Monday, July 07, 2008

Time to Leap


He was lying on his side, his shirt pulled up to expose a white stomach, his head lolled back against his arm, the empty bottle a few feet to his left. His long, unkempt hair fell partly across his face. People flowed around him on the sidewalk, noticing without noticing. I slowed as I passed by, unsure what to do, and left without much choice as I continued on past him.

Just two hours earlier I'd walked past the same man, the bottle gripped firmly in his hand as he gesticulated in animated conversation with another homeless man.

For the next ten minutes I slowed my pace and watched people as they flowed in seemingly endless fashion, talking and hurrying, in and out of buildings and cars like a river with a thousand invisible streams. At some point the absurdity of it all struck me, and flashed back to the man passed out on the sidewalk.

Everyone was going somewhere... except him.

But why?

Had something happened in his past? Had he suffered a mental breakdown? Was it a health issue? Had he lost his job or his mind or both? Had life abandoned him at an early age? Or had he simply given up because he was tired of trying to find his stream? His purpose.

There is never one answer why someone does anything, and there are a thousand reasons why a person shouldn't bother doing anything. In many ways, it makes more sense to give up this search -- for God, for self, for purpose -- than it does to leap into the strange world we live in.
Where are all these people going? And why? Won't we end up in the same place anyway?

When I was younger I would not have understood that question. I wouldn't have understood what it meant to be broken, to experience life's struggles to the point where you simply wanted to give up. I wouldn't have understood this idea that there IS an absurdity to life, to being human.

Some people are lucky. They will go through life and never have to confront this issue. Maybe they were born in great circumstances or maybe they've made safe choices or maybe it's their personality. Whatever the reason, they will look at the homeless man and say "get up" without thinking about it. Or maybe they will want to help, but even doing that they will never suspect themselves capable of ending up on the street or stripping at a club to pay for diapers or even collecting bottles to buy one more drink.

I think that way sometimes. I realize that I probably won't be rich, but I won't be poor either. And that even if I'm poor, I'll be educated and polite and socially correct. I'll use big words and charming words and make people like me. I won't spit or swear or laugh at the wrong time.

I think about that because I know that in some ways I am the man on the street.

About fifty per cent of all homeless people are mentally ill. (So telling them to "get a job" is probably not helpful) But having spoken to some of them, I also know that sometimes people just quit. They've been beaten down in life, and so they drop to their lowest form of existence.
What's ironic is that while I celebrate my life, it doesn't mean anything if I am doing the same thing, does it?

I know people who are wealthy and who have given up. You might not know it, because they were born in the right situation. They handle their heartbreak with booze, but they have a better job and hide it more easily. Or they bury themselves in work, and we call them hardworking. No one calls them a "bum". We call them good citizens. But what separates them from the person on the street who has decided they've had enough?

I'm lucky. I've had seven years of post-secondary education. I was raised in a home and provided for in every way. I have no mental health issues. The chance of me ending up on the street is slim. But the chance of me throwing away my dreams and hopes and 'cashing in my chips', however we define that, is very real.

In some ways, I have been guilty of that this past year. I moved to Toronto to go to school and pursue my dream of making it as a writer. However, the two books I have written have languished, especially behind my incessant need to write my blog. (And the instant feedback and approval this writing produces)

I am so thankful for all of you who have read and encouraged me and challenged me. You have no idea how much it has meant. I credit you for getting me back on track. With that in mind however, I have realized this past month it is time to leap.

For the next month I will have little activity on this website, though I will try to keep you updated. This past week finished the proposal for my book, In Love With A Stranger. I'll be sending it out shortly. (30 pages...sigh)

At the end of July I will keep you posted on the status of my proposals and other articles that I will be sending out. I would love to hear from you and to hear how you're doing. Please don't be afraid to write. :)

My challenge to you is the one I present to myself. Whatever situation you're in, ask yourself if you have given up, if you are eking out a living. And if you are (remember that you can do this even if you are rich), ask yourself why. Why did you give up? What led to you giving up your dreams?

