Four Square Blocks


I talked with Nora today…Nora’s an older woman who lives on the streets and pushes a shopping cart that holds all of her earthly possessions…perhaps you’ve seen her in your town. Her face shows the mileage of street life and pain she’s experienced over the years.

It’s her pain, really, that brings her to our neighbourhood. Both her mother and father tragically ended their lives a number of years ago and their funerals were held at the Funeral home across the street from our family centre. Now, trapped by her grief, Nora’s only world consists of the four square blocks around that funeral home. With the piercing feeling of loneliness, everyday Nora visits the last place she ever saw her parents…often spending hours in the parking lot alone…drinking…remembering…marinating in the pain of her loss.

As I shared a sandwich with her, she offered a bit of her story and we got to talking about relationships…her most cherished relationship was with a stray cat that she had befriended a few blocks over, “If I had a home, that cat would live with me and be better fed than me” she said. Somehow, I completely believe her. “She comes to me every morning and greets me and just sits on my shoulder…that cat makes my day.”

As I left her late that afternoon, I explained to her that I was from the family centre right across the street and I invited her to come over to warm up and share a meal with us any time she wanted…she had known all along who I was and where I was from and seemed quite unimpressed. It was one street outside of her “zone” and she’d simply never make the effort.

As I left her that afternoon and reflected on our exchange, I couldn’t help but think of how Jesus was more about going to where people were than he was about people coming to him…then I thought of how silly I must have sounded to Nora as I invited her “in” when God really wants me continually going “out”…then I thought, maybe I should be more like the cat…

What is it in us that continually wants people to come “in” and be about what we’re about? What a weird perspective…“come be about my thing”…rather than inviting God to create in us an internal fascination or courage that would take us “out” and into unique places to meet the Nora’s of our world.

Daniel Schuster

~ by blueporch on February 12, 2010.

5 Responses to “Four Square Blocks”

  1. Your ideas and insights here stir all sorts of things deep in me today as I read them. I have multiple experiences like the one you’ve described in a week, and over and over I find myself wondering what we’re to do & who we’re to be in the midst of such brokenness and need.

    The question of how we ‘eliminate the margins’ is one that has been consistently ringing in my head since a visit to Winnipeg in October. It’s painfully obvious that many of the people I encounter in a week (homeless, addicted, sick mentally, etc.) have, underneath what is obvious to the world around them, deep seeded trauma, loss, hurts, and in many cases the direct oppression of the enemy.

    Daily my heart grows in it’s longing to be a part of community that is willing to truly ‘live life’ with each other. To join people where they’re at, and to invite them in to friendship. I’m fully aware that I don’t have solutions/answers – hell, I don’t even have those for myself. That said, I do know a couple of things for sure:

    1. People Need A Saviour
    2. I’m Not It (and neither are our communities)
    3. Jesus is!

    My prayer for our community here in the Comox Valley is that we’d somehow find our way into an existence that ‘includes’ people. One that reflects a kingdom reality – In the Kingdom, there are no margins. “In Christ’s family there can be no division into Jew and non-Jew, slave and free, male and female. Among us you are all equal. That is, we are all in a common relationship with Jesus Christ.” Galatians 3:28

    Father, Your Kingdom Come, Your Will Be Done.

  2. You made my day Daniel! Cats are underappreciated in life. Take it literally or not.

  3. Daniel, I appreciated everything about this small snapshot of your experience with Nora. Having myself at different times embodied Nora, yourself, and perhaps (less frequently) the cat (without knowing it), I greatly appreciated your perspective and questions on the matters of going out and beckoning in. What I would like to say is this: Thank you for sharing your sandwhich, Thank you for taking Nora’s story into yourself and taking it seriously enough to ponder, share it, and therefore be shaped by it, and thank you for honouring her perceptions of relationship. Your willingness to do so creates opportunities for the “rest of us” to respond likewise.

  4. Daniel, you are describing the heart of a missional life! We all need some “Nora’s” and their cats in our lives! I wonder, how “Nora’s” can we live life with?

  5. What comes to mind for me in the idea of having people fit, ‘my thing’, is that we are way better at receiving love, affirmation, and ego boosts than at giving them.

    For me to be a part of someone elses thing is such a huge part of loving someone, but in the reality called life, so different from the way things seem to run.

    cheers Dan.

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