Type to search

It’s More About One’s Attitude Towards Life

Featured Lifestyle Lifestyle & Science Loves and Lives

It’s More About One’s Attitude Towards Life

Avatar photo

John Michael’s newest Life Is a Sweet, Tender Bruise column, “It’s More About One’s Attitude Towards Life,” shares his thoughts about prayer, and meeting a couple of unique characters. 

One day, while living on the streets, I was rummaging through some garbage cans along one of the major thoroughfares, NW Broadway I think, in downtown Portland. I was probably looking for some returnable cans and bottles. Anyway, I was also munching on some pizza I had found.

A couple of young guys must have seen what I was eating and approached with a fresh, hot pizza. They looked kind and mild-mannered. When they said they wanted to pray for me, I was a little hesitant but said, “Go ahead.” A lot of people approached me and wanted to pray while I was on the streets. For a long time, I never allowed it; for one thing, I just felt embarrassed. Another thing is, Christ said to say your prayers in private.

Christ understood the ego like no other. Are you praying because you want to help this person? Or are you praying because you want to be seen as a good Christian?

Anyway, one of the kids with the pizza started praying for me like a televangelist. If I remember right, his accent may even have become a little more Southern. But he laid his hands on me and started casting out demons in the name and blood of Jesus. The odd thing is, when he was done, he was right back to being a mild-mannered kid in glasses, smiling and telling me to enjoy the pizza.

I’ve been involved in a community dinner for the last seven months in a small town outside of my own, about 15 minutes away. This mom and her five kids have been attending every week from the beginning. Dad works nights, but a family friend often joins them as well. The friend is on dialysis and really struggles with his energy.

It’s interesting how friendships can begin, how long before taking that first step.

It’s interesting how friendships can begin, how long before taking that first step.

One of the kids is a really good painter and I made the mistake of telling her so. A well-timed compliment can be of benefit and add confidence. However, a compliment risks taking someone out of their flow and Zen and puts them in their head thinking about it too much. It was a month before her natural painting rhythm returned.

For a long time, this girl was very quiet. Rarely saying a word and nodding her head for answers. A few weeks back, she put together two or three sentences for me as she was leaving. I wasn’t in shock, but I was deeply surprised by this.

A week after that, she came in with a skinned knee. She is in probably fifth or six grade and one of the older kids in the family at the art table. Mom is a very good mom, but the younger kids have the most need and appear to get the most attention. I thought maybe she could use a little care. I offered to wash and get a Band-Aid for her knee. She protested a little, saying she had many skinned knees and much worse. But she was smiling when I poured some water and used a cloth to wash off the dirt and blood.

Her sister, who is about the same age and a spitfire was at the table with us too, asked if I was going to pray for her sister. Her face actually looked fascinated. There are several different churches who help with the feed and some will pray at a table for those who ask for it. I assume the girls had seen people praying for the man on dialysis. I’ve gotten to know him a little, since my mom was also on dialysis for a few years before she passed. Low or nonfunctioning kidneys means the body has trouble eliminating toxins. The dialysis machine cleans the blood, but the process wears people out.

Also on The Big Smoke

The girl said no, she didn’t want prayed for, but she was smiling. I asked if she was sure. And we decided I would pray for her, “in my head.” In hindsight, I should have maybe prayed out loud. I have definitely softened to this sort of prayer as I have gotten to know and love many Christians who do. I’m sure her sister would have been delighted had I called out loudly for the power and blood of Jesus.

I can’t say it was lice, and maybe even I shouldn’t mention it. But several kids from the community have been showing up with very short haircuts and, the next week, so did my friend. At first, she couldn’t even look at me until she discovered I wasn’t going to say a word about her hair.

The spitfire likes to use a ton of paint for her artistic expression. Pouring out half tubes of bold colors directly onto the art paper. I was half teasing her about it, and half trying to get her to use less. She looked at me with a little defiance and said, “It’s worth it.” This touched me a little and I agreed that it was.

We have become friends, you see. It turns out the very shy girl with the skinned knee can be quite talkative and has many interests and hobbies, including astrology. The spitfire told me her sister is “Goth.” This made me laugh and question that, because in seven months I had never seen her in one piece of black clothing. The girl explained it had more to do with her attitude toward life.

Kids are fascinating as they test out their personas and ways of being in the world. I can’t wait until next week to see what my friends have been up to.


Avatar photo
John Michael

Hello, good people. I am rarely sure how to describe myself. If I say I am a Christian, many things may arise in your mind that ain't necessarily so. I was homeless for seven years and learned more about myself in that stretch of time than in any other segment of my life. I read the Bible a lot out there and came across a passage in Proverbs that has shaped my approach to life: "A man's pursuit is his kindness." I am well educated with a Master of Social Work degree and have worked a wide variety of jobs in my 52 years. None have lasted too long however. When I was homeless, the beauty of Texas wildflowers made me decide to want to live again. Along with kindness, beauty, play, and self-expression are life-guiding ideas. My shadow contains things like feeling sorry for myself, a truckload of defiance, a desperate need to please women, and no small amount of cruelty. A quote from Luke also has had a lasting effect on me: "For God is kind to the ungrateful and the evil." When I read that I thought, "Hell, I have got a fighting chance." I am here to tell you, you have a fighting chance as well. Besides Christianity, practicing Buddhist and Shamanic techniques inform my relationship to God and the world.

You Might also Like