Saying Goodbye

Because of a condition in pregnancy that makes me high risk (called placenta previa), I started bed rest on Wednesday. This, of course, means no streets for a little while. Though I cannot be physically present on the streets right now, our team keeps going, and I have the privilege of continuing the behind-the-scenes work from home.

This post was written on Tuesday, my last day out for a while.

 Our little group last week after Bible study

Our little group last week after Bible study

Today, I told the streets goodbye. Or, farewell. See you later.

I got to sit with my friend named Greene on the corner. He entertained me with his vibrant mind, informing me that, in fifteen or twenty years, people would be traveling to Mars to live. “It’ll be a suicide mission,” he said with his chuckle and lisp.

When I walked up, I just plopped down in the middle of them. It is no longer “by invitation only” that I sit, but I am part of them and they, me. I am a part of the community. Granted, I am not homeless. I do not live on the streets, but, as my friend Rowdy told me several months ago, “You are one of us.”

Gillian arrived, and we walked down the grass-filled way to my rag-tag bunch of paint-pail-sitting friends. A woman named Jackie has been a welcome addition to this group over the past few weeks.

Jackie is kind and clear-headed. And last Friday, she volunteered to help me. Because of my high-risk pregnancy, I have been limited in activity, so when I go to the streets I sit in an awesome folding chair. On Friday, Jackie got the chair out of my car for me and carried it to my destination. All the while, she is so chipper, just chatting away with me about all sorts of things. Somehow, we started talking about our Thursday Bible study, and I asked, “Would you ever like to lead it?”

Her daddy was a preacher.

She said, “No, I can’t. I drink beer.”

“You can’t lead it because you drink beer?”

“Yeah, I can’t.”

“Well, maybe you could come sometime?”

“Yes,” she smiled.

Not only did Jackie walk my chair down the way but she also stayed with me until she felt I was taken care of by others. She was looking out for me, and I didn’t even have to ask. She told me, “This is what friends do for each other.”

And then, today, my last day out, Jackie told me, “Elisabeth, you make me happy.” I told her she makes me happy, too. And she does.

Her words today meant more than many things I have heard. I am her real friend and being around me makes her happy. What a gift we can give each other, to help one another in friendship, to both give and take, to brighten each other’s days.

Then came the hard part. To each of my buddies I said, “See you later” and “I will miss you” and “Don’t forget about me.” And I told each of them I would be praying for them. And I mean it. Jackie and Mr. B said they’d be praying for me, too.

Then Jackie gave me three hugs and told me not to cry or she would. And so we both did.

As I walked towards my car for the last time, I stopped to pray. I thanked God for this beautiful place and these wonderful people who have embraced and loved me. They have taken me as I am, however different I might seem to them. And they have given me back myself through their love. I prayed that the Lord would care for them and love them. It was a letting go, an acknowledgment that He doesn’t need me to do his work and show his love to my friends on the streets, that He was there long before I ever was, and that He will bring me safely back.

I offer myself to him, and to them. Just as God is unseen, so for a time they are. But all of this -- not seeing God and not seeing them -- is merely temporary.

Though we have not seen him, we love him. Though we do not now see him, we believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of our faith, the salvation of our souls (1 Peter 1: 8-9).