Love Yourself

So ever since that life-changing personal safety workshop, it seems as though every person in my house has made a sincere effort to befriend each person we meet on the street. This method might be a little extreme in regards to what we were told, but hey! – what’s wrong with a little love for everyone?! So last Saturday, we finished orientation, and me and my housemates had big plans: walk to Giant to get some groceries, check out some Read-in/Speak-out business we saw signs for, and head home to fill up the kiddie pool on the deck and reeeelax! Well if there’s one thing I can tell you, it’s that God will ALWAYS throw you some curve balls, and the path you think lies ahead of you almost NEVER does. So naturally, our delightful walk to the Giant turned into much more than we had expected:

We passed an older African-American man as we walked, and as we had been taught, we made eye contact and energetically said hello! “Good-day, ladies!” he responded just as energetically. And as we walked ahead of him, he began to sing… it was wonderful, bluesy-gospel…better than any old tape, and more sincere than anything I’d ever heard. (My sister taught me how to use “hyperbole” as a literary technique.) This man was SINGIN! We collectively slowed our step so as to take in as much as we could. I began to think it was one of those fleeting moments that just manages to clear your head of all things negative, when suddenly…it turned into even more! We approached a man selling furniture on the side of the street, and there was no way we could stay away. Fortunately, the old man stopped as well. My housemate Christa turned to him and said, “Sir! What a beautiful voice you have!!” And he said “well, thank you!” and proceeded to introduce himself as Earlsun, pull a harmonica out of his pocket, and play/sing us another lovely tune. It didn’t stop there. We felt a monologue coming on, and boy did we receive it: “I’m 77 years old,” he said, “and I’m just now learning what it means to really live. Everyone’s got it all backwards! You’ve gotta learn to love yourself before you can love other people. Cause you see, you can only GIVE what you’ve GOT. So my prayer has become ‘Lord, help me to learn to love MYSELF more so that I’ve got more love to give!'” We stood there in awe, soaking up every word that he said. He went on about how we’re all his granddaughters…all from Mother Earth… and as he talked, I couldn’t help but think how heavenly he looked, dressed all in white with a West Africa colored belt and an Obama pin. The moment was still fleeting, but when Earlsun left, we all felt how much the energy around us had changed. Christa said what we were all thinking: “I learned way more from that than I did from all of orientation.” I suppose befriending people on the streets isn’t so bad after all…

This idea of loving yourself has stuck in my head over the past several days, and as I attended my first day of work at Luther Place Memorial Church today, it stood out once again as not only important, but essential.  I came across some pamphlet about my job that quoted the book of Leviticus (19:33-34): “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong.  You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself…”  And if we’re not doing a good job loving ourself, that won’t work out so well for the stranger either, now will it?  After settling into my office, my co-worker/boss-type Jack gave me a tour of Luther Place, dishing out history left and right.  The church was founded in 1873 after the Civil War as a memorial.  After Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination in 1968, tons of rioting and violence happened in the streets of DC, right outside of Luther Place.  Many churches closed their doors on this mess.  Luther Place kept theirs open, despite the fact that their insurance would not cover anything that resulted from this voluntary action.  From that moment on, Luther Place continued growing in its outreach to the greater community, building up a homeless shelter for women in 1973 and a program to educate youth about homelessness and poverty in 2001 (this is where I’m working) among many other opportunities.  Sounds wonderful, right?  Well, yes, but… Luther Place has been so involved in helping others, that it has forgotten to help itself.  The attendance is dwindling, the building is falling apart, and the staff is going through a difficult time of transition.  It’ll be a challenge, but I’m excited to be brought into this chaos in hopes that I can help provide some stability and strength.  Earlsun gave me just the lecture I needed to prepare for a ministry of outreach through a new focus on INreach!  So keep your eyes and ears open for those fleeting moments…for the bluesy-gospel being sung without hesitation on the streets that were once full of violence and hatred…

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3 thoughts on “Love Yourself

  1. Wow, Manda.
    All those years of piano study, discipline and practice and turns out all you needed was a harmonica and a love-yourself attitude. $140,000 of college education wasted. Bummer.

  2. Fifteen years of piano lessons, $125,000 for college music education, and all of musici theory and performance comes down to a harmonica and love yourself. It’s like a scene from “Good Will Hunting.” A great tragedy that Vivaldi did not have this experience; we’ve all had to suffer so with Baroque.

  3. You write so beautifully. I’m so proud of you. Especially proud that you would use hyperbole in your writing…Isn’t it just the greatest thing you’ve ever learned?? 🙂

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