I'm in San Francisco for Macworld and some meetings. I started my day with a run down Market Street toward the Fisherman's Wharf. San Francisco is a city of remarkable beauty and charm. It's eclectic culture is evident on every street corner. It's among the most inspiring places I've visited.
Running is a mixed bag in any metro area, and San Francisco is no exception. It seems like the city placed crosswalks and timed them to stop me every time I fell into a great running rhythm. My neighborhood is remarkably runner-friendly with wide sidewalks, low traffic and miles of off-road trails. That environment spoils me, and I can never quite find my running Zen in big cities.
Instead, I watch stuff.
I had just entered my cool down when I noticed an elderly couple standing by the curb with a lot of luggage. The woman in the couple looked at me and said "Can you please help us, sir?" I guess my bright orange Immanuel Running shirt made me look like a safe pick for assistance. I asked how I could help, and she said they needed to get a taxi to their hotel. They were in a perfect spot to hail a cab, so I asked how long they'd been waiting. She told me they'd been waiting a half hour.
30 minutes. Waiting for a cab.
I told her that all you had to do was wave your hand at a yellow car with a light on the top. She said she could do that, and as I walked away I looked back at them. A taxi had just passed them, and they didn't wave it down. So, I walked back and asked if they would mind if I hailed the taxi for them. She visibly relaxed and thanked me.
45 seconds later they had a taxi. I told the taxi driver where they needed to go and let him know they weren't very familiar with getting around in the city.
I think we all do that sometimes. We pack our bags and stand on the street without knowing what to do next.
Two blocks later, I found two guys having a pop-n-lock dance off. They were great dancers, but their boom box was having trouble competing with the bucket drummer across the street. Although they danced in time with their music, they seemed out of time with the cacophony echoing across the urban canyon. I was just getting ready to move on when I heard the megaphone.
A short, wide Asian man with a serious grey beard was screaming into a megaphone. His voice was very loud but distorted. I couldn't make out what he was saying. I did see his shirt was something he silkscreened. It said, "Jesus is FREEDOM FREEDOM FREEDOM FREEDOM FREEDOM." Each FREEDOM was in a different color. I noticed his chant was a loop, and after a few turns I caught what he said:
"I love all of you! I love you because of Jesus! I don't condemn you! I love you! It is time for my generation to lead us all to the sea of grace! The waves will wash over our sins! I love you! Jesus is freedom! You are free!"
That same chant, over and over. He's probably still chanting it now. But no one could understand him. One man looked at me and said, "Why are the Jesus guys so angry?"
Here was a man so compelled by grace that he shouts it to the world, but his message was lost to a stereotype. No one can understand his words, so they assume his message is one of judgement and hate.
May we be a people with the discernment to know when our words aren't heard, and our actions send the wrong message.