Last night I was walking to work shorty before 10pm and I decided that, rather than walking up the street, I would follow the alleyway most of the way to work. There is a major alley that runs parallel to my route (probably the most notorious alley in Vancouver) and I sometimes like to walk it at night. I do this for a few reasons: (1) I always figure there might be a chance of running into somebody I know who has been missing for awhile; (2) I figure it’s good to become a familiar face in such places; and (3) I like to walk in such places at night to make sure that I remain comfortable there — if I get away from such places for too long I notice to I find them more intimidating.
Anyway, I was just about to cut into this alleyway when two young guys, probably in their early twenties, stopped me because they thought they recognised me. Eventually we figured out that I actually did know one of the guys — he used to attend a drop-in I worked at in Toronto five years ago. We didn’t ever know each other well but we at least recognised each other. So we chatted a bit and then, as we were about to go our separate ways, he realised that I was going to go into the alley. He got pretty concerned:
“Yo man, why you want to go there for? It’s lookin’ real grimey tonight.”
So I told him that I was hoping to find a friend that wasn’t doing so hot. I told him not to worry, I’d be find. In response he said something that really touched me:
“Look man, how ’bout me and my boy here go with you. We’ll watch your back.”
Here’s what got to me about his offer: me and this guy, we hardly ever knew each other at all. But he was willing to put his neck out for me, he was willing to walk into who-knows-what, and if things got bad he was willing to jump in on my behalf, simply because we did have that one point of contact five years ago. And it wasn’t like this was no big deal for him — he was pretty scared by what was going on in the alley that night. But he was willing to put his fears aside for my sake. The reason why this touched me the way that it did was because I can’t imagine any of my acquaintances from the Christian community (outside of the intentional community that I am a part of) make anything close to a similar offer. The idea of even offering to join me in that alleyway at night probably wouldn’t even cross the mind of most of my Christian acquaintances.
And so, once again, I am humbled by the affection and solidarity that is continually embodied by those who are street-involved. I wonder how things would be different if anything close to a similar affection and solidarity existed within the Christian community. It’s about time that we also started putting our fears aside for the sake of one another.