The other day out along Ellis in the Tenderloin, Oracle closed off the street and rolled out the carpet, sofas, coffee tables and wet-bars. Apparently it was some hoopla in SF (Oracle World) and they decided, for those with a pass, they’d offer a place to sit, get connected and network. It was intended for those attending Oracle World. The odd thing about this was not what they did but where they did it. It was right in the heart of the Tenderloin (a neighborhood filled with the underbelly of SF) and they erected their oasis smack dab at the doorway of Glide Memorial Church.
For those who don’t know who Glide Memorial Church (www.glide.org) ….
GLIDE’s mission is to create a radically inclusive, just and loving community mobilized to alleviate suffering and break the cycles of poverty and marginalization.
For those who aren’t all that familiar with Oracle (www.oracle.com)
“The Oracle Technology Network’s mission is to evangelize, advocate for, and expand the community of technologists who work with Oracle products and technologies to design, develop, and deploy technical solutions.”
To see the two sitting beside each other was surreal. On one hand you have a premier leader who provides a refuge to the lost and disadvantaged and on the other is one of the most successful organizations (with one of the richest men in the world as CEO)….
As odd as this may was at first pass it got stranger.
As the high-tech connected (mostly white men) lounged, downing a tall cool one; right around the corner was the gathering of the homeless, ready for their 4p.m. dinner. Lines and lines of people were forming, getting ready for Glide to open its side doors where they would make their way down the corridors and stairs to the basement to be fed.
On one hand there was Oracle in all its gala, taking up the city streets in extravagance and paying no mind to the fact that right around the corner were hoards of poor, ill and broken people forming a line to enter Glide. The rich and poor collide.
Poor aware of rich over there, rich unaware of poor, over here.
As I walked around and around, slowly, carefully making my way circling the spectacle that Oracle erected midst the poor gathering and lining the streets; I was reminded of Jesus’ call to serve the “least of these.”
In Matthew 25 Jesus says the day will come when we will be asked if we cared for one another. We will be reminded that when we help one another (food, drink, friendship and shelter) we are helping Jesus himself.
…. 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 37
Somehow I doubt Oracle, when they were selecting a street to close, were securing their permit, gathering their carpet, sofa and sound system they gave any thought to where they were setting themselves up and what that juxtaposition would pose.
The dichotomy between the two was stark – it was surreal.
Now some reading this may say, they have earned the right to do what they want and they have paid good money to have this event so why shouldn’t they have it there.
But that would be missing my point. They were given an opportunity here of which they did not see. They could have opened their fake-plant bordered, pass-entry only, city-filled living room and invited those who actually live the neighborhood in – they could have bought them lunch.
After all, as Jesus went onto say….
45 …just as you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.
What Oracle had before them was the chance to make difference and show any who happened by what that looks like.
Because of this I am pressed to wonder about my own actions. Am I awake to those around me, their immediate and pressing plight as I go about the gala of my life? Are there missed opportunities of my own where I could help another’s load be a little lighter?
I pray for God to open my eyes to the suffering around me. I hope to see and respond with the heart of Jesus. May I give freely and openly without judgment or requirement and if I have a few moments? May I give my time too.
Images provided by Google Images as posted by SF Chronicle.