Yesterday I took one of my field trips from suburban Simi Valley to downtown Los Angeles. A few times a year I hop on the subway in North Hollywood take the ride to downtown. I never have much of an agenda. I just walk and see what I will discover.
This time, the discovery was not downtown, but rather on the ride. I got onto the train, took a seat by a window. Across from me was a man, blind and homeless, who had just gotten out of the hospital. In his hand was a bag of stuff from the hospital including a bunch of papers. He yelled out: “Can anyone read English? In need to find my prescriptions.” The man next to him started going through his papers, sorting them out. And the man said: “Thanks boss!”
A moment later, he yelled out again: “Can someone help me? I am blind. I need to write down a phone number.” Again a person helped him. He said: “Thanks angel.”
The whole ride, thirty minutes or so, consisted of the man, Robert, yelling out for help, and people around him helping. The mood was gracious and kind.
Parker Palmer in his book Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation, writes about functional atheism. He defines this as ” …the belief that ultimate responsibility for everything rests with us. This is the unconscious, unexamined conviction that if anything decent is going to happen here, we are the one who are must make it happen—a conviction held by people who talk a good game about God” (p.88).
I thought how easily Robert called out for help. I realized how hard it is for me: “I can make it happen. And I don’t need anyone’s help.”
Psalm 46 ends with the words: “Be still and know that I am God.” That stance of depedence is the corrective to our functional atheism. Robert taught me alot.