Monday, July 7, 2008

Time to unload a bit

For the past week I have been at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago painting, exploring and soaking up all the "art love" I possibly could. The focus was on Contemporary Art. Whats going on, what artists to keep an eye on and so forth. Down right fabulous. I can't wrap my head around it. It was absolutely amazing. I could write for days about the experience...but on to what I really want to talk about.

On one particular evening we had the evening off. Meaning no free dinner. So we were left to fend for ourselves and shell out some cash for a meal. A couple of my female colleges asked if I would like to join them and I said sure. Any chance to dialog with other art teachers especially those from New York and Maryland. Two places I have never been and have only seen in pictures. Anyway I agree to go to dinner and as I am heading back to the residence hall on State Street I notice two young ladies, twenty somethings, and their dog. Either they were homeless or backpacking somewhere. They held a small cardboard sign that said "Begging Sucks, Passion Doesn't" This of course could be taken many different ways, but it really struck something in me. First of all I had never noticed two girls traveling like this, especially since I live in a town of 3300 with few, if any homeless. Second, I felt an urge to talk with them, I wanted to know their story. But I was in a bit of a hurry to get back to my room and clean up for my dinner date.

As I have been doing all week when I enter my room on the 14th floor, I go to the windows to take a look and see what is happening on the streets surrounding my building. It just so happened that I could see the two girls sitting across the street with their dog. What was even more ironic was the fact that I had been sitting in front of the same windows reading a book by Shane Claiborne. (if you don't know who he is or what he typically writes about, look him up and then come back for the rest of the story, it will be much more meaningful)

I am looking down upon these two girls and thinking I would really like to talk with them. Maybe share some food or money with them or maybe just listen. But I didn't. How bizarre is it that I have been reading this book and I pass these girls and now I can still see them from my room?

But I don't have enough time to do both. Talk to them and go to dinner with my friends.
This goes on for several minutes and my stomach starts to ache. Finally I look back and they are gone. I get ready and out the door to the elevator and off to dinner. One of the girls I am with says there is a great steakhouse down the street. She also mentions that it is a bit expensive. Fine I say, no problem. I had planned on spending a bit more for at least one meal.

As we chat and walk we talk about all that has taken place so far during the course of our time in the studio and the museum. Finally we arrive at the steak house. As soon as we enter I realize what expensive means. My menu arrives in a wooden frame. Just like you would frame a piece of art and place it on the wall. Then I see the now I am trying to think of a nice way to leave. That would be beyond awkward. But I can't get the costs out of my head and I scan the salad menu and find something in my price range. Actually it more than I would usually pay, but it was my best option.

Then things become a bit more awkward when the two ladies I am with order steaks, wine and sides and I order a tomato and mozzarella salad and water. The waiter can hardly believe that I am not ordering a steak. With prices starting at about 40 bucks...well I just could not do it. I tried to move the focus of the meal beyond the food and more to conversation, which I have to admit was really quite nice.

Then the food arrives. To my amazement, the steaks are about as wide as they are thick. My salad was twice the amount of food. So much so that I could not even eat all of it. For me, this is certainly a rare occasion. The girls I am with try and give me some of their steak, and of course I try to give them some of my salad. We end up just sticking to our own food.

The waiter drops off the check and we divide up what we owe. I could not believe what the cost of dinner for three. My stomach, although filled with plenty of food, is still a bit uneasy. I can't help but think about the two girls and their dog.

There they were, right in front of me. A prime opportunity to show love, to be love. What was I doing? How did I miss the opportunity? Was my dinner date that much more important? How did I let it slip away? To be very blunt, God gave me a golden, magnificent opportunity to be his hands and heart and I abruptly said no. What in the world was or is wrong with me? By now you are probably thinking this is pretty screwed up. Don't worry I am way ahead of you.

I have been replaying this in my mind...the girls...the street...the view from my window...the Claiborne book...the ache in my stomach...the stomach...That is really screwed up. I fumbled on the goal line. What a missed opportunity.

Now where it gets a bit messed up again. I made this sign/painting a while back and have been meaning to post it. It was pretty much a punch in the gut and face. Salt and Light...that is what we are called to be. But in Chicago, I shut out the light and dumped the salt on my own head. This will haunt me for quite some time.

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