I hear some of the most interesting names among my friends in the street community. Kickback, Red, Chain, Angel, ShadeTree just to name a few. I don’t even know some of their real names! I’ve been wondering about how these creative monikers have developed and stuck on these guys. There are a number of reasons as to why they’ve decided to use certain names. For example, Red, has red hair.
But in my estimation it seems these street names have come about based upon three basic criteria:
1) I am what I have. 2) I am what I do. 3) I am what others say about me.
It didn’t take me long in my work among these folks to see that God placed me here to open up more realities about myself. The chronically homeless have been the mirrors that have served me in the work of my own personal spiritual formation.
So, when it comes to reflecting on the above street name criteria I’m humbled to admit just how often my identity is based on those three things. Even though I’ll share my real name with you there are moments (especially when I’m outside of prayer) in which what I’m actually putting forth is more persona than reality – the character I want you to see me as. I suppose the title of this blog has served me like a street name. But the true name God speaks touches something so much deeper and reminds me that I’m nothing more or less than a child of the Creator.
It probably went something like this…
It was lunchtime on your first day in a new school. You just went through the serving line and standing there with the aroma of a pork fritter and vegetable medley you look up to face the terror. Consuming the mess on your plate is secondary to the daunting task of finding a safe place to sit within the cafeteria chaos.
As you pace forward you pass the athletes on your right, the Goths to your left, the church youth group kids along with all the other tribes of belonging. And that’s when it hits you – the weight of not hearing your unique name called, the weight of the absence of acceptance.
However the painful scenario took shape in our lives, there likely was this wound point where we were forced to sink or swim. The result of moments like these lead toward the determined construction of our mask – the false persona set up to overcome the fear.
Essentially, this is how the street name comes to be.
We have so much work to do in restoring the name of our brothers and sisters who have been molded under the weight of shame and oppression. The work of justice, peace-keeping, and reconciliation is vast and seemingly complex.
"We can do no great things, only small things with great love." ~ Mother Teresa
Through her life and work Mother Teresa reminded us that the persona, the image - the great things - are nothing more than illusions. The tasks of our lives are often much smaller and simpler than we imagine.
I've taken notice of what takes places inside of myself and others when someone looks me in the eye and calls me by name. I think this is what she's talking about. Through the simple yet meaningful speaking of our true name the lies are powerfully penetrated, the persona melts, and I'm returned to the simplicity of my essence - a child of God.
The man who goes by Kickback, his name is Robert DiMarco. Just like you and me he bears the Divine image. We are so much more than our street name.