Saturday, October 20, 2012

Slab City

His name is Dave and he is ninety-years old.  I recently read an interview with him that appeared in a magazine. He lives in a place called Slab City, a squatter’s community located on a desolate swath of South California desert.  Cement slabs are all that remain of a former military base.  They serve as foundations for the tents, old buses, vans and other makeshift dwellings.  Nearby, there is a bombing range.  Military aircraft fly overhead every day to practice military maneuvers, including dropping bombs.

In the interview, he said “I have not done a damn thing with my life except staying alive.”  After living at the slabs for ten years, he felt he needed more solitude and moved his camp a mile farther out into the desert. He has a commanding view of the bombing range.

Attached to the walls of the near wreck of a motor home he calls his house are prints of Van Gogh’s Bedroom in Arles and the Potato Eaters.  Stacks of books are everywhere: Thomas Wolfe, Cormac McCarthy, Truman Capote.  He recently started writing and is always striving for perfection in his work.  “Oh, it can never be achieved, he said, “but it must be the goal.”

That is pretty much all I know about Dave.  But I like what little I know.  He may have been down and out for most of his life, but he persists in something.  He strives to write well.  I hope he succeeds.  I hope he finds peace in the crafting of words on paper, words about his life, his hopes, his failures, his efforts to do well.  Writing necessarily entices one to search for meaning.  Dave is at work on the most important and rewarding search in life.  He is doing more than merely staying alive. 

None of us do much in this life, though most of us live with the burden or the illusion of making a big dent in life, far more than the small indent of a word or two on paper.

The woman in the gospel is persistent.  She has nothing but her need to press Jesus again and again for help.  He gradually listens to her, and responds with care.

A miracle happens.

We can do nothing more effective than prayer.  It may seem at times futile, but something strange and ultimately good comes from it.  Maybe not today, or tomorrow, and the response may differ radically from what we asked for.  But even the lowly among us know how small are our efforts but how necessary our willingness to have a goal, to try and give something of ourselves to the God who will someday lift us from the slabs of life to something lasting, an eternal home. 

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