Chocolate Bunnies, Homeless Men and Inequity

People donate all sorts of things to homeless shelters.  So when it’s time to serve dinner, along with the main course and some sort of vegetable, there’s often a plethora of random sweets.  Perhaps there’ll be slices of cherry pie or chunks of cake. Sometimes the cake might have an Elmo theme, donated as it was from a bakery that had a no-show for an ordered cake for a five-year-old’s birthday (a story in itself). Anyway, you get the idea: there are lots of food items donated to the homeless, and they are sometimes a bit random.

So it wasn’t a big surprise when there were boxes and boxes of chocolate Easter bunnies out on the dessert table on Tuesday night when I showed up for my dinner-serving shift.

Yet the bunnies — their presence so out of season and jarring somehow — were a big hit. And watching the men grab, hold onto, and save their bunnies for later was poignant.

Often when I’m there at the shelter I pray for the men, wondering what went wrong in their lives that got them to the point of being an overnight guest at this place in which they’d never hoped to end up, in spite of it being kindly- and well-run.  I know there are some stories of “had it all, lost it all.”  I know there are issues of abuse, addictions, injustice, racism; many factors drive people into a shelter.

Yet seeing so many men (in their twenties or in their eighties or in between) with glaringly green boxes of Easter bunnies encased in the molded plastic interiors, I could see quite clearly a room of little boys.  Some tough.  Some shy.  Some teased for their lisps.  Some bullied for their girth.  Black.  White.  Asian.  Well-dressed.  Sloppy.  Well-muscled.  Shrinking. Grateful.  Angry. Playground-lovers.  Spelling Bee champions.  Boy-men.

And I thought, with an ache, of the mothers who did what they could, often against horrific odds.  Who are, in many cases, still out there somewhere praying, hoping, and wondering where there boys are.  Not knowing that they are — at least many nights — in this place with good food and Easter bunnies to spare.  It’s not home, but it ‘s not the streets either.  And there are opportunities to begin turning life around.  There are many stories of redemption.  Many mothers’ boys are climbing their way out, or at least staying out of the weather for a spell.  I hope the mothers sense it.

I’m a mother.  I have a son.  And Tuesday night I thought anew of my own jokes, when my children were little, that I would “consider my parenting a success if we can keep everyone out of jail.”

In my part of town, staying out of jail is generally possible and even quite likely (thus the fodder for joking).  In other parts of town, that’s no laughing matter (nor should it be in mine, actually, as an acquaintance’s grandson awaits trial for murder).  That could be any of our children.  Yet (as Shane Claiborne says) something that’s front-page news in one part of town is “business as usual” in another.

All our children struggle.  “Affluenza” is as damaging a plight — in a different way — as poverty is. We privileged or relatively privileged people generally can anesthetize our pain more subtly and can buy our way out of transgressions more easily than can the poor.  But many of our children are similarly languishing in invisible prisons of their own making, longing for (at least metaphorical) refuge from the storm, for the neighborly atmosphere of a shelter with food, love and Easter bunnies to spare.

So here’s to the mothers who gave their little boys chocolate Easter bunnies just like I did, but sometimes have to wonder if the promise of Easter, the redemption of Easter applies to everybody, in a society where not everyone has the same chances, the same breaks, the same opportunities.

Of course God’s gifts and grace apply to all.  But here on earth, we Jesus-followers don’t always do what it takes to see that the kingdom of heaven comes here to earth (as much as we can effect that) on our watch.  We look on silently and let some lives go better than others; we assume that some parts of town just produce people who can’t or won’t do as well as our children well.

We presume that our children will stay out of jail or homeless shelters, and we assume that “those people” will end up in them.

Yet everybody is somebody’s little boy or girl (and the orphans, widows and aliens are God’s particular favorites).

And everybody appreciates a good chocolate bunny, whether they devour it as they did when they were eight or tuck it under their arm and take it with them out into the stark reality of life.

I’m thankful for the visual that jarred my thinking.  God help me.

~ by Cary on June 2, 2011.

12 Responses to “Chocolate Bunnies, Homeless Men and Inequity”

  1. You are stirring up deep emotions in the heart of countless mothers with this post. Your words paint emotions so strong that my mercy motivated heart is weeping for these men with chocolate Easter bunnies.
    May God show us how to bring the reality and promise of Easter into the ordinary. And for those of us who may look perfect on the outside,we’re wounded too and right now . . . I’m craving a chocolate bunny.:-)

  2. You see – really see – these men with compassion and empathy and I think they are better off for having been served and seen by you. Thank you for tying all of these themes together; they really are inseparable. It’s such a good reminder.

    • Thanks, Penny. A friend told me that we are closest to Jesus when we are with the poor; I believe it when I am there.

  3. A wonderfully truth and emotional post. Thanks, ,Cary.

  4. Wow! Fabulous, beautiful God bless our babies young and old

  5. I love this, Cary. You are inspiring, both in words and actions. I think taking the lens of viewing “our fellow sufferers” as children is helpful as we try to make sense of this world. The most helpful for me is to remind myself that we have a common Father who loves us all uniquely and wholly. God help us, indeed.

    • And there are some people, especially bullies and cool girls, the image of whom as children diffuses my anxiety around them! 🙂

  6. Cary, This piece is wonderful. It strikes an emotional cord on so many levels. Thank you.

    • Katie, thanks. And Andrew and I drive-by-visited your paintings at Marin-Price. Beautiful. The boy and the dog could have been Charlie and Bagel (or other combos we know and love!).

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