Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Composting Hope

Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.
Mary Oliver

The intersection of daylight savings time and Spring has, surprisingly, intensified life out here in Detroit. In just the past few days, almost all the snow has melted and the sun is up 'til 7:30. There's some grief in this for us: the winter hibernation is coming to an end. The lily white is replaced with brown grass and melted sludge. Like the mornings of late Winter, there's more darkness and gloom that has surfaced in the past few days.

Our twenty-something neighbor works from 3pm to 3am at a steel mill. We know when he gets the day off: our apartment trembles with his booming voice, berating his 18-month-old son and girlfriend: “Why’d you do that?!” “Come HERE!” “Shut up!” "Don't make me come over there!" He smokes profusely and plays video games to cope with the heavy demands of work, coupleship and fatherhood--not to mention the cycle of violence that was passed on to him at an early age.

A friend of ours: 50 years old, Detroit native, never knew his father, grew up in the foster system. He started 2015 with a 75-day drinking binge and started having seizures 48 hours after he stopped last week. He's still in the hospital, swinging back and forth from sedated to agitated. His wife copes with fast food and Easter candy.

Another friend lost her brother-in-law to suicide.

The guy who makes our coffee every Sunday morning and lights the service candles, is being conned by someone on the internet who has convinced him to send cash with promises of making millions. He refers to these folks as his “business partners,” waiting for them to fly in and rescue him from the streets of Detroit. He won't listen when we try to persuade him to stop giving up his Social Security money.

Someone we recently met at church is at the tail end of a long goodbye to his wife on hospice.

My own pain--the feelings of worthlessness and of being alone--cry out for counterfeit copings, my fears & fantasies, anxieties & anger pouring out into workaholism, workouts and withdrawing. With the help of Lindsay and others boldly modeling it, I'm slowly learning to press the Pause button, to take a deep breath and to embrace Intimacy (with God, Lindsay, friends and myself).

The racism, corruption and corporate greed of Detroit can be a vicious laboratory for mental illness, addiction and violence. Sometimes, a real, gritty, determined Hope is hard to find. Like a compost heap in an urban garden, the Challenge of these Lenten days constrains us and compels us to find glimpses of new life in the midst of death.

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