Tuesday, March 2, 2010

My First Meeting with Greg

I've never done adult education before, and I'm not entirely sure what I was expecting when I sauntered up to the Mission at 6pm yesterday.  I know the building itself quite well - I go there once a week for church.  The men that live there, on the other hand, have remained a mystery to me for the most part.  I smile when I come in and smile when I walk out because I am, after all, a caring Christian.  How will they know our love if we don't nod politely as we breeze by and go about our way?

It's bothered me for the past few months, that distance.  The way I claim to be an advocate of social justice, yet rarely spend quality time with those outside of my socioeconomic circle.  The way I avoid eye contact with the homeless of DC, convinced I am too busy bustling around and saving the world to make time to have a short conversation with another struggling sojourner.

I think, when I'm honest, I was expecting to feel pretty heroic working with Greg.  Here I am, the educated young professional, choosing to forego a happy hour and help you, illiterate homeless man, get your life back on track!  Wow!  What a noble person I am.

I suppose it just goes to show that even our best motives are deeply polluted.

Greg does not fit into the box I had mentally prepared for him.  At 47-years-old, he is a former Marine and father of three.  One of his children is in college studying education.  He was born in DC and attended mediocre-to-bad public schools all his life.  He graduated from high school, joined the military and, somewhere down the line, got married and divorced.  I don't know why his children and wife are now far from him or why he lives at the Mission, but I assume that whatever caused the former led to the latter as well.

When we had situated ourselves at the table, I asked Greg, "What made you decide to get a tutor?"  He looked at me and said, "I have a hard time understanding my Bible.  And I can't know Jesus if I can't read His word."  As I transitioned us into the battery of tests that would tell me what reading level Greg was on, he interrupted me and asked if we could pray a little before we started.  "I'm nervous," he said, "because I've never been good at reading - always better at drawing - and without the Holy Spirit, I'm not gonna be able to focus."  So we prayed.  For the next hour and a half, he prayed a lot more.  As a matter of fact, Greg seemed to talk to Jesus as much, if not more, than he talked to me in the course of our first lesson together.  He prayed in thanks, he prayed for strength, he prayed for focus, he prayed for me, he prayed, he prayed, he prayed...

Despite what I sometimes believe, my degree and elevated financial situation make me no less dependent on the Holy Spirit than Greg. Jesus pointed out in the Sermon on the Mount that we can't change the color of a single hair on our heads - no matter how much earthly power we accumulate.  As I sat there analyzing questions that assessed Greg's literacy skills, I couldn't help but notice his fluency in the only area that really counts.

Perhaps I am the one who will be getting tutored on Mondays.


  1. That is amazing...how humbling. But how encouraging too! I love you.

  2. I'm very glad I visited this blog too.