Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Kicked Out of My Own Church--and Lovin' It! (Part-2)
As I walked the length of the little piece of Date Street which fronts our church and turned south on Fourth Avenue, I saw, once again, the banners advertising, "Solara Lofts 3.5% down." and thought to myself, again, and with a sigh, "It would sure be nice to live here downtown so close to the church." But alas, for now we are way upside down in our Normal Heights condo. That's because we bought back in 2005 at the exact top of the market. I guess I'll never make a good real estate "flipper"--just haven't got the timing down.
Anyway, walking down Fourth Avenue along-side Saint Joseph's catholic Church I see a woman, who appears to be in her fifties, standing a couple of feet inside a sort of alley-way between two buildings. As I approach her she asks, "spare change?" I tell her I don't have any and ask her name. "My name is Laura", she says and smiles at me with a big toothy grin which shows she is missing almost every other tooth. There is something strange but pleasant about her. Her face and demeanor are that of a homeless person, but her outfit, odd as it is, is very clean. It looks like a nurses' uniform she has on and it is as spotless and bright white as anything I've ever seen. She is wearing shiny two-tone black and gray pointed ladies dress shoes with white socks. Over the nurses' uniform she is wearing a big black leather jacket. I ask her if this is her church and she tells me it is. "Yes, I've been coming here for twenty years now" she exclaims. I ask if the church minds her panhandling and she says, "No, not really. Well, except that new woman they got. She me to move it." In answer to another inquiry she tells me she has lived in National City for the past ten years. By this time, a few people have begun to trickle out of the sanctuary and down the little breezeway toward Fourth Avenue. She asks each one for spare change. A few give her something. One middle-aged woman hands her a few bills folded together, looks at her and says warmly, "God bless you Laura." By now I feel we have a bit of rapport going so I ask her, "If someone wanted to know you, what is the one thing they'd need to know to understand who Laura really is?" "They should know I have mental problems," she says, "paranoid schizophrenia." This she says without any shame and very matter-of-factly. By now the main body of the congregation is filing past and Laura turns from me so as not to miss the crowd she'd been waiting for. I say goodbye to a now distracted Laura and, as I walk away I can hear, "Spare change? Spare change? Spare change?"