Teachable Moments and Cats...
Kenton has a couple of things of interest to our community. First is a group of homeless people who, from time-to-time, camp behind our building. It is dark, pretty quiet and nobody usually hassles them. Our neighbors are concerned, rightly so, since they too often leave than desirable items behind. Our Session is concerned due to liability issues and such. Secondly, We have Jasper. Jasper loves us. Jasper loves the homeless people, Jasper loves everyone along
As Preacher it usually falls to me to move any homeless folks along off of the church grounds. October 6, early in the morning, I started to hear some familiar voices outside the office window. Being on the second floor you can’t see where they usually sleep so I went to the door that overlooks the back and opened it to find four people. From the spread out blanket, pillows, the malt liquor cans on the ground and in the hands of two of the four it was obvious that they’d been there the last night.
Sitting on the ramp onto which the door opened was Jasper. Fat and sassy, he gives off an aura as if he owns the church. Before I could say anything one of the “regulars” explained that they had got kicked out of the place they usually stayed and had nowhere else to go. They were just packing up there stuff. I told them that was fine and that I hoped they found another regular place soon.
I didn’t recognize the woman who was there but as I said goodbye she asked, “Is that the church’s cat?”
All I could say was that “he seemed to think so.”
Then she said, “You know, it slept right with us all night. It’s really a nice cat.”
I smiled and wished them a good day and went about my work.
It was several hours later when it dawned on me that Jasper just may understand ministry better than I did. For Jasper showed these people compassion when I was more concerned with liability issues. Jasper had been “with” them when I tended to see them as a set of problems which I directed toward community resources and with whom I did a lot of intervention.
I’m not setting up a Kenton “dignity village” but the Holy Spirit made it clear to me through Jasper that I needed to engage such people as individuals not a class. Thanks Jasper for being there.
BTW this last Sunday we had to remove Jasper from the sanctuary at least eight times. Why? Because at least one person has a horrible allergy to cats. But the real reason is that Jasper is so vocal that he meows all during worship and we can’t allow “Amen’s” to disturb our stoic and sullen Presbyterian worship [ROTFL]