Finding Abundance of Faith and Gratitude

The youth of Good Shepherd came home from our Chicago trip with a really big question: Why do so many hard things happen to some people? We met young men whose parents had died, kids with difficult home lives, adults who had lost a job or faced a life threatening illness, high school youth who were afraid to go out because of ICE raids (even though the family is here legally), and many without food and homes.

Yet none of these things is what defined them. They are ordinary people with dreams, plans, ideas, friends and community.  They are filled with love and gratitude and often their stories turned to faith.

Like Marcus, a young adult we met at Epworth men’s shelter. He plans to write a book about what a miracle he is. First he survived being very ill as a baby. Then he survived the death of both parents. As soon as he can save up first and last month’s rent he wants to move into an apartment and write the story of God’s presence in his life. He’s been journaling his life story all along so he is well on his way.

Then there was Andrew a guest at A Just Harvest who writes a weekly faith email which he sends out to 100 people. And the man on the street that thanked God and us as we gave him a takeout box of leftover food. And the ex-gang members who talked about faith and taking care of each other.

What a gift that our new friends so easily shared their faith stories! As Lutherans we often feel too shy to weave faith into conversations. Yet these stories are the ones we will remember from our trip. When you look someone in the eyes and have a caring conversation, holy stories emerge.

One of those holy moments happened when some of us got on the wrong bus. We discovered it was the wrong bus when we reached the end of the line and the driver said we had to get off. As we chatted with the driver, she told about what it was like to drive a bus in Chicago—the challenges and the joys. Then she risked mentioning faith (not sure she should do it on the bus) but said that when things were bad, she relied on her faith. Then we bravely asked if we could pray together. All of us said a short one line prayer and Deb the driver finished by thanking God that no, we were not on the wrong bus at all! Then she let the next batch of riders on the bus and we turned around and went the right direction on her bus. We were all laughing when we finally got off at the right stop.

Our big question about hard things happening to good people helped us realize how much we have. We come back from Chicago with an abundance of gratitude for all the amazing people we met and the stories they shared with us. We come back grateful for our own beds, air conditioning, for enough food to eat, for parents, deep dish pizza, and that we can safely walk to school. We also learned that meeting new people is a blessing and may we continue to listen and share the stories of our lives and faith with others every day.

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