Los Angeles is an incredible city. In just one day you can travel through many unique worlds, all by navigating the schools of cars swimming congestedly in various directions. On one of my warm November mornings there, I awoke in a quaint neighbourhood in Pasadena to the sound of the housekeeping crew knocking on the motel doors leading up to mine. When I got myself together, I decided to drive over to the headquarters of the L.A. Dream Center, an organization I had heard wonderful things about.
Their volunteer coordinator managed to squeeze me onto the Food Truck team to help deliver food to people who needed it. I hopped in the van and was brought to the projects in Jordan Downs. There was such brokenness, mostly stemming from a cycle of material poverty. Yet, somehow the people were so warm and loving in the midst of their seemingly hopeless situation. I met Thomas, an Afro-Cuban drummer playing the congas in the shade who dubbed himself the honourary “Keeper of Culture”. A man named Pirate (not sure if that was his real name) took me on a tour of their neighbourhood. Initially we had connected because he was verbally taking out his frustration on me about some of his perceived injustices about the Food Truck program, but we sorted that situation out and got to being friends shortly thereafter.
After a wonderful time on the Food Truck route, I set my GPS and drove to downtown Beverly Hills. What a contrast. There was so much material excess and affluence. The winding roads were lined with stores where you could buy $10,000 purses. There were people with lots of plastic surgery driving their exotic cars to parties full of people that didn’t care too deeply about who they really were. There was such brokenness. As I walked the streets of Beverly Hills, I realized that most people here were hurting just as badly as my friends in the Jordan Down projects. It was the same pain, but brought on by very different circumstances.
As humans, no matter where we come from or what we have, we all suffer from the same condition. We need love, we need God, we need each other, we need our hearts to be healed of whatever ailments the world has infected us with in our years on this planet. However, in every interaction we have the opportunity to be an agent of healing. When we acknowledge, validate, and affirm the inherent worth in another, we remind them in their soul that they were made in the image of God. And no poverty, or affluence, or disease, or circumstance can take away from their true divine nature. Don’t get distracted by your senses; beauty is always present when a human, a piece of God’s essence, is among us.