October 10, 2017
I met Jesus yesterday. Under the Alaskan Way viaduct. Unexpected place, but a familiar context: where there is desperate need met with societal inaction. Oh, and he was wearing a George Washington wig. It's kind of a long story...
I was working a voter registration table at the Compass Center, a place where people experiencing homelessness can do laundry and get their mail, among other things. A man walked by wearing a florescent orange jacket dangling with various trinkets, a George Washington wig pulled down over his eyes that made him look like a sheepdog, and a huge grin. I asked if he was registered to vote and he said he didn't want to vote. Those ballots always made you choose one person, and he didn't want to choose between God, Jesus or the Holy Spirit. We smiled and he went on his way.
After my friend’s shift ended, she came back into the Compass Center. She told me there was a man lying out on the sidewalk who had asked her to call an ambulance, and asked if I could wait with him while she called. I went out and spotted him immediately. He was curled up in the fetal position, his few possessions scattered around him. As I knelt to ask if he was breathing okay, he seemed too tired or confused to respond. He was clearly very sick. He was doubled over in pain and his nose dripped with so much green mucus that it covered his face.
As we waited for the ambulance to arrive, our friend from earlier came out of the Compass Center. He noticed the man on the sidewalk and came bounding over. He said to the man, “There isn't anything I can do for you, but I'm going to pray for you.” And he knelt there in the street under Alaskan Way and prayed for him. The man reached out his hand and Mr. “George Washington” held it. George looked up at me and said, “He needs something under his head so he can be comfortable,” and reached into his duffle bag. He pulled out a small, well-used butterfly-shaped pillow and tucked it gently under the man's head. Lacking anything else to use, he wiped the snot off the man's face with his own hand. When the ambulance came, he told them, “He needs water and oxygen,” before allowing the EMTs to shoo him away.
When EMTs arrived on scene, they both sighed. One of them greeted the sick man by name. “We see him about twice a day,” they told us. Now this is what frustrates me. Surely there must be some way we can better take care of this man. Some sort of program, or at the very least a roof over his head so he can heal. If George Washington experiencing homelessness can hold his hand, give him the pillow from his own bag, and advocate for him when he's too sick to speak, surely, we as a society can do something more than send an ambulance after him twice a day. Can't we?
So that's how I met Jesus. As always, he was one of the “least of these,” spending his time with the social outcasts and delivering his unflinching indictment of the system to the privileged. Hear the gospel of Homeless George Washington.
–Amanda Agrellas, Plymouth Justice Leadership Intern