I made a decision last night to not sleep on the street as planned. At first I was ashamed of my decision. The Rev. Megan Rohrer told those who gathered there that sleeping on the streets that night would not make you a better person but if you went home, just remember you could not do it even one night, when all these youth don't have that choice (paraphrasing there to get the gist!) She was right, it would not have made me a better person, but knowing myself well enough, it would have made more smug. I would have been more critical of colleagues who didn't even show up at all. She was right, I could not, of my own free will, choose to sleep out after all.
But I do know a little something of what it is like to no longer have the choice. I did spend one week of my life homeless, but unlike these youth, it was thru my own stubbornness, my own stupidity. Every day I saw where people had found my clothes and possessions that I tried to hide, since I couldn't carry them all, having been ransacked and little by little I lost them all but for the one small bag I carried with me. I did not have to sleep on hard streets, like most of the youth and other homeless folks do here in the city, I had park, I would crawl into the underbrush and cover myself with leaves so no one would see me. However, I did only have to do this for a week. And I did move on from there. But that experience stuck with me and is why I work with SF Night Ministry and it was why I joined the rally and march last night.
But I still chose not to sleep on the street.
One of the things I have learned in ministry is that it is tough to find out you have limits. There are just certain lines you come to and cannot cross at that moment. Sometimes all you can do is bear silent witness to others suffering, pain, anger etc. and even there, you still reach your limit. I heard things last night that I did not agree with, things I did not want to hear, things I needed to hear. And sometimes I could not hear a thing as I began to wrestle with what it all really meant, what was I supposed to do, how was I supposed to witness?
I chose to stay as long as the speeches, then I chose to go home. My limit, that line last night was that I could not sleep on the street.
Will I go to another rally like this? You bet I will! And another, and another and another, for as long as I am able. And who knows, maybe next time, or the next time or the time after that, I may cross that line and choose to sleep on the street! or Maybe that will never happen. We will see.
-Bishop Rusty Clyma