Throwing Pebbles in the Pond


Seventy years ago Dorothy Day said: “We face the situation that there is nothing we can do for people except love them. .What I mean is that there is no chance of rehabilitation, no chance, so far as we can see of changing them; certainly no chance of adjusting them to this abominable world about them–and who wants them adjusted any way.. . .We can throw our pebble in the pond and be confident that its ever widening circle will reach around the world. We repeat there is nothing that we can do but love, and dear God–please enlarge our hearts to love each other, to love our neighbor, to love our enemy as well as our friend.”

Last night 20 year old , J sat on my couch. His dad had kicked him out because he was “tired of him” and he came to San Francisco and is presently  in the   program of a local youth agency. The problem is the agency is telling him there is little hope of housing within a year. J is going through Craig’s List finding people with whom to have sex  and goes to the Nob Hill Movie House for the same reason; he is drug free–for now, but thinking about using in order to deal with his fear and depression; J was asking me about how to put an ad on craig’s list to “make money”, and I told him, but gave him fifty dollars and asked him to take the day to think about it–because from my own experience it will change his life forever; I told him that once you sold your body you are never the same, and to think hard about it.  But the naked reality is J will probably have no choice,  but to sell his body to survive.  J is depressed with no friends, no where to live, little hope. He left giving me a hug.

Two days ago I received a call from a seventy year old woman in Bellingham Washington. She had been calling Catholic Workers, trying to find someone to talk to, and I was the only one who answered. For two hours I simply listened. She talked of how she had to move from San Francisco because of the cost of living and now living in Bellingham alone, no family, no friends, and she was “just clinging to hope.”

“Clinging to hope,” is what almost everyone I encounter is doing.  The only hope I can offer is the hope of Dorothy–love, simply love through listening, food, and time.

This past week I have been reminded of what a friend wrote to me some twenty years ago when I came to San Francisco, Mary  said:

“You have chosen a vocation which reminds me of a  a conductor standing in the middle of the train tracks with trains coming from all directions–all blinding you, all aiming at you, without thought of you.  Your path is one of courage–but a hell of a lot of pain.”

My friend has along ago joined the great cloud of witnesses and I see her face and her smile, and feel her love, but the romantic sounding of that phrase has turned into much pain, and fear at times. This past week I have had emails, phone calls, Face book messages calling me names, and people projecting their own fears and frustrations on me,  and I sat in Sacramento and now here numb, and yet the people still come and I still keep on going. And my attitude is again coming back to simply saying “Come at me, keep’em coming and I will simply let them run off my back and keep on going.”

We live in a time of desperation and fear–and people lash out, and with social media and technology with  much venom and destruction in their words.

One of the quotes that a person sent is a sign of grace in describing our ministry:

“Anti-social behavior is a sign of intelligence in a world full of conformity.”

We are anti social in our attitude toward society and towards the church.God loves people without expectation of results, and we expect society to provide the basic needs of housing, health care, food, and clothing in the same expectation. God in Christ loves people without expectation of their belief, their race, creed, or sexual orientation. We expect the same. We are anti-social, we are feral, and we make no apologies for that.

But the reality is there is nothing we can change on our own and the likelihood is that nothing will change–homelessness and poverty is increasing, and is more prevalent than ever. We are more aware of it because of our social media. To kick against the grain destroys us, it destroys our own emotional well being. What we know is that we can not change people, but we can offer love, and respite in the midst of life, and in that love and respite lives are transformed.

Personally this journey of the past nearly twenty two years–in fact all of my life–is one of encountering the Risen Christ in his broken body, and that brokenness is in my body-and in the healing through the scars I have experienced–providing a listening ear, a pair of socks, some food, some comfort in the moment–until I too move in to that great cloud of witnesses and am forgotten about here on earth.

For the poem poem of Elisabeth Drescher sums up for me the light of wisdom and love and sums up what ministry is about:

“In the new light

of each day’s questions,

I am never prepared.

Today, again, I have nothing

to offer but a handful

of old prayers, worn down

by the relentless abrasion

of doubt, and a fragment

of dream that plays on in m head

only half remembered. Still,

the doves coo and circle

through the pines

as they do when I pass

each morning. Their sorrow

is nearly human, it rings

sweet with regret. By dusk,

the trees will bow down, and I , too,

will make my appeal, will find find

again your mercy,

your solace.”

Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Temenos Catholic Worker

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164


Fr. River Damien Sims

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