Like a single thread of yarn stretching into the void of history, attached to solid mooring of ancestral days, unraveling ever on toward the future. The thread connects all of us, from the simplest peasant to the grandest king, past, present, and future. Every beautiful life hangs as a colorful flag on that thread, gently waving in the breeze of time.
I was on the tail end of a Greyhound backpacking trip around the United States, meeting interesting people and hitching rides when I could. So far, I’d been to the Grand Canyon, spent a few days in Las Vegas, and stopped at various cities along the way. Earlier, I’d caught a taxi to Mount Rushmore.
After fifteen minutes of walking, the city’s business district gave way to rundown restaurants and boarded up windows. The street became narrower, hemmed in on either side by parked cars. Scents turned from tantalizing to putrid. I didn’t pass anyone walking, although clusters of men, speaking Dutch, stood outside of a few bars.
The seeds of my obsession with traveling by bus were sown more than a decade ago in 2006, when I was 15, on a dirty tile floor in the heart of Pittsburgh, Pa. While on a cross country trip to Mo. with my Dad to see the oldest of my seven brothers, Peter, graduate Army Basic Training, we were snowed-in at the city’s Greyhound station for 28-hours. After the first day, the local Red Cross brought cots and distributed food vouchers. There weren’t enough cots, though, and I ended up sleeping on the floor instead, coat balled-up under my head, sweatshirt covering my face.
I carry my burdens to God: take this atlas stone of other’s pain to the Creator of a love so encompassing, so overarching, so blindingly bright, that even darkness cannot remain dark any longer.
This truth I believe; that God so entirely and completely loved the world that He sent His only son, Jesus, to save humanity from itself.
Truly, Emanuel: God-with-us. Now, in this desperate, painful time, God is with us.
The day after seeing Josh, while sitting at home alone in my apartment, I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t more excited to see him, and he, to see me. It’s not that we don’t love or care for each other; on the contrary, I deeply care about every one of my brothers, and would gladly give my life for their safety and happiness.
All these years later, her words and assurance stay with me: God is still bigger; than hate, which drove a man to walk into an Orlando nightclub and murder 49 people in the dark; than fear, which drives America forward on a vengeance path; than anger, which fuels the ongoing chaos in the world.
In the same way, this inmate had a choice about how to respond to his present circumstances. And he chose to write me an unpleasant letter. From his perspective, I understand that I must seem like a villian. However, I did nothing other than report the facts (of course, that doesn’t make me feel any better).
Dad would pull the pallet onto the work floor with a hand jack and slap down another in its place. The scent of that building has lingered with me after all these years: a mixture of stale ink and dust. It was so dry I’d have to run to the bubbler every half-hour or so for a disposable cup of water.