My prayer this week, and this month, is that you would remember that God loves you. That He likes you. He created you for a purpose and has given you the tools and and passion to make a difference in the world around you so that no matter what life you live, you will be ALIVE.

For me, the man on the street is my answer to my own question. I want to help him. I want to help others and encourage them in the struggles and trials of life. That is my dream.
You know, there are days I don't want to write, days that I think I will never be good enough, but it's time to leap. I'd love for you to join me.

-Steve

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Monthly Mailbag (Part I)




Well, this was an interesting couple of months, to say the least. My apologies for waiting so long to get the mailbag up. (I will do this in two parts) A lot of impassioned responses to some difficult and emotional topics. Abortion, heretics, spiritual leadership, gender issues... we ran the gamut, didn't we. There's a lot to get to here, so I won't waste any more time on the introduction.

I want to say thank you for everyone who wrote and apologize for those I did not get to. This is an incredibly busy time right now. I'm currently working on two books, two books proposals, two separate articles, two new short films, working 25 hours a week, and trying to love my friends and housemates and family. ( I don't watch TV...lol) So your patience and encouragement are greatly appreciated.

By the way, I abbreviated some of the comments so I could fit more into the mailbag.

Steve


Unsurprisingly, the column on abortion drew strong responses.

Interesting. I agree with what you say! Three years ago, I had been in a bad relationship, and was left pregnant and alone. I thought I was choosing by having a termination, but really there was no choice. There is no balanced view, no one to give you all the options, regardless of Christian beliefs or not. I went to the clinic, had the talk where the nice but cold woman told me that the "seed" in my tummy wasn't a baby yet just some cells, that I had to make the choice for me now, not for something that would happen in the future. I had the blood tests, was talked through the procedure, the appointment was made. Two weeks later on the eve of my termination appointment I canceled. I knew deep down I wouldn't/couldn't go through with it. Having my son has brought me back to life, and God and to a less selfish and more loving version of me!

Anonymous


(There's more to this comment and you can find it on my site.) Anonymous, I consider that you've done a most unselfish thing, and I'm so glad God has used this to bring joy into your life. Clinics should do a better job letting women know the high possibility of trauma following an abortion.


They put a planned parenthood office near where I live some years ago, and from the day it opened, there were very often people lined up outside of it, holding signs of protest and huge pics of fetuses, some in the womb and some aborted, and they would even shout at passing cars....these people were almost exclusively MEN, were all white, and were always over 50....I used to beep my horn at them, not in agreement, but in contempt of their elitist assumptive call to arms. None of these white middle class zealots would ever, or had ever, faced the possibility of giving birth to a child who's father would not only be non supportive but quite likely completely absent. They would never be a poor urban woman giving up a chance at college or trade school because she had no family support to help her care for her child and so the system of public assistance is perpetuated. They probably had never stressed about how to just put a meal on the table, never mind a roof over their heads, clothes, babysitters, the cost of schooling, activities, transportation, medical bills, dental bills.... I guess the thing that pissed me off (pardon the phrase) the most was that they were MEN! They would NEVER be, could could NEVER be in the situation a woman could be in. Until they have the ability the bear children, they have NO business telling a woman what she can or cannot do with her body and her life....

Lisa, Cleveland, Ohio


I agree with you that there is something disturbing about white, rich men protesting. I'd rather see them at their local politician's office petitioning for more support for single women. As I've said, so long as we place the responsibility solely on women and don't support them as a society, it is their choice to have an abortion and their choice alone.

The only comment that I have is this: Speaking as a single mother of a beautiful 4yr old girl, I could NOT see my life without her in it. From the time I found out that I was going to be a mom for the first time I will be honest in saying I was scared to death. I would like to say I have support from her dad, but I can't. But even without support aborting this new life was never something I would have thought about. I'd have to say that I am pro-choice, a woman's body is theirs to do what they please with. I think the ONLY way I would EVER abort a child is if there were problems and I would die if I had it. I'm not about to leave the daughter that I have now without a mother, she's already lost her father.

