Bright and early Saturday morning, I picked up Edwina and Lisa (Brown) to head to Huntsville. Our friend Rachael Martin, former pastor at Church of the Reconciler, had invited several of us from Birmingham to participate in a talk she was giving tentatively called “Bad Girls in the Body of Christ.” When I heard we would each be asked to wear a black t-shirt with “Bad Girl” scripted in red across the front, I knew I was in.
The talk took place at a Charismatic church–a bit of a stretch for a Catholic girl like me who’s used to subdued celebratory ritual–during a women’s conference. Rachael was the featured speaker, and her message was a simple, yet powerful reminder: It doesn’t really take all that much effort to go to church or to convince someone to go to church. Getting somebody to hit the streets and move outside their comfort zone, on the other hand, is a mighty big task.
The crew from B’ham represented “bad girls.”
Elaine, an associate professor of nursing at Samford, tends to the homeless and drug addicted, providing them with basic and emergency medical care. I once saw Elaine run to the rescue of a mentally ill pregnant woman who tried to take her own life by slicing her wrists. Elaine talked her down and got her the help she needed.
Dawn, the “interior designer for the homeless community” as Rachael referred to her, is the one who transports the homeless and near-homeless to appointments and is first in line to help someone who finally has a place to call their own with furnishings to make it feel like a real home.
Ann, a hairdresser by trade and interpreter for the deaf during services at Church of the Reconciler, is a woman with a wide and generous spirit. She showed up, unannounced, at Street Smarts to cut and style women’s hair. She found the time to locate a bed for Edwina when she first moved into her apartment, and she cradled Mike Campbell, a homeless Vietnam vet with mental illness and COPD. as he passed on from this world last week.
Edwina and Lisa are “bad girls” of another sort. They defy what the world has told them they must be, by turning away from a life of drug addiction, crime, prostitution and just about anything else you can imagine happening on the streets. Now, they serve other women much like them while teaching the rest of us wanna-be bad girls how hard it is to change a life.
The women at the conference chuckled as Rachael described each of us crawling around in homeless camps down by the railroad tracks on the wrong side of Birmingham or sitting alongside a homeless woman who’s never seen the inside of a doctor’s office as she waits to hear her prognosis. We’re bad girls, Rachael said, because we go into those dark corners where “good girls” aren’t supposed to go, at least not the kinds of girls who come from reputable families and go to church.
Yet, we do go and we see things and get to know people so unlike us only to find how like us they really are. I wouldn’t want it any other way.