By Timothy Wagner
Wild Hope is this little community of Imago Dei that has an ongoing presence amongst homeless youth in downtown Portland. Street kids. What we do is very simple: We go where they are, we offer basic supplies such as socks and toothbrushes to make life easier and we try to bring listening ears and open hearts.
For a while we would see Adam and Jeanette nearly every week. They were always in front of the Rite Aid on Alder Street off Broadway. We would make a point of going by there just to see them. We suspected that Adam didn't really like us, that we irritated him somehow. So we would just be polite, say hi, then leave him alone. Jeanette though, was different. She loved to talk and tell us about her day, her week and whatever was on her mind. Most of all, she really loved to talk about their dogs. Even Adam would warm up and join in that discussion.
I know many of you have pets whom are very importantto you. The street kids are no different. When you have been quit on so many times by people, when acceptance is very conditional, when most of the people walking past you really wish you'd disappear, there is something amazing about a dog's capacity to love you as you are - Whatever you do. Or don't do.
One week we discovered that one of their dogs, Forrest, had died. We had previously put up a picture of Forrest on Facebook. One of the Wild Hope girls, Hilary took the picture, had a print made and laminated it. She brought it the next week, intending to offer it to Adam and Jeanette, but they weren't there. "Well that happens," we thought. "We'll see them next week." But we didn't. Not the following week either. They had just disappeared.
Seven months later, we were downtown and we saw them sitting on the corner of 5th and Morrison. We rushed over, excited to see them. Hilary reached into her bag and pulled out the photo. I was amazed. She'd been carrying it with her every week.
What does it feel like when you're sitting on a street corner next to the Nines Hotel, the people walking past you and around you trying to pretend you're not there? Then what does it feel like when a group of folks rush up to you out of nowhere, and one of them hands you a picture of your beloved lost pet?
In Wild Hope we pray. We pray that the people we meet would see past our meager efforts to the One who sends us, the One who pries open our eyes to see those whom He never stops looking at. We pray they would sense that there is someone there who doesn't quit on them, who is always there, who has always known them and when we leave, remains.
When you get to know these young people who live outside, you see they have about a thousand needs that you just can't meet. While this is a joyful work, it also hard and discouraging. There is so much we can't do. It's frustrating. But we have learned we can keep coming. Keep showing up. Keep standing there. Keep being present. And keep listening.
Join one of Wild Hope's weekly walks on Wednesday nights from 6-9 PM to listen, love and pray. For more info, contact Tim Wagner at firstname.lastname@example.org.