The Common Good

#OccupyWallStreet: "The First Time I Slept on the Street Was Seven Years Ago..."

tim at occupy sleeping

NEW YORK, N.Y. -- The first time I slept on the streets was seven years ago.

Last night in New York City, I slept on the street again, near the corner of Cedar Street and Trinity Place in "Liberty Park" with the Occupy Wall Street protesters.

Seven years ago, I was with a group of students passing out bags of food to the homeless folks on the streets of downtown Chicago. One of the homeless men I spoke with challenged me to spend a night finding out what it was like to be homeless. And, without a cell phone or any money in my pocket, I made the spur of the moment decision to pass the night sleeping on top of a flattened cardboard box.

A few months later, I picked up a group of 15 people who were living on the streets and brought them back to my college apartment to celebrate Thanksgiving and spend the night. And a few months after that, I organized a group of about 100 students to spend a night on the streets in the middle of February.

It snowed.

This is when I found that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob -- the God that Jesus called Abba or "Papa" -- is found in the broken places of our world. God is in all and with all, but we see the divine most clearly in those who are in need.

I have come to the protests in Lower Manhattan to tell some of the stories that are here. A lot of people here come from broken places or are searching them out, as I have.

Last night, I began my conversations with some of the Occupy Wall Street protesters with two questions: Do you see God here? If you do see God here, where?

Some people were quick to answer. Others were unsure of how or whether to answer at all. Still others found they had a lot to say only after they began to tell the stories of what had drawn them to the park on a chilly October night.

The crowd here is diverse. Unapologetic patchouli-scented Hippies with their hacky-sacks and organic, hemp ensembles stand alongside registered nurses in their practical shoes who are worried about their jobs and their futures.

College students have spread out their sleeping bags next to young adults working fast-food jobs who come by the demonstrations in between their shifts.

For whatever stereotype you might have in your mind about who the so-called Occupiers might be, there are some people who fit it, and whole lot more who don't.

I traveled from Washington, D.C., to Wall Street late Wednesday because I believe it's often easier to find God on the streets than in a sanctuary.

We serve a God who shows up for those in need, and for those who stand with them.

T.KingTim King is communications director for Sojourners. Follow Tim on Twitter HERE.

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