Months ago, I wrote about the song Life By the Drop by Stevie Ray Vaughan. Often I mention songs that strike me as personal, spiritual, and reflective of my life. I write song lyrics here because they are no different than a great poem, story, or scripture passage in that they help me contemplate on life. And much like these other objects of meditation, their meaning can change as time goes on.
I also previously wrote about Don, a volunteer at St. Ben's that had fallen off the radar during the Christmas break. He'd fallen off the wagon after being sober for over two years. It's been a tough experience for me because it defines the greatest risk I face in my ministry. I don't worry about losing money or being injured, I worry about losing people I actually care about. I see how easy it is to not get close to people simply to protect my own feelings, yet that is not what I want in life. I want to care, to show empathy, to let people know that I will help if and where I can. I know I cannot save the world, but I can be present to those I meet...that is one of the reasons I've chosen this life.
I listened to this blues song again, listened to the voice of SRV and his 12-string acoustic. I found new meaning in the words that came through the headphones. I heard the singing of someone who will struggle their entire life with addiction. I heard the resignation that life will continue to be ups and downs. I could hear the words of someone aspiring to live a better life, but realizing he could only live a day at a time.
Wednesday evening at the meal, I saw Don again. "Brother Vito! Man, I missed you!" We embraced like brothers long since separated.
He has started to help out again, yet our relationship has changed somewhat. Sadly I am careful now about certain things with him. Places where he had full-access now require permission from me or Br. Dave. He checks in more about what he's doing. And while I want to trust him as implicitly as I used to, prudence tells me I need to be wary...just in case.
I don't know if I'm trying to romanticize this interaction between Don and I to better fit into my sense of "solidarity with the poor," or if I just refuse to admit exactly how deeply affected I've been by this situation. This notion of agape, selfless love, is a great concept. Living it, especially when you worry about that love and trust being misused, is not as easy as told in the stories of the saints. This morning at prayer, I prayed not just for those who suffered from addictions, but for their friends, family, and loved ones who continue to love after their trust has been shaken.
It's 3:45 in the morning; I really should be in bed. Yet the thoughts of those with alcohol addictions, their families who continue to love them, and the struggles that they will face...these things are at the forefront of my mind. At times like these, I simply listen to the music and try to offer those concerns, prayers, and my own fears to my Creator.
I don't have any theological argument for my final thought, but I think God must listen to the blues. For if indeed the Lord hears the cry of the poor (Psalm 34), the truest lamentations I ever found are in the blues.