I am fortunate in receiving a very large amount of correspondence from readers. A common question is, “What are the beliefs that lead you to write as you do?” Okay, here it goes.
A street corner on one of those deliciously hot summer evenings. To my left is a restaurant and outside of it, a large pile of garbage bags awaiting the morning’s pickup. Because of the heat, and because there is decaying food in the bags, the smell is awful. I move away. As I do, though, I see movement. Then one of the bags tips forward. A street person has found a safe sleep by hiding against a wall, surrounded by bags of stinking garbage.
He hides because street people are regularly beaten up, even beaten to death, just for fun. Nobody really cares. The man climbs out of the heap, shakes his head and begins to walk in my direction. He is tiny, a shaking mess and mass of skin and bones. There are open sores on his face, his clothes are so ripped that I can almost see his genitalia, and he stinks of bodily waste. He comes up to me and in a frightened voice asks me a question. “Could you spare some money?” I ask if he is hungry. He says he is. I tell him I’ll buy him some food at which point I begin to walk to the corner store a few yards away. He follows me. Of course he does, because he doesn’t trust me. People lie to him all the time, and he’s hungry and wants this promised food.
As he walks he trembles and chatters. And stinks. The sickening odour of urine, muck and decay. I’m uncomfortable, embarrassed. Don’t know what to say, what to do. People are looking around when they smell him, and they’re looking at me. Guess what, it’s my problem and not his.
We walk into the store. Me with good clothes and good job. Him with ripped pants and nothing. I take some milk, chips, peanuts, any food that looks vaguely comforting and nourishing. I walk to the counter. He follows. I put the goods down and wait to pay. The woman working in the store seems pained. She looks at me. Then at him. Then at me again. She seems bewildered, even nervous. A pause, and then: “Are you two together?” She was asking, of course, if I was paying for this man who looked as though he had not seen money in a very long time. Was I together with this man? A very sensible and easy question.
It seemed to take an eternity for the question to register. Only a second, of course. But it was as if the whole world and all of its possibilities suddenly flushed and flashed though my mind. I steadied myself. “Yes,” I said. “We are together.”
I gave him the food and off he went. I don’t know what happened to him, and frankly there is a good chance he might be dead. Which is to our shame. But I do know this. The day will come when I will stand, broken, smashed and stinking. The stench will be of my own sin. Just as your sins stink. Yes, every one of you. The question will be asked: “Are you two together?”
Because of my faith in Jesus Christ, because of my certainty that He lived, died and rose again for me and for all of us, the question will be in the affirmative. “Yes,” Jesus will say, “we are together.” And I will have eternal happiness with my Father in Heaven.
There, I’ve said it. I’ve used words such as “sin” and “Jesus” and survived. Christians will be wondering if I’ll have a job in journalism next week, anti-Christians will be angry that I dared to speak my mind. How strange the world has become. We can discuss perversion and hatred in the most intricate and voyeuristic of detail and feel comfortable and included. But the language of faith and God has been made to sound foreign in contemporary Canada.
Never mind. All it means is that we will have to become better linguists. Yes, that’s it. A glorious new bilingualism for a sadly secular nation.