Yesterday we returned the archetypal Mustang, after a top-down ride the night before down Lombard Street, up Telegraph Hill and around the Embarcadero to Market Street As we approached the Tenderloin we raised the top. It is so sad to see so many people sleeping on the streets, it reminds me of the pictures of New Orleans after Katrina; except there has been no hurricane here, simply a system that rewards the rich and suffers the poor to sleep on the streets in the richest nation on the earth.
I am proud to be an American. I speak as someone who’s always been proud to trace ancestry back to the roots of this country, so don’t make a protest that I don’t have a right to speak about my own homeland. But I recall the pictures I saw from Katrina and the sights I saw with my own eyes last night, speeding through the streets of San Francisco, and I think of the Hebrew prophets in the Scripture, railing against the injustice of Israel, and it makes me scared; for my country and for myself as a citizen.
I have reason to be concerned. I am staying in a neighbourhood where the average house sells for 1.2 million, I was somewhat depressed yesterday when Brooks Brothers did not have a wool-cashmere blazer in my side, I always hope for an upgrade to business class when flying. I am no saint. Bob Egan, a Jesuit who was my spiritual director for much of the ‘80s said one of the big questions for anyone who was interested in being a Christian is this: “How uncomfortable do you allow yourself to be for the Kingdom of God, the new creation?” I still mull over that one and my answer is usually, “not very uch at all.” But I wonder about the voices of the prophets, the call of God’s righteousness, and how it might speak, what it might say, about the disparity of rich and poor in this city, this nation, my own country in these days.
In “For the Time Being,” W. S. Auden writes that “God’s will will be done.” If any of this God stuff is true, if the poor are really blessed and if those who work for righteousness will be fulfilled; then I wonder how that might happen in this city in this world. And I wonder how I might be more concerned and connected to that kingdom, working towards that end, that hoped for harvest for all humankind, all creation. Going back to scripture, how can I keep awake?
San Francisco is still my favorite city,and it is still the place from which I define the world. The view from Coit Tower, driving down upper Market Street, Yerba Buena, Union Square, the wooden houses in bright colours climbing halfway to the stars, Tony Bennett is right, I left much of my heart here; and that heart sings for the beauty here and is saddened by the people who still sleep nightly in the doorways around the Civic Centre and for the rest of us as well. Can I live in that paradox for awhile, can I learn and build from it? Where can this prayer lead me to change my life and my work?