One thing I like about volunteering with RBO is the chance to meet up with kids from all different parts of Oakland. This year I was paired up with S, a kid from the Fruitvale district attending a local charter school just a few blocks from me.
Mike calls me out of the blue.
Years have passed since I’ve last written about Mike. I see him every once in awhile in Berkeley, still. I think about him from time to time – wonder how he’s doing. I catch him out the corner of my eye the week before I leave for vacation, hanging around at Gypsy’s. “Mike!” I call back to him, and he turns around with a big grin on his face. The sidewalks are soaked.
Oakland, tonight I swam in your streets and felt the cool of your night. I think to myself how I feel strong when the pull stroke feels easy, and think to memorize the tones of the sky at dusk when I pull to the side for air – half the sky a fading incandescent red, the other a fluorescent blue. I find, for a few moments of grace that people shimmer with a quiet mystery when they’re underwater, the light from the pool lamps refracting, flexing, arcing over their bodies. To you, Oakland, I feel a sense of sheepishness, I
The more I stay here the more I realize that I am tired, I am selfish, I am resentful. I am being changed–yes–by entering the lives of people in poverty and seeing the grace of being invited into their lives. Yes, I am learning from them a simple faith and a simple life. But it is difficult, and it’s a place I do not know how to inhabit.
At about 10AM this morning in the middle of Albert’s sermon, Mrs. Hu bursts into the sanctuary and I hear a flurry of hurried murmuring behind me and the flutter of a hundred heads turning. “Someone call 911!”