Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Faith Works 11-12-05
[Note: Due to a production error, this column did not see the light of print!]
Jeff Gill

Making Visible the Unseen

Big, black garbage bags stuffed full of shoes; dozens in the back of vans and in car trunks.
Slowly, we carry them about the perimeter of Courthouse Square, 1250 of them. Four years ago, when the Licking County Coalition for Housing began this "Homelessness Awareness Week" campaign using empty pairs of shoes to represent people and stories, we had to round up and set about some 700 pairs. Each person, a family member of those who came to LCCH looking for help in staying off the streets, in a home of some sort.
Goodwill provides us a deal on shoes pretty well past unsaleable, but there are (disturbingly) always glad takers. I say takers, but they always ask. People who come up to the informational tent, or even as we’re working, on hands and knees, to ask "Could I give you something for these?" We smile and say no thanks, if they are of use to you, please take them with our good wishes.
They tell us "walk a mile in someone else’s shoes." Just to handle and look at a pair as you set them out triggers a torrent of speculation and wonder. Children’s bright Sunday shoes, well tended but worn off at the heels. A pair of Christmas slipons, embroidery still sparkling, but elastic stretched beyond any good use. Sneakers with torn eyelets.
You really can summon up a whole person from the ankles up just by seeing a pair of shoes. We are also likely wrong, people being the unpredictable and uncategorizable folk they are, which is also a lesson about homelessness.
The clients who come in are rarely from out of county, and those few who are usually grew up here, and returned hoping to find family or connections long since frayed out of recognition, like the straps on a pair of sandals I placed between two sets of down at heel loafers. They have very different stories, these shoes and the people who come in the door of the Housing Coalition, and while elements of the tale recur like reverse fairy tales (no magical godmothers, nor wishes granted), the twists and turns are as various as Appleman Road or Loudon Street or Dutch Lane.
In between working on the "Shoes on the Square" project, which culminates in the 11th annual meeting of LCCH next Wednesday at Noon at Cherry Valley Lodge (tickets through 345-1970), there’s also been progress on another story of our county.
Next Friday night the last grand northernmost moonrise, the astronomy around which our Newark Earthworks are built, can be seen from Geller Park in Heath, just off 30th Street north of the mall. Programs will begin at 6 pm, and the nearly full moon will rise at 6:56 pm. We hope families and all interested folk can come out with blankets and lawn chairs and see this beautiful sight.
Two thousand years ago, from places like the ridges along the sides of the Licking River, and atop Memorial Hill in Geller Park, we have the vast evidence of the earthworks to show that people, very like us, stood and marveled at the predictable intricacy of the heavens. When we stand there on Nov. 18 just after dark, we stand in their…shoes? Moccasins? Tough soled feet?
But we acknowledge that our steps are shaped, if only a bit, by the paths taken by invisible multitudes beating a track beneath us, where we often do not look, or see. That "great cloud of witnesses" are pointing us and nudging us all the time, seen or unseen.
The invisible people in our lives, and how we stop to see them and where they become truly visible to us, are very important. They are important, among other ways, in how they help us see how we should live with those we do see, but take for granted, in our homes and churches and streets today.

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; tell him about a pair of shoes you’ve walked in at disciple@voyager.net.

No comments:

Post a Comment