Sunday, March 12, 2006

Painting for Jesus

I’m feeling more and more of a need to do service and outreach in the community and in the church, but it’s always the connection part that gives me hives. I’m very big on doing things that don’t involve connection.

For example, greeting at 11:00 church, which I did today (I usually do it once a month.) It’s awesome, all I have to do is stand at the door, pass out programs and say “Welcome!” Except I usually say “Howdy” “Hiya” “Push and shove your way inside, it’s cool!” Because I have to put my own unique spin on everything. I like greeting because even though you’re “greeting,” there’s very little chatting involved, since most people are on their way inside. I hate small talk. I hate chat. I’m not even big on people, for the most part (you, gentle reader, are okay.)

But I can definitely pass out programs. I can absolutely pass the offering bucket, because there’s always the possibility that someone’s gonna drop it, which happened today, and though I didn’t see it, I suspect Bernice, the pastor’s wife, had something to do with it. Which is awesome.

So yesterday I went with my 11:00am church down to Skid Row to help out with Central City Community Outreach This is the start of a partnership between 11:00am church and them, and we all went down to see what kind of help they needed. They had told us ahead of time to wear painting clothes. Painting! Yes! I can paint for Jesus! I like painting. It’s very visceral, you can see the results in front of you. Painting makes you feel like you’re making a difference, in a superficial textile kind of way.

They start off the morning by telling us what CCCO is all about, which is forging a personal connection with the people they serve, the homeless population of downtown Los Angeles. No, no, don’t make me. I came here to paint. And the CCCO Head Dude is talking about how the people we’re serving aren’t blessed because we’re serving THEM, WE’RE the ones being blessed by the act of serving, or something like that. I’m here to paint. Didn’t someone say they needed to paint?

So they talk about how there’s different things to do today, and who’s a good handyman? Not me. Who wants to make sack lunches and take them out to people and sit down and listen to them as you eat together? NOT me. Who’s really excited about painting? ME! I raise my hand, along with two other guys.

But then they pull a bait and switch and say the ones who raised their hands are actually gonna be the group leaders, so the ones who wanna paint should congregate around one of them. Wha-huh? No fair! I don’t wanna lead! I wanna paint! I suck as a leader! I just wanna paint! Painting for Jesus!

I don’t wanna be the leader, I hate being the leader, nobody ever listens to me, I’m sure it has something to do with my lack of constant eye contact, or quite possibly the fact that I’m not a big fan of people in general, but okay, fine, I have my group, and I think the number one rule of being a leader is “Fake it ‘til you make it.” So I’m gonna attempt to rise to the occasion and lead my team to painting victory! Because the alternative is forging connections with homeless people, and I’m just not ready for that yet.

So I have a little group. There’s Betsy, who’s early twenties and very tiny. You wanna pick her up and stuff her in your pocket, she’s so cute and small. There’s Clyde and Walter, twentysomething scruffies. Technically, Walter should be leading the group, because he spent a summer working as a painter (though he later tells us he got fired from the gig.) And finally Abigal, who I know from the last Outreach that 11:00am church did, which was sorting Katrina donations at a rescue center (a whole story unto itself.)

We’re given the location of the women’s bathroom, which looks a little small for five people to be in there, but we give it a go, spreading the tarp down on the floor, taping the baseboards, figuring we can put Betsy and someone else in the actual stall, since Betsy’s so short, and the rest of us will tackle the walls.

And it goes pretty well, even though in the first five minutes I mutter “shit” at the end of one sentence and then say “Shit, I said shit! Fuck!” Everyone laughs, and Clyde starts riffing on how I’m going to hell, and how when the pastor in 11:00am church says the Benediction, he’ll mean everyone but me, “May the Lord bless you and keep you, except Amy. May the Lord make his face to shine upon you, except Amy” Look how well these guys know me! Ha ha ha

I dunno, there’s something hysterically funny to me about accidentally swearing in a church situation, since it’s so wildly inappropriate, and you always get this little five year old jolt, “Uh Ohhhhhhhhhh. You were baaaaaaaaaaad. I’m telling teacher!” I really need to make an effort on stopping it, but I’m telling you, anyone else who had to live with Roomie Heckle and Roomie Jekyll would pick it up too. It’s a constant torrent of Blue from those two.

But my group is cool, and we bond pretty well, and the one moment that summarizes our bond is when I ask them if anyone needs anything, and Walter pipes up, “A gin and tonic?” “Okay, does anyone else need anything besides alcohol?” I think that’s when the CCCO Head Dude walked by. Ah yes, Amy is the leader of THIS group.

At one point, we’re pondering the question about whether we should paint the ceiling or not, and I ask, “What would Jesus do?” We decide that Jesus wouldn’t be bothered with painting a girls bathroom, he’d be out feeding the homeless with the generic brand soda and doughnuts in the kitchen. He’d have the one pack of 24 cans and 12 doughnuts and it would last for DAYS, it would. So I get the bright idea to go see how the guys in the guys bathroom are painting it, so we could match, and Walter calls after me, “Go see what the guys are doing!? What kind of independent woman are you!?” Ha ha ha.

But we paint, and paint, and get high off the paint fumes, since the Hallway Paint Group insists on closing the door on us so they can paint the door, no matter how many times we explain to them that we’re going to DIE if they do that. We paint and paint and paint, we get paint on us, on each other, and the CCCO Head Dude seems ecstatic, though honestly it doesn’t seem like we’ve done anything of note. I mean, it doesn’t look like we’ve made the slightest bit of difference. But they’re happy, so I guess that’s all that matters.

And my group listened to me, but I think they were the type of laid back people that would’ve listened to anyone, so long as they didn’t have to be the ones in charge. And basically, being the leader just meant cracking jokes a plenty, and the occasional inappropriate swear word.

But as we’re packing it in and I’m talking to another gal who asked me how it went, and I explained the bait and switch about the leader thing, she says, “It’s always the people who don’t wanna lead that make the best leaders.” “No, they don’t.” “Yes, they do.” “No they don’t, and don’t you dare use this as an opportunity to shanghai me into something else.” She grins at me in this little I’m Gonna Prove You Wrong Later, Just You Wait And See kind of way. I could’ve always added a “shit” at the end, to prove my point. But that probably wouldn’t work.

1 comment:

Midlife Virgin said...

I'd listen to ya. Just cuz you're entertaining!