Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Religious but not spiritual


When I go to open the door, the lost patrol is blocking it. When I get it open Marsha is trying to figure out how to get through the patrol into the church. Joe is saying I should have told him. We have a conversation. Telling  me how he had to drive away people being disrespectful in the middle of the night, getting ready to pee and shit and stuff. I tell Joe, easy solution, I’l just post no trespassing and tell the precinct and that will be that. He tells me he’s got an appointment later that day, going to get it together. Marsha is starting to sweep. A sketchy white guy takes the broom, begins to clean.

Marsha goes to Barney Greengrass to get coffee. And bagels. We’re waiting for Michael, the new Manhattan Together organizer from Industrial Areas Foundation. He’s 45 minutes late. That’s not IAF.

He’s young. Got the IAF organizer rap down. Currently working on pubic housing, issues related to seniors (great success with the Duane Reade senior friendly drug store program) and public safety. We talk about West-Park and organizing. How we we were  founders of IAF in the neighborhood. And provided the first home. And how the church itself needs reorganized. He’s willing to help.

When he leaves, Marsha and I reflect. How the Jewish congregtions  continue to explode in the neighbothood. How for us Christians, it’s different. In a time when people see themselves as spiritual but not religious, Marsha warms my heart by describing herself as religious but not spiritual. What is spiritual?
I talk bout the power that sustains black churches, the gay community. The spirituality born from struggle. And what is our struggle? she asks.
As we talk about it, we realize that we all do struggle. For most of us, it’s facing how life hasn’t turned out the way we expected. If we’re honest about it. Can we be honest about it? But we here have persevered against all odds. What have we learned from that? What we can we share? Can we be open with one another?

I try not to notice Sean on 86th Street again. He’s killing me. I get him coffee. And a bow tie sweet roll. (Didn’t have cinnamon buns.) Clean clothes from his bag. Water. 

Hours later, he’s still there. Danielle speaks to him. He gets, we’ll say, defensive. But when I get back form my appointments, he’s gone. Half of his stuff here.

RL says that trying to keep helping someone who doesn’t want it doesn’t help anyone. Not him, not me, not the church. I agree, recalling that the golden rule of community organizing is never do for someone what they can do for themselves. To keep helping where it isn’t accepted in a meaningful way is ultimately enabling, as they say. 

Well, OK then. Damn angels unaware.

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