Dear Henri, This Game of Risk – Week 16, Day 4

The far side 1Dear Henri,

Poor Billy.

The boys took a risk & Billy bought it. The shark came out all right, but poor, poor Billy.

Can I tell you a secret?

I don't really want to be Billy.

I don't want to be the boys left behind, trying to figue out a new risky plan over shark-infested waters. I don't want to be Billy's poor momma either.

I don't think many of us really want that, if we're honest. Oh sure, we'll do some bungee-jumping or sky-diving; we'll go on a short-term missions trip, see "poverty" (excuse me while I cough briefly at our addiction to poverty porn), & try chicken feet; some of us might even try a different seat in our favourite cafe (livin' on the edge!).

But stepping out with real live chances of failing?

We kind of wobble.

What do I mean by failing?

I mean losing your house kind of failing. I mean having not nearly enough money to sustain yourself in a new place kind of failing. I mean having tried so many times before that people are scratching their heads and laughing as to why you're trying again type of failing. I mean losing everything, even the shirt on your back kind of failing.

I was there once. Almost 10 years ago.

I flew back from Romania with no place to live, no job, no money, and a heck of a lot of baggage. And I don't mean the checked kind of baggage customs agents are interested in. Total nervous breakdown. If I didn't have two loving, savvy, sacrifical parents who welcomed me home, I don't know what would have happened. The streets? Permanent mental institutionalization? Suicide? All three?

Part of me is thinking: "Here I go again!"

What if… what if I venture out and can't pay the bills?

What if… what if no one buys into this?

What if… what if I leave my little basement suite which, in the beginning was a tad overpriced 8 years ago, is now considered low-end? If I leave and everything flops, this place won't be held for me. Guaranteed it will be rented out to someone else and because it will be a new renter, and rent will be hiked.

"The second discipline is to trust that God will truly care for the poor that are given to us. We will have the financial, emotional and physical support we need, when we need it, and to the degree that we need it. I am convinced that there is a large body of people ready to help with money, time and talent. But that body will remain invisible unless we dare to take new risks. If we want to have all our bases covered before we act, nothing exciting will happen. But if we dare to take a few crazy risks because God asks us to do so, many doors, which we didn’t even know existed, will be opened for us." -Henri Nouwen, Disciplines for the Journey

The giving over of power. Is God for real here, Henri?

Am I really that controlled by worldly fear that I would be satisfied with what I've got? My soul says no. But the world screams: "Hold on to what you've got for pity's sake!"

It is totally counter-intuitive to try an intentional community with youth. Banonkers (my word, thank you very much). I live in Oil'n'Gas-Redneck-Pull-Yerself-Up-By-Yer-Bootstraps-Country, which means: the cost of living is ridiculous. Even middle class folks often find themselves one pay check away from financial ruin. But work hard anyway! Make that cash! It sometimes seems that taxable income is the signature element of respectability around here.

But… youth who wanted to attend Coming Home's day project this summer said they couldn't because they weren't able to find any transportation. If they'd had a place to stay, they would have come. We're sort of spread out around here, Henri WITHOUT any form of public transportation service. Makes things difficult.

I guess all the more reason to pursue Coming Home in a different light.

My fear is hitting the skids again, not because it's unknown but because it IS known. And it's terrifying. Plus I'm sucky when it comes to sharing… when it comes to change… when it comes to digging deep into my introvert wells when extroversion is called for.

But if I'm afraid beacuse I've been there, then youth who need a place to call home must also know that terror that there's no future… no money… no safety… no net… nothing that will catch them. Some of them, I have no doubt, are more savvy than I was at their age and have found ways to survive. Others aren't so street-wise.

What do I do with the fear, Henri? 

What did you do with your fear?

I know you ended up at L'Arche where Jean Vanier began intentional communities with disabled people. He began with only 2 remarkable fellows! Your life was renewed in these spaces.

Help me out here: Wisdom and Risk are bedfellows.

Just assure me one of them isn't the shark.

Until next time,


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