West End Collegiate Church is "A neighborhood church for all people." When I read that I usually find my energy gravitating to the "all" in the sentence, but today I find myself gravitating to "neighborhood." Who is in our neighborhood in the Upper West Side? It's a perfectly understandable question that the lawyer asks Jesus in Luke 10 "Who is my neighbor, Jesus?" Our neighborhood is home to many different kinds of people. Some of the wealthiest and well known and some of the poorest and often overlooked live on the Upper West Side. In one block you can run into someone you saw on TV last night and you can also run into a homeless person who sleeps in a storefront. This is our neighborhood and West End welcomes both to experience the love of God.
Last night at our Tuesday Soup Kitchen congregation I received the sad news that someone from our neighborhood passed away. Eric lived between 79th and 80th street. His home was newspapers, a box he would sit on, and cardboard boxes that covered him up at night. He was a sweet and quiet man. If locals asked him questions he would respond with kindness. You may remember him for his big black beard and shiny baldhead. Every time I walked to Zabar's I could guarantee Eric would be there. It is unknown why Eric was homeless, but we do know he did have a wife and two kids. Somewhere on the journey of life the concrete became his bed.
Today's post is dedicated to Eric and all the homeless who have called the Upper West Side streets their neighborhood and passed into glory. Beloved child of God, Eric, we speak your name and acknowledge your presence in our neighborhood. May you rest in peace and rise in the power of God's love. You will not be forgotten, you were our neighbor.