by Adrienne McGee
Houston’s “Tax Day Flood” wrecked my neighborhood—we were officially the hardest hit in Harris County. And, since we’re right next to Addick’s Reservoir, the water stayed. Every day, we walked around to see where the high water line was, which streets were still barricaded and who was still flooded.
One week later, we were checking out one of the worst-hit corners, and it was awful. Houses still had water in them, a week after the rains. Front yards were full of what, a week before, had been homes. While exploring, our eyes were caught by little signs that said, “free food & drink!” So, we followed them, walking past more houses that were gutted, more living rooms, kitchens and bedrooms.
Then, at the intersection of several blocks still totally closed with high water, we saw a house that had a soccer goal in the front yard. Getting closer, we could see that there was a big, hand-lettered sign taped up inside the goal: “Dinner’s at 5.” Here, in this devastated corner of the neighborhood, where everything smelled like mucky wet carpet, this household was simply offering a meal to whoever decided to drop in
at 5 p.m.
In Tattoos on the Heart, Fr. Gregory Boyle reflects on Jesus when he said, “You are the light of the world.” Fr. Boyle continues, “I like even more what Jesus doesn’t say. He doesn’t say, ‘One day, if you are more perfect and try really hard, you’ll be light.’ He doesn’t say, ‘If you play by the rules, cross your T’s and dot your I’s, then maybe you’ll become light.’ No. He says, straight out, ‘You are light.’ It is the truth of who you are, waiting only for you to discover it. So, for God’s sake, don’t move. No need to contort yourself to be anything other than who you are.”
I found out later that the “Dinner at 5” was just a hotdog, bag of chips, and a bottle of water. But, here’s the thing… that cheap meal was exactly what those people, my neighborhood, needed. If there’s anything the body of Christ would have looked like that afternoon, I’m pretty sure that’s it.
And yet, it seems really hard to share the little bit that we have with people, doesn’t it? Are we ashamed of what we have to bring, or how well we will do? Brené Brown says that the practices to build resilience to shame are: courage, compassion, and connection. Maybe, in order to be fully ourselves—to be the light of the world—we need to lean on those practices. Practice the courage to share what we have; who we truly are. Practice compassion, for others, but also ourselves —that house was dirty, and the dinner cheap, but it was a blessing. And we have to connect. We need each other. Yes, it’s scary to open ourselves up to others, to bring our gifts out into the open, but we must… for God’s sake, and our own.