Today was a free day to process what we’ve learned. We ate breakfast in a comfortable coffee shop filled with successful-looking people. There seems to be an unspoken understanding here that, no matter how close you stand or sit next to a stranger, you sort of act like they’re not there. When you comment to them, they act a little shocked, like you’ve poked them in the ribs or something.
We were released at Venice Beach to explore. This is where the famous Muscle Beach is located. I immediately struck out alone across the (really soft)
The water was cold, and the people were playing, smiling, laughing. The refuse man just laid there, invisible. How could this man, in this condition, ever work his way to the nearest mission 15 miles away? What does he do to live? Freddy told us later that he saw a man digging through a garbage can. When he offered the man a granola bar, the man angrily refused. We are not equipped to understand this.
We saw an incredible variety of people at Venice Beach. There were Skateboarders practicing dangerous tricks on the bowls and ramps while teenage girls giggled in every language. One broke his foot right in front of me. A fire truck came to haul him out of the deep concrete bowl. At about the same time another young woman collided somehow with a guy on a bicycle. Beach Patrol came and bandaged her leg. People were selling crafts and art along the sidewalk. There were singers and musicians. Some of them were good. Every language could be heard along the boardwalk. And the atmosphere felt very, very dark. Several people were completely out of their heads while everyone around them ignored them. I stopped twice to look closely at two different people who were sleeping in such odd, upright positions that I wanted to see if they were even alive.
At the end of the boardwalk, some men had set up a booth offering a relationship with Jesus Christ. One emaciated, highly tattooed and very tanned young woman rode by on a skateboard, yelling into the atmosphere that “Jesus isn’t MY f...ing Lord and Savior!”
I didn’t talk to anyone the whole time I was there. But I found myself in almost constant prayer.
It took us over an hour to drive the 18 miles back to a farmers market where we grazed for dinner. I bought a delicious chocolate chip cookie from Homeboy Bakery. We will be visiting Homeboy Industries on Friday. The two booth attendants were former felons, covered in tattoos, selling baked goods and chatting with the mommies with strollers, the hipster couples, and the professionals. Everybody knows who the Homeboys are (see tomorrow’s blog) and everyone wants to support them. I told them that we would be taking the tour of Homeboy Industries the next day. They both looked at me so sincerely and with such concern and said, “Please tell them that you saw us at the Farmers’ Market and that we did a good job!”