Living in the Realm of Hungry Ghosts

Living in the Realm of Hungry Ghosts

Recently there was a young lady sitting in a corner of Hemlock Alley.  Around you could see people going into the bars and restaurants on Polk Street. She was picking at a rat hole in the alley, and what she was trying to pull out was some cooked rice. I sat down and gave her some food, and she looked at me with the most beautiful eyes and said: “When I have no food, I search these holes, and look in the dumpsters, and find grains of rice and other things I can eat.  I keep them in my back pack. God is kind- hearted. God watches over me and gives me everything.  When God watches me looking everywhere I always find some food.  I search the holes, pack my food away, and and go to sleep.”

A simple statement of faith that speaks to confronting our hungry ghosts.  WE are all surrounded by hungry ghosts. They are our shadows.  I see my ghosts all the time: the ghosts of growing up in an homophobic environment, being kicked out of the ministry for being queer.  I see my ghosts in the people who bring judgment on me for the way I work, when in fact it is their ghosts at work in the labeling, and judgment of  people on the street. Our hungry ghosts surround us and enslave us.  When we start looking at our shadow side–our ghosts go away.

The young lady is a ware of her hungry ghosts of addiction, of homelessness, that she struggles with every second of the day. She is aware of the hungry ghosts of the near impossibility of getting out of her environment–in a City that has little housing, and where you have to fight tooth and nail to get treatment. She has just moved a year beyond the age for youth services, and so all of that has become more limited.

She is one of so many of the hungry ghosts that I have been friends with over the years: Cade. who died of AIDS at 22, Derk, 23, of a drug over dose, Mike 30, a drug over dose and thousands more. On my wall are photos of young men and women I have known and loved for 24 years, and each one has lived in the realm of the hungry ghosts.

I was asked the other day by a friend  if I had time to “hang out.”  My reply was: “Hell yea, my ministry is hanging out.”  For me that is what ministry is–hanging out, without judgment, without fixing anything, but hanging out, listening, giving love and attention, and facing our shadows together so that we can push the hungry ghosts away.  One of the largest hungry ghosts we have to face is our need to “fix” others, to fix their situation. Once we confront that sucker, we can walk into the life of loving the other without expectation, with freedom, and the shining light of Christ beams through us.  We are set free to relate and love as equals, fellow travelers on the journey.  Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

+Fr. River Damien Sims, sfw, D.Min.

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164



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