Monday, May 16, 2011

"Housing = Safety"

By Connie Thomas

Tonight at Community of Travelers, we heard about a protest Pastor Megan helped organize around homeless LGBT youth. While it was pouring rain and bitter cold on Saturday night, a group of dedicated homeless teens and their allies hung out in Harvey Milk Plaza in the Castro and then slept on the sidewalks.

It might sound naive, but I never really think about homeless kids by themselves. I usually imagine homeless families that could rely on each other for safety and support, or homeless adults by themselves. If I did think about homeless kids, I'd assume their parents kicked them out for doing very bad things. Unfortunately, that's not necessarily the case. Sometimes kids are just kicked out of their homes because they're gay. Sometimes they run away from abuse. Regardless of how it happens, it means we have innocent kids out on the streets of San Francisco that have precious few options in their life.

I was lucky enough to meet some of those kids, and I tell you- it breaks your heart to hear a 16 year old talk about finding food on the street and eating it, because that's all he's got. It's also incredibly inspiring to hear these same kids who don't have a guaranteed place to sleep at night laugh and sing and dance with each other. Most striking of all, though, was that I would never have guessed that they were homeless. They laugh and dress and talk just like every other kid I've met. They were just as clean/fashionably dirty as most teens I see, too. Honestly, though, you just never know what a person's life is like until you walk a mile in their shoes.

Tonight's gospel was about Jesus as a Gate. Usually, we talk about Jesus as the shepherd, telling us where to go. In the gospel we read tonight, though, Jesus calls himself The Gate. It changes the dynamic. Sheep don't have a choice- they have to follow the shepherd. We do have a choice. We can choose to open that gate and walk through it to the other side. And, most likely, we will have to choose over and over again throughout our lives whether or not we want to go through the gate. We can choose to put Jesus's teachings into practice, by turning the other cheek, by giving a rowdy and dirty kid the benefit of the doubt. The good news is, though, the gate will always open for us if we turn the knob.