Haywood Street is a ministry dedicated to those on the margins, but how do you properly identify the marginalized? Me and this question have spent some good time in the ring lately.
A couple weeks after the passing of my fiancé, I walked into the Haywood Street Hospitality Room and came upon our friend Angela. I’ve written about Angela before – about her struggles with chronic addiction and homelessness. On this day though, Angela was housed, sober, employed, stable. As we locked eyes, she began to cry. When I asked her what was wrong, she said, “You know, so many of us show up here every week because we’re visibly broken and we’re tired and we’re hungry. But what makes me real sad is that we don’t stop and think about what you’re going through. And the other staff. And everyone who appears to have it all together. I can’t imagine how you are feeling right now and I’m so sorry for your loss.” And just like that, I realized how I did feel at that moment – like a worn out, widowed, devastated human. Like a deflated balloon and a bag of bricks. I felt like a sucker, up against the farthest wall of the farthest margin, on the farthest planet of the farthest galaxy. Marginalized would have felt like an upgrade.
When I stop long enough to listen, I hear it all. Housed women who would give up their roof just to stop being beaten beneath it. Successful men re-financing their stuff to pay out of pocket rehab bills. Folks who can’t keep their hands off drugs, their bodies out of prostitution, their spot in a shelter. There are, without a doubt, friends who seem subjected to a life sentence on the margins. And then there’s everyone else. Slipping in, slipping out. And what seems most valuable to know, is that the person struggling at the back of the line doesn’t always look the part. She might have a white strip smile. She may wear real nice shoes. And if she’s quiet enough, she may never even be identified as a left of the red line, back of the pack type gal.