Chicken & Cigarettes - Pt. 4 - Toilets & Rubber Gloves  

Posted by Ben in

Jesus demonstrated how to wield his imperial power by washing feet, telling stories and playing with kids. Jesus' empire is based on the absurd values that the last should be first, losers are winners and the most influential in this empire should clean the toilets." - The New Conspirators p. 120-1 by Tom Sine

Around this time last year my father appeared on a local Washington, D.C. TV program called "STREATS TV" to talk about the work that our church does with the Homeless in the District and to tell people how to get involved either with our church or other programs or institutions that help with the cause of the Homeless and Displaced. This is "an unprecedented tv program by the homeless about homelessness. After my trip to Baltimore he showed me the website and there was a video on there where a homeless man woke up on a park bench. As he got up, he looked around for a place to use the restroom. As he started to use a tree he heard his mother's voice in his head telling him not to and to find somewhere more appropriate. As the video went on it explained that even finding a decent place to relieve one's wastes is an everyday struggle for many people who do not have a home. To not have a home means so much more than not having a bed or a roof over your head, it means all of the above and so much more. It means to not have any of the everyday comfort and luxury that comes with having a place to call home.

This resonated with an experience I had while in Baltimore. Galen and I found it to be extremely profound. As we had only been in the city for a short while and had not yet gone to say hello to our friends yet. We realized we both needed to use the lavatory and were wondering where we might find one, for some reason we never thought about asking the church. We went up to a man on the corner of the street and asked him, he told us we could walk to McDonald's or we could just use the porta-john there in the park. We looked over and saw it was covered in graffiti and writing. As you opened the door it you walked into a restroom which was by no means in good shape. A lot of the writing was addressed to someone by the name of Kim. Many said "thank you Kim for taking care of our bathroom." Some other writing was addressed to other people. Much of it read "If you can't shit in the toilet then go do it outside."

As we spent time talking to the folks who lived in the park, we learned a lot about that bathroom and about Kim. We learned that the church had bought the park from the city for $1 because the city was not taking care of the park. As an act of love and ministry, after purchasing the park they began allowing the homeless of the city to sleep and live and commune in the park. Much of the city was upset at this because it sits on one of the main drags of the city, President St. which heads out of the harbor and turns into I-83. The park is located directly where it turns into and out of I-83, so all of those cars see a group of vagabonds as their first or last site in the city.

One parishioner, named Kim, felt called by God to do ministry for the homeless. What was his ministry? He told the church that if they'd supply the folks in the park with a restroom that he would clean it and keep it maintained. Many of those who live in the park told us of how much they appreciate the work that Kim does. They all recognized that he doesn't have to do it. In fact, many said that if they were Kim, they wouldn't do it. They were very frustrated that some don't show any appreciation for the kindness that Kim gives to them.

I thought this was powerful, it wasn't those who helped give out food and clothes from time to time or even weekly that made the big impression. It was he who humbled himself to cleaning toilets for those who might fail to appreciate the work that he did. It was that work on the side that usually gets no recognition that received the spotlight from those who needed it the most. Kim might not get any recognition from the church, he might not get any recognition from most people in the city, but to those who feel the affect of his work first hand, he's a hero.

If Christ made himself a servant, humbled himself to the point of death, even death on a cross, maybe we can clean more toilets.

"We can do no great things, only small things with great love."

This entry was posted on Friday, June 13, 2008 at 10:05 AM and is filed under . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


Kim sounds like a person who could be mistaken for Jesus.

July 7, 2008 at 7:50 AM

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