’s a practiced move that is equal parts hospitality and deflection. But, in the moment, I said nothing and just patted Marlon’s knee.

Whenever I travel now, I look forward to a call from “Probably Marlon” and everything that it means. Maybe we’ll catch up about his family, maybe we’ll talk about the Urban Farm and what he’s growing there, and maybe we’ll just go over the upcoming schedule again. But, one thing I know for certain: Marlon always calls me when I’m out of town. Now I know why.

***
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***

I was just getting ready to start Sunday evening prayers at one of our community’s hospitality houses when an unfamiliar brown sedan pulled to a hesitant stop in front of the house. I didn’t recognize the woman who got out of the back but I recognized the driver from a local congregation. The driver didn’t make eye contact with me as I walked off the porch toward the street. I imagined that perhaps the driver and his unknown companion would be joining us for prayers, so I was eager to greet them. But, as the anonymous woman closed the car door and I recognized the tears in her eyes for what they were, the driver departed without a word. With a familiar, sorrowful look, the woman sat down on the curb.

With a quick glance around the porch, I hoped to find somebody whose expression would show that they knew the woman or perhaps had some idea what had just happened. What I found in the faces of those who make up our little community was surprise and a creeping realization that this woman had been abandoned here by somebody who didn’t know what to do with her. For all of us, this was a tragedy; but for some of us, this was a familiar experience.

Sitting on the curb next to her, I coaxed her name—Kathleen—from her between sobs and looked back over my shoulder to see if anybody had figured out what to do yet. Kathleen and I were joined on the curb by Brandon. With his intimate experience of what it’s like to be “somebody else’s problem,” Brandon took the lead as I fumbled for words and understanding and Kathleen tried to catch her breath.

Like Job’s friends before they messed it up with their words and false confidence, Brandon kept silence and helped me to do the same. Brandon didn’t know what to do, he later admitted, but he knew how to be a witness to suffering so that one of God’s children doesn’t have to suffer alone. When Kathleen fumbled in her pockets only to find an empty pack of cigarettes, Brandon offered her one of his in a gesture that our shared life in community has taught me to call generous and merciful. With a shaking hand, Kathleen smoked her borrowed cigarette and began haltingly to tell a piece of her story to two silent strangers whom chance and a fast-moving sedan had compelled her to trust.

As Kathleen explained that she wasn’t from Danville and was, in fact, from High Point, North Carolina, I could hear quiet footsteps approaching. Another one of our community’s leaders brought Kathleen a glass of ice water and whispered to me that prayers would wait. While Kathleen began to explain that she had ended up in Danville in order to escape an abuser in North Carolina, yet another one of our leaders started up a conversation on the porch thirty feet away. There wasn’t anything special about the conversation, but so many of our folks know well from past experience what kind of story Kathleen was likely to tell. They also know how hard it is to tell when you’re worried that you might have an audience.

So, in the place of prayers, our little community talked about nothing much in particular and offered a grace that sounds like a low, inconsequential murmur. What our people knew—what they had learned from their own similar, hard experiences—was that you didn’t need to know exactly what to do in order to do something good. Sometimes we all are tempted to strive for acts of great, heroic love and not be satisfied with little acts of love. In pursuit of big solutions, we risk seeing people as problems.

Kathleen continued her story but interrupted every other sentence with an apology for being drunk. Kathleen seemed to hope that her many apologies would pry mercy from our unwilling hands. Brandon spoke for us both when he quietly reassured Kathleen that she was welcome, even if unexpected, and that we weren’t interested in judging her. With that tiny shred of confidence in our hospitality, Kathleen opened up and expressed her fear and anger to us. She was angry at her abuser. She was afraid to go back to High Point. She was angry at feeling abandoned. She was afraid because she didn’t know her way around Danville and didn’t have a place to stay or food to eat. She was angry at herself for leaving her ID in High Point, but she had done so because of the fear that had gripped her heart in her escape.

Then came the question I knew was coming, as Kathleen made eye contact with me for the first time and asked, “So, what can I do?” I had been dreading this imminent question because, like the driver of the brown sedan, I didn’t know what to do. Kathleen wanted to go back to High Point but was also afraid to go back. She wanted to stay in Danville but had no material or social resources here. She wanted to be sober but didn’t feel like she could be yet.

I excused myself for a moment to make a few phone calls and see what our options were for making a place for Kathleen. After about fifteen minutes of phone calls, I still had very few options because there are very few places that pick up the phone on a Sunday evening. Discussing those few options with a handful of our community’s leaders led us to doing something we’d done before but which I still find relatively uncomfortable: making a promise and then counting on God to keep it. We didn’t know what to do, but we trusted that God did and then went about our business of little acts of love.

We convinced Kathleen to join us for an impromptu meal in the kitchen of the hospitality house. We hadn’t been planning on eating, but we didn’t want her to have to eat alone. Sunday Evening Prayer became sandwiches and a tray of finger foods that week. While most of us shared lemonade and tea, one of us made a reservation at a local hotel for a few nights. Between bites of egg custard left over from a meal earlier that week, we promised Kathleen quietly that we could do more nights of shelter if it took longer to find a solution and we scheduled a time the next day for us to sit down and figure out her options.

While taking Kathleen to her hotel room, I repeated to her out loud what the sandwiches and egg custard had said more subtly: “you’re not alone and you’re not a problem.” As I drove back from the hotel room, I had a short voicemail on my phone with an awkward apology from the driver of the brown sedan.

“I just didn’t know what else to do,” he told my voicemail with an apology tinging the corners of his voice.

“Neither do I,” I confessed to God, myself, and no one else in particular, “but I’m not sure that always matters.”

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