catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 4, Num 6 :: 2005.03.25 — 2005.04.07


At war with shame

I arrived in Spokane this morning at 12:07 via Amtrak’s Empire Builder from Portland. I had a 40-pound backpack, a shoulder bag with my computer in it, and another bag full of wires and cigarettes all loaded onto my student-fed frame. It was 20 degrees out (better than I expected, really). The walk home from the train station is about 2 miles and slightly uphill. I was not excited. As I began walking, I kicked myself for not replacing my lost glove; my ungloved hand began to go numb two blocks into the walk. Whenever I find myself complaining about being cold, I remember watching Band of Brothers a few years back and telling myself I’d never complain again about being cold.

Halfway home, a guy yelled across the street to me asking for a cigarette. I yelled back at him and told him only if he would come to me, as I didn’t want to add another 20 feet to my trip. He walked over, asked how I was doing, if I were cold. I told him I’d just arrived in town and was, yes, a bit cold, but (Band of Brothers in mind) better than I could be. He asked me if I wanted some company tonight.

I’m thinking now about the way I responded. I’m wondering why I said, politely, “No, thank you.” Well, and it could have been worse, I suppose—I could have told him to get out of my face, or said “What the f . . . ?” But I said, “No, thanks.”

What I wish I would have done, the way I wish I would have reacted (a true indicator of the heart I wish I had) is to apologize for making him come to me, for meeting me where I was rather than going to meet him. I wish I would have been grieved and saddened by his request rather than politely disinterested. I wish I would have said, “No, I don’t, but do you? Would you like to come over for hot chocolate and get warm? Can I tell you a story or two?” I’m not naive—I know that sounds silly—but I think about these kinds of situations, these people who I know are sad and lonely and not without shame, not without a reminder of their glory. I convince myself that I have the kind of heart that will respond well should these situations arise. I don’t think Jesus would have said “No, thank you” and walked away.

“Companion”: 1297, from O.Fr. compaignon “fellow, mate,” from L.L. companionem (nom. companio), lit. “bread fellow, messmate,” from L. com- “with” + panis “bread.” Found first in 6c. Frankish Lex Salica, and probably a translation of a Gmc. word (cf. Gothic gahlaiba “messmate,” from hlaib “loaf of bread”). Replaced O.E. gefera “traveling companion,” from faran “go, fare.”

“Company”: 1150, from O.Fr. compaignie “body of soldiers,” from L.L. companio (see companion). Meaning “subdivision of an infantry regiment” is from 1590. Sense of “business association” first recorded 1553, having earlier been used in reference to trade guilds (1303). Abbreviation co. dates from 1759.

Our hearts war with loneliness, with the shame of isolation, of banishment. I usually don’t like war imagery, especially when associated with the church, but tonight, the idea of the church as a band of brothers seems just right, the church as a place where together we huddle to keep warm in the war against shame and loneliness, where, as fellow mates, we come together with bread to meet the mess we’re in together. A place that’s a refuge for those in no-man’s land. And not a static place, but a mobile place, a company that moves, that walks across the street to offer bread and companionship.

Now that I’ve arrived home and drunk my hot chocolate and warmed my hands, I realize that I’m more in need of company than I thought.

This article originally appeared as a blog entry on Junkmail for Blankets.

your comments

comments powered by Disqus