Hope and Hunger

There were two distinct moments after the first major leap where I lost hope. Once was sitting on the curb near a co-op, organic grocery store in Los Angeles. There were some folks earlier that day who told me to check the dumpster out because they always throw out perfectly edible food, like fruit, with minor blemishes. Hunger sent me over there.

Hunger is an interesting feeling because it pushes the body into survival mode. This isn't the kind of hunger where you're between meetings and don't have enough time to stop and grab something to eat. This isn't the kind of hunger where you wake up in the morning and feel like you could swallow a whole farm for breakfast. This is the kind of hunger where you haven't eaten for days and your whole body is oriented toward finding something, anything, to satisfy an avoidance of certain death. It feels like that.

So I'm sitting on the curb, debating whether to run up to the dumpster. There's a security camera watching over it and a parking lot full of witnesses. Somehow I had to dash over there, dig through it, retrieve a few pieces of treasure and retreat. The other debate was personal. "I'm awakened," the thought went. "Isn't there supposed to be some kind of grace or something to take care of this?"

As I'm sitting there, stalling between deciding when to run and crushing under the reality that Grace doesn't mean entitlement, a familiar face rides up on a bike. It was one of the people who told me to go dumpster diving. He looked down, smiled at me knowingly, reached into his bag and gave me the largest apple I'd ever seen. No words. All action. Then he rode away.

Another time hope was lost was a hungry night in San Francisco. I'd spent the day wandering around, essentially lost because it wasn't clear that San Francisco is an island, and that once you're there, you're stuck. With no money, I didn't have any means of leaving. The whole day was spent walking around trying to find a safe place to sleep later that evening. Nightfall had come, and with it, the cry for food.

A small bakery was closed but had the door cracked open. There were people in the back in what I assumed was something like a kitchen. I peaked my head through the doorway and politely shouted, "Excuse me! Excuse me! Do you have anything I could eat? Maybe something you were throwing away?" A man turned to look at me, shook his head, and turned away. "Do you know where I could find something?" He ignored me. "Sir?" He continued to ignore me. "How could he do that," I thought. "I'm a human being. Where's the love?"

Later that night I made a cardboard sign. I had grown fed up with being in San Francisco and was angry that this awakening thing wasn't working like it was supposed to. The sign read, "Vallejo." The thought was that I could stand by the on ramp to the bridge, hold up the sign, and by magic, someone would stop and taking me off the island. Every driver ignored me.

Hunger started to press again. After a number of hours, I turned the sign over and wrote, "HUNGRY." Drivers started to pay attention. Something said to start smiling, and so I did. People began rolling their windows down and offering loose change and dollar bills. "Holy shit," I thought. "It's working." Some other momentum picked up and the hunger subsided as well as the cold. Focus shifted to earning enough money to catch the Ferry the next day away from the island.

The next morning I stood out there again to earn a few more dollars, and in addition to ten dollars, someone gave me a freshly opened breakfast from Starbucks.

It's interesting meeting those experiences again through these words. Each time, hope was lost. Really, an expectation was challenged and I was made a fool of.

Grace doesn't always work the way I think it should work. It never works that way actually. And—Christ—what's humbling is that even though I'm a brat or grow angry or impatient or whatever the case may be, it always works out. Always. There's something behind the drama that knows.

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