Where God Crosses Crazy

Today's UPI column

So There I was...

At the intersection of Mental Health and Spirituality.

It seems like I spend a lot of time there these days.
It’s a busy place.

There is the church on one corner and the Psych Ward on the other. The address of the church is on Spirituality Street, but people track in dust from the Mental Health side all the time. The Hospital’s front door faces Mental Health Boulevard but so many of its windows look out onto Rue Religion.

On the other two corners are a coffee shop and a bar where people can medicate their mood one direction or another. The bartender does a lot of good therapy and the cute little barista sings a sweet little caffeine canticle. Some folks seek the sun at the outside tables of the coffee corner while others cocoon in the cool dark of the tavern. People stand on the corners with signs forecasting the end of the world, others ask for a handout.

The traffic control devices are kind of ambiguous. I have seen some tremendous crashes there. When delusion makes a bad turn and runs up the wrong side of religion, ugly things can happen. If depression happens to meet damnation, look out. But just as often, hope meets imagination and a parade forms.

A while back somebody gave me a whistle and a yellow vest and I take a turn at directing traffic now and then. You want to do that job with a little panache. You need a bit of a dance to get belief and health going in the same direction. You have to have enough of a presence to slow some people down, and get others to pick it up. You have to be able to tell a drunk from a Holy Roller, and both of them need to get across the street. You can’t be timid and you need to give the whistle a workout. But when it works the sun-worshipping coffee people applaud.

There’s always talk in the neighborhood. Lately I’ve heard a lot of talk about what is real and what is good. Every corner has their answer. The church says that God is real and love is good - pray every day. The hospital says that reality is good and that you have to cope in order to hope. The coffee people fill their cups and work up the nerve to do some real work. In the bar they tell a good joke and numb their jangled, overworked nerves. Sometimes they get real and walk from there over to the AA meeting in the church basement, where somebody is always making coffee. Individually, it’s all real, and most of it is good.

But I have noticed some things that are certifiably real and good on every corner. Everybody needs to listen and be listened to. Everybody needs a group of people who know their name. Everybody thinks somebody else is weirder than they are. Everybody needs a laugh. Everybody needs somebody to hold their hand when they cross the street.

And nobody stays on any one corner for very long.

In the primarily non-farming society of the USA today, the pastoral images and parables that Jesus used don't hit as close to home as they did for his audience at the time.

In meeting for worship about a decade ago, I had the image of God not as shepherd but as crossing guard.

Thank you for illustrating this so vividly for me here.

-- Chris M.
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