I was away this weekend…
…so I couldn’t make it to the various BlackLivesMatters gatherings in town.
My colleagues did some great work and our local police worked hard to support the demonstration while maintaining public safety… not always an easy task.
Rabbi Laura (my wife) represented us both at a Night Walk in the neighborhood of our good friend, Pastor DJ Criner’s church. The purpose was to walk the neighborhood and listen to the locals, meet them where they’re at and hear their story. (Read Rabbi Laura's Blog: Hate is hate, no matter who it is against)
There she met a homeless man who called today for some help. He needed shelter for a couple days in a safer neighborhood.
Unfortunately, we got to see that performing a mitzvah is not always easy to accomplish.
Most places won’t rent you a room without valid ID, even when someone else is paying. This is especially challenging for the more vulnerable in our community who have trouble getting ID. I get it. There are safety reasons for needing an ID, but this makes it even more challenging for those trying to get on their feet.
Speaking of feet… our friend is in a wheelchair and getting into either the lobbies or the rooms was also a great challenge, not to mention getting down the street with inconsistent sidewalks.
Four motels refused lodging. The fourth sent us back to the third with enough guilt to get a room. We had called one of the places ahead but they didn’t seem to be able to accommodate us after they took one look at us.
The evening left us troubled. I knew about all these challenges. It wasn’t news to us but we haven’t spent much time directly confronting them. I’m also troubled by the internal wrestling. A couple hours walking the streets with someone in search of a room is nothing to be proud of… we don’t do a mitzvah for appreciation or recognition or even thanks. We’re spending more time directly connecting with deep issues in our community and it reminds us just how much work there is to do.
It’s a good reminder of our old friend Rabbi Tarfon (from the late first and early second century C.E.) who said “It is not your responsibility to complete the task but neither are you free to desist from it.”
(Rabbi Laura at Rabbi Tarfon's tomb... a few years ago)