I broke my own rule today. I gave forty bucks knowing that at least some of it will probably go for booze and cigarettes for Shawn and his wife. Most of it will go for food. They are crashed in the apartment of a pot smoker who eats all their groceries in the night, but it’s that or a panel van under the bridge. Not much of a choice with nighttime lows heading for the teens. Meanwhile, they wait for the outcome of the low-income housing lottery.
I’ve always been partial to the margins—those spaces that frame the story, a whiteness that begs to be marked with argument and response or, as in ancient Bibles, the extravagance of precious pigments, silver and gold leaf. Illuminated texts, they are called: shot through with color and light.
And now I find myself in a new kind of margin, skirting the edges of the crowd. Where I’m traveling, the drunk on the sacristy steps interrogates this story titled “America in the 21st Century” or maybe just “Humanity.” Two young boys running the streets after dark duck into the bright light of the parish hall, all tough and bluster, for their only meal of the day. These margins are filled with question marks, broken windows, expired tokens. But also written here are love and mercy and worship. Everywhere: the fingerprints of God.
Alongside the story of the deaf homeless woman—her baby due in February—a jotted memory: the liquid green of light through leaves, lush hum of wings from the dogwood tree. There is nothing so merciful as a swarm of bees. Throbbing with life, singular of mind, they endure the cold. All winter, the innermost bees migrate outward toward the cold, making room for those on the edges to migrate in. It’s a perpetual dance, an unwritten contract, a blurring of margins that defies even January.
“Meet me here tomorrow, 12:30. You can store your food in the church refrigerator until your housing gets sorted out.” I waved goodbye from the doorway.