A reflection by Danny Schweers for October 8, 2023.
As I exit Starbucks, mocha latte in hand, my attention goes to the fellow on the sidewalk across the street. He is yelling and cursing, kicking the storefront walls in his anger, creating a clamor, a very public rage. It is quite a display, one seldom encountered in the suburbs but not unknown here in downtown Wilmington, Delaware, especially when, like today, a light but driving rain clears the Sunday sidewalks and gives space to those on the edge.
Is his behavior an act, a symptom of disease, or both? His behavior invites intervention but that option no longer attracts me, not after a failed marriage to an intelligent but difficult manic-depressive. I have learned caution, even fear. But this guy does not seem to be a danger to himself or others. So while I appreciate him and the drama he creates, I let him be. I walk the other way.
Downtowns in our fair country attract marginalized people and they, in turn, drive the mainstream away. Between scary people like this man and the professional panhandlers, it is a wonder anyone comes to my downtown church, SsAM, the Episcopal Church of Saints Andrew and Matthew.
Sunday mornings, coffee in hand, I stand outside and greet those arriving for the worship service at 10:30 a.m.
Today, Paul is outside to greet me instead of the other way around. He lives downtown. He is usually outside before worship begins. He likes to have a smoke before going inside. In spite of the foul weather, he is here to see and hear our new xxxxxxx — well, he cannot remember what to call the new priest’s leadership position. Andy is new to Episcopalian lingo. “Rector” I told him. “What’s the new rector’s name?” he asked. I knew but drew a blank.
It is not unusual for me to draw a blank with proper names. This is not a sign of age but, for me, a lifelong challenge. I have learned to wait while my memory banks are slowly accessed. “Patrick Burke” I said at last, the name finally arriving. “Think of Peanut Butter,” I said, hoping that would help me remember the name of the Rev. Patrick Burke in the future. But that means having to remember both “Peanut Butter” and “Patrick Burke”. Seems hopeless!
I still cannot remember the name of the woman who arrived a short while later carrying a cane and a purse but no umbrella.
God saw fit to give her only two hands. She took my arm and sheltered under my large weatherproof parasol. Curious, I asked how long she had been using a cane — I might need one before long. “Two years,” she said, “ever since my back operation. It did not go well. I am still in pain.”
In my limited experience, back operations succeed only half the time. Even so, if you are suffering, a 50-50 chance of improvement is a risk worth taking. Even a ten percent chance might be worth taking. Two percent? One? Life makes gamblers of us all.
God help those weighing the odds. God help those impatient with their memory. God help those on the street cursing and those walking away.
Thank God for making all of them part of our lives. Thank God for being with us, especially when they are us.
Portrait above of the author is by Mary-Lou Edgar.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Danny Nelson Schweers chairs SsAM’s Communication Committee. He is an active photographer and writer. Click here to visit his website and make a comment.