San Francisco is puzzling. It scares me at times. There is a lot of honking and yelling. Lots of drugs – I can smell them regularly. Fresh air is relative. Pine trees and palm trees grow along streets. Often excrement and broken glass on the sidewalk. This is not my place, so to speak. It’s my home now, and to be sure, I’ll miss it once we’re gone. But San Francisco, you’re not my love. Sometimes I want out.
Today I walked down Mission to 5th Street. I turned left and walked to Howard. Turned left again and returned to the office, making a big loop for 30 minutes or so. I grabbed some yogurt with loads of sweet toppings and off I went with my sunglasses for anonymity. I took no photos today, because I wanted to be inconspicuous. In lieu of that, here’s a photo of Market Street from last night.
I’ve driven down Mission plenty of times, but never traveled this area on foot. I was curious as to what I would find. Mission wasn’t terribly surprising, though as I neared 5th I noticed even more poverty and struggling individuals. Around then I realized I was walking past palm trees. There was also a Filipino restaurant and a shop that tailors, does alterations, and repairs shoes. On 5th, there is a center for empowering and helping people find jobs and resources. Next to that there’s a Subway and a convenience store. Quite a number of folks hanging out there.
On Howard I found myself walking behind three young people broadcasting some R&B/rap mix for all to hear. We passed a store with comforters and pillows, and I was tempted to stop in. Eventually I noticed a very huge and tall building that’s the Intercontinental hotel. When you’re on the street, you only see the tall buildings that are further away from you. When you’re in the car you don’t see anything.
I also noticed an enormous dental school – University of the Pacific. Then I passed the Moscone center, the Yerba Buena children’s area, and reached the office again. That’s when I noticed huge coniferous trees standing against our building. They are even huge against this massive building, which houses so many restaurants, 16 movie theaters, and Target. They remind me of where I’d probably rather be … i.e. somewhere surrounded by trees and no cigarette smoke and no poverty. That’s the reality of my heart, because I’m irked and harmed by smoke and broken by poverty.
That comforter and pillow store, that temptation – that’s a reality for me. Off the street, in the safety of that room, is softness and promise of sleep. Escape. But some have no option for escape. Or if they did, it’s not evident anymore. Even those of us who have this gift of eternal life, graced to us, we are not called in order to leave the jolting reality behind.
We are directed to engage it, to be the alterations and repair shop and the refuge of home linens and the resource center and the dental school and the trees. We’re to breathe life, to restore, to give rest, to teach, to provide. Because God is already doing this, and He made us to be with Him.
I’m trying to go be with God in San Francisco.
|I will confess you among the peoples, O LORD;* I will sing praises to you among the nations. For your loving-kindness is greater than the heavens,* and your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.|