It made me very sad.
I was down at Resurrection House, the day shelter for homeless people here in Sarasota. It’s Wednesday, so I was there to facilitate the weekly prayer service.
“He” came into our small Chapel. “He” is Ian (not his real name).
Ian is a thirty-something man. He is well dressed, and looks quite unlike our stereotypical image of the “homeless”.
N.B. There are no “homeless”. There are “homeless people”.
“Ian” began to speak. Together with the other three men in the Chapel, I heard a non-stop and unfocused “speech”. Little of what he said made sense. But there were phrases here and there which spoke of his longing to be accepted “just as he was”.
“Just as he was” is not “just as we are“. For it became clear that Ian is mentally ill.
He lives in his own world:- a world which makes sense to him, but which seems to be nonsense to others.
I used my soft and gentle voice to try to “talk him down”. But my words made no more sense for him than his words did for me.
In the end I asked him to leave our Chapel, for I needed to create a safe space for the other men who were anxious to pray.
Of course this made me feel crappy. As a Christian Pastor I believe that all people are welcomed and accepted in the Lord Jesus Christ.
But I had to balance the need to enable a prayerful space for the other three homeless men against the insatiable needs of “Ian”.
“Ian” left the Chapel without protest. The other men, (far more “street wise” than I could ever be), understood the entire scenario, and were glad that I had helped to create a place of quiet peace for their prayers. Good for them.
Nonetheless I have been sad all day.
I am sad for those who, like Ian, live with mental illnesses.