L, Kitchener, Ontario


There has been a lot of research that indicates abortion can be a lifelong traumatizing event for women. It is not just surgery. I am amazed at the strength of women to take on such a huge responsibility without society or the church saying A THING to men.


Steve you have most certainly opened our eyes to one persepctive of the issue of which most of us have not been as sympathetic or empathetic with. I was saying yes to lots of things that you were saying but I found myself looking at the unborn fetus. One of the things that I have come to realized is that life within itself is never deemed an accident. Conception is never regarded as an accident, especially when one looks at Psalms 139. The creation of a life is a miracle in and of itself (I know I am preaching to the choir here).I think while one needs to be more empathetic to the choices that a woman makes, I believe perhaps we need to look at the priori choices that were made to begin with. The choice to enter into a relationship that was not based on love and mutual commitment.


The choice to have sex without appropriate family planning; knowing unprotected sex could result in pregnancy. I do believe that experience is one of our greatest teachers, with this said I believe women can learn from the mistake of others. The cycle of abandonment or neglect will only continue as long as it is allowed to be perpetuated by the priori choices made by women. The greatest victim is still and will always remain the unborn fetus. She/he has no voice of their own and they never asked to come into existence to begin with. It happened through the natural process designed by God the creator.I do empathize with women and their own struggle being the last of six children of a godly woman who raised us single-handedly without the support of our dad. I can't imagine the gift that would have been with held from the world had my mother choose to abort me. :).


While we have experienced some hard and difficult times, those things have only shaped us into the people we are today. It is precisely these situations that God redeems and rewrites the stories of our lives, after all it is He who writes 'the book' (Psalms 139 referred).

I, Toronto, ON

I left all of this comment because I found it very moving. However, notice how the focus is once again on the woman. there simply is no reference to men. I do not believe abortion is healthy, I do not think it is a good thing, but I do believe it is the woman's choice. It's easy to sit in the balcony and cast stones when you have nothing invested in the matter except perhaps some space on your bumper. Abortions are harmful, but they are not the sole responsibility of the woman, because it takes a man and a woman to conceive. And until our society and the church concedes THAT, I will stand firm that it is a woman's right to choose.

To every action there is a consequence, and sex in modern society has become nothng more than a sport; something to do for "fun". But God didn't design it this way. It was a sacred union of two individuals, regardless if it produced a child or not. Stepping out of God's design brings heartache and pain, and this simply cannot be avoided no matter how hard we try or wish it to be otherwise. When a woman gets pregnant outside of wedlock there is going to be pain. There is no escaping it. No matter what alternative mankind brings to the table, each involves pain and misery. An abortion causes not only the death of the fetus, but the emotional pain and (in most cases) guilt that the woman carries with her for the rest of her life.


Giving up a child to an adoptive placement creates emotional pain and loss, complicated by the bond a mother has for the baby after giving birth. Giving birth and raising the child by yourself is also full of pain, heartache, and has hardships all it's own. My point is, every consequence from stepping outside of God's plan is bad for us, regardless if it's a human being at conception or at the time of birth. Of course, we can't expect an unbelieving world to live by Christian standards and the best we can do is to help and love women who are going through such emotional turmoil. To brand someone as evil for having or planning an abortion goes against the heart of out Father. At the same time, we shouldn't condone abortion either. We were extended grace from our God while we still were in darkness, and we should do likewise to others, not because "the Bible says so", but because we genuinely care about the people around us. And I think that's the main issue. We, as Christians, are so intent on being right instead of being compassionate.


In many ways, we are not so disimilar to the Pharisees, who lived by the law, but did not extend compassion and love for their fellow man. It was these that Jesus condemned, not the sinners. And to make a more modern example, He certainly doesn't condemn the women who have had an abortion. Throughout Jesus's ministry He acted in love and compassion over the Law, and we should as well, lest we become like the Pharisees. We should point them to Jesus and His way and His truth, but still love them when they go their own way instead.

M, California



Some good stuff in here, but again, women are the only ones who have to deal with it. I am hopeful that we will come up with some creative ways in the future to help women who are abandoned by the men with whom they became pregnant. Until then, it is their choice.

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