Thursday, February 14, 2008

Valentine's Day

I found a great Valentine's day story written by a good friend. I have been looking around for a good Valentine's story that wasn't too sappy on the one hand or too theologically clinical on the other - for I think most of us have experienced the extremes of each end. In the past couple of days I have come across an online article on the Grammy's and read the Wikipedia post on Fleetwod Mac. Both revealed the anguish experienced in relationships that are in the spotlight. It must be extremely difficult to be married to someone who is constantly in the spotlight. Every activity publicized; every expression photographed; every blemish exposed and every failure ridiculed. Any relationship built on anything but solid love and commitment will be tested and found wanting. Anything that can be shaken will be shaken. My heart has been going out to all those in our world who have been looking for love in all the wrong places.

My friend Tim Huff, who works with homeless youth with an organization called Youth Unlimited in Downtown Toronto has been someone who has brought love and compassion to young people who have been forced into all the wrong places. He shares this story on his blog and I wanted to post some of it here. If you want to support a worthy cause in Toronto - this is one of the best. Thanks for all the work you do Tim.

Three Other Words

Deza won’t tell me her age. (But I would guess 25 or so?) Won’t tell me where she’s from. Won’t tell me where she goes when she’s absent from the street for days, weeks, even months at a time. Still, I have known her on-and-off for at least 3 years. 3 years that have aged her no less than the equivalent of 10. Still, despite her secret existence of survival, she seems mildly amused by my redundant presence and failing persistence. On Monday, I offered to help dig out her lost belongings covered beneath the 25cm snowfall that landed while she slept, somewhere beneath the Jarvis onramp. But, “no thanks”.

On Tuesday, I brought her hot chocolate and a bagel and begged her to let me walk her to a shelter, submitting to the -25 degree wind chill. But, “no thanks”. And on Wednesday, I brought her extra socks and hand warmers. And again, with raised eyebrows and a polite nod, “no thanks”. Tell-tale signs of abuses at the hands of men who had posed kindly in her past, and ended up tearing at her soul.

So, I walked on. A 30 minute meeting at a donut shop, a 20 minute conversation with a frostbitten teenager, and a 10 minute chat with 2 drunk seniors on a heating vent, and I had circled back to Deza’s corner for the day.

I looked at Deza, smiled and sighed, “I know, I know, no thanks.” And she smiled back. But then, straying very far from the norm, she called out, “Hey, hey…”

My heart leaped. She was always a responder. And in that, always kind and courteous. But distant at best. Never, in any way was she an initiator. Perhaps this was a new day though – I thought, I hoped, I prayed.

“Yes, yes, what is it?” I all but leapt at her.

She drew her shoulders back as if to say – “too close”. So, indeed, I stepped back instantly and repeated myself in softer tones, “Yes, yes, what is it?”

Her hands fidgeted beneath her worn sleeping bag and then one reached towards me. In her grey mitten was a shred of paper. I reached out and took it slowly between my fingers.

Much more than a simple note, it was a Valentine. Not a glossy store-bought. Not a romantic poem or sonnet. No ribbons, bows, or tinfoil glue-ons. Something much, much grander than those could ever be.

Deza had hand-torn the red back of a cigarette pack into the shape of a heart and written 3 words on the opposite side…

“Thanks for trying.”

Measures for success in my career do not exist. Trying to create such a yardstick would and could only announce the unbearable failure in seeing too few lives changed, bettered, or made new. So, people like me cling to “ministry” terms, so that we can at least get out of bed in the morning without feeling completely defeated; sigh – “the only measurement for success is being faithful”.

But if there was a gauge in place that would at least identify the true highs – well, simple and profound things like notes on the backs of cigarettes packages would peek the mercury. And 3 words like “thanks for trying” are worth more than silver or gold.

Happy Valentine's Day!

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