Monday, April 7, 2014

Things I Learned at a Gas Station

All I ever learned in the past two years, I learned at the gas station where I worked...

I guess the gas station not only showed me real individual pain, it also revealed to me a cyclical cadence of local culture which helps give context to the drug addicts, drunks, gang members and lack of home life so many of people in the lower end of Quincy have generationally lived in day in day out. It's not a pass on what they do or how they treat people, but I cant tell you how many times I saw these people snubbed at by "normal" people just because they were slow or desperate- then both types of people would turn to me for justification in a real time situation I had to handle immediately. I think one of the main disconnects between the church crowd and the gas station crowd has to do with assumed stereotypes on both ends, coupled with the lack of a regular means of honest dialogue through language both sides understand and relate to.

Often, we would head over after work to O'Griffs- a restaurant bar in the Quincy square, and I remember one night one of my co-workers needed to go outside for a smoke break. We were in the middle of a conversation so I followed him outside- and for the first time, I joined the huddled group of smokers loitering just outside the front door and was actually included in their group. I wasn't smoking, myself, but every other time I can ever remember, if I ever came there, I would quietly avoid their eye-contact and go on in... but that night I was one of them, and I found I could talk to them, and they could talk with me, and we more or less understood each other. 
One lady, I knew was going to a church, would frequently try to beg money off me to fuel her scratch-off lottery addiction. Another regular stole medium fountain sodas and had a scar on the back of his head where his EX attacked him with an ax. Truck drivers would try and steal hundreds of dollars through bad checks and I'm pretty sure I've sold cigarettes to the Russian mob.

And after spending over two years in the gas station environment, I'm still staggered as to how we should go about serving these people through our churches. Even still, it hasn't stopped me from really wanting to try find a way to help families in our communities- and not just the model ones, either.

Any thoughts?

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