Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Prayer

Living alone, I said silent prayers as I ate. Thank you and God Bless: for a roof over my head, a job, food to eat, the people who grew the food, packaged it, drove it to the stores. The people who stayed up all night to stock the shelves, and the cashiers who rang up my sale. I thanked and blessed all the people who created jobs and those who did the work of building the trucks that delivered the food. I thanked and blessed the men who paved the roads, the cities who paid people to keep the roads smooth. I was thankful for electric and gas to cook the food; clean water to wash dishes; always thankful that I had money to provide my shelter, purchase food and cleaning supplies. I thanked God that I was healthy; could stand on my feet and use both arms and hands to cook the food.

My before meal prayers were long ones. I got a smile from a grumpy bus driver when I said: Thank you for coming to work today. I got a kiss on the cheek for saying the same to a member of the 60s group, the Drifters. Thank you for coming to work today. I appreciate the people who serve me in whatever job capacity they hold. I often told police I passed on the streets of Long Beach: Thank you for keeping the streets safe for me.

"Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country" was my generations instructions. It is better to give than receive.

So how did I become doomed to eternal hellfire? Because a man, a stranger, bowed his head in prayer when I shared from my scant supply of food. That impressed me. I have ate hundreds of meals with hundreds of people. Except for Thanksgiving, that was the first time I saw a man unashamedly bow his head, close his eyes and whisper thanksgiving. Ha.

I met a man at the Samoan Church while living on the streets. He likewise bowed his head in prayer. After our meal, we were walking in the same direction and chatted. He was not homeless; a senior on a fixed income and said he did not know how to cook. When I told him I was impressed that he bowed his head in prayer, he told me he always prayed that he would not get sick from the food. Oh, Lord, is that what the other man, the stranger had done that day eating my food?

The stranger and I became friends, or so I thought. It was our habit than to say a prayer before a meal. His prayers were much simpler, and I tended to the old childhood blessing: God is Good. God is Great. Let Us Thank Him For Our Food. Amen. I do not remember the strangers prayers, but yes they were of thanksgiving, not of self-protection. We always ended the prayers: "In Jesus' name, Amen." Amen: so be it.

Even then I did not consider myself a Christian. Religion is man-made, spirit comes from the "power that be". I embrace all religions; I am spiritual, not religious, I told people who could not comprehend. Truly, I never ask people about their religious affiliation, why do so many ask about mine? My prayers tended to Thank you Lord, thank you Jesus, thank you Allah, thank you Jah, thank you Goddess...".

Living on the streets changed me. I no longer believe in a God.

And there you go; I woke up every morning and had to go somewhere; going somewhere involved physical activity; physical activity meant taking in calories; food. The intake of food meant I would live another day. What if cities just ignored us homeless? What if we could go somewhere to simply die? When I had them, I could provide my own cold meals with food stamps. I was thankful for the government that once took a 1/4 of my pay, for giving me food stamps. Other than that I got meals provided by Christian churches. There was an Indian ~ India/American? ~ who brought sandwiches to Lincoln Park, fruit and a drink; do not know if he was Christian.

No comments: