Trust me, we hear. Every week. Every day. Every minute.
Your mother is dead. Divorce knocks. Your son is lost. It’s cancer. You’re laid off. You’ve broken up. The car crash. You can’t stomach it all. Trust?
What about lesser things? I’m walking outside Chicago’s Union Station and a man, disheveled, asks me for money for supper. I hesitate, walk away, then turn, chase him down. “You want food? So do I. Come,” I say. “Let’s eat together.”
“No,” he says. No to trust.
Later, a young couple approaches me. They’ve fled bad company and have nothing. I give $12 and my leftover pizza. I pass a newspaper box. Ah, the Chicago Tribune. It’s $1. I have only three quarters. I ask a stranger for 25 cents. No. I ask another. No. A third. It’s just a quarter. No. No. Nobody trusts.
I pay for my Tribune with a bill at a store at the train station. I read of 10 Christian aid workers massacred in Afghanistan. Spies, say their killers.
I recall 2002, Yemen. Three American colleagues of mine were killed in cold blood, shot in the head, by an extremist. No trust.
The train now moves towards Canada, home. I started this trip at St. John’s College, Santa Fe, at The Glen, a gathering of writers and artists organized by
Image Magazine. We’re beauty junkies. We’re also not trusted, no, not by believers, blind believers in blind dogma, believers in us-versus-them.
We might drink. We might dance. We might even say “bloody this” or “bloody that” when it is, quite simply, bloody. To find beauty, after all, we first see
the grotesque. Ask Flannery O’Connor about this, this violent world and the ugly people in it. Look, there, see the bloody cross. Trust.
Flannery wrote things later used by artists like Steve Taylor, a Christian bad-boy of sardonic rockand-roll. He sang songs like “A Principled Man.” And, quoting Flannery, he sang, “It’s Harder to Believe Than Not To” because, yes, it is harder to believe than not to. I played that song so often that
my cassette tape snapped.
Taylor recently e-mailed me. He loves Africa. His family has adopted a Ugandan girl. So has mine. Hannah is four.
On the train, I now have many newspapers. They all cry out “trust me!” Amidst its vulgarity and pop-culture, the free Chicago Reader has a cover story called “Enriched.” A Seattle artist has bought 1,000 bushels of wheat to explore as commodity and food. She dives in like a child. She gives the
wheat away in packets marked with John 6:35, “I am the bread of life.”
How I begged for my own bread. Instead, He took my life, that hard field of stone and stump. He plowed and worked it. He sowed wheat. He sent the sun and the rain. It all grew. Then He harvested that wheat. He thrashed and milled it. He made dough.
Then He pounded it, kneaded it, shaped it. Finally, oh God, finally, He baked that bread. With His own hand. Then He gave me something special, something just for me. And He said, “Now do you trust me?”
It’s good bread. It has a perfect crust. It’s all not crumbly, not too soft, not too dense. I savour it, this one-day-at-a time food, this manna. You can’t stock it. It will only spoil. This is how trust works.
I’m now off the train, at home. I see my wife, my children. This is my bread. Hannah greets me with a big smile and a hard hug. An anniversary is near, one year with Hannah in our family.
Uganda has two million orphans. How did we choose? We didn’t. Hannah, first given this name by others, chose us. At the orphanage, she reached up and touched me. “Who’s this?” I said.
“Hannah,” they answered. My wife and I had previously prayed, prayed for a girl to name Hannah.
Last Christmas we asked what gift she liked most. “Mommy, Daddy, brother, sister,” she said. Hannah has been given the world. It’s Christmas every day.
She trusts, Hannah does. As a child. Without fear. Without worry.
We’re adopted kids too. Do we trust?