Where does walking get you in Freiburg? Actually, you can go quite a distance if you are determined, or you can go in circles and dig deeper and deeper like a spiritual wandering.
As I travel mostly by train I get to meet such a wide variety of God’s people. If I was to simply watch over the Anglican flock in Freiburg it would mean visiting people as far away as Basel, and as close as ‘just around the corner’. I walk through the streets on my way to visit people and I often wave to familiar faces on the Straßenbahn, or stop to greet someone who has just come out of a shop.
There is a great many people with very interesting lives, some of which I have the pleasure of meeting, and others I just scratch the surface of knowing. Today I was struck by my desire for ‘thick skin’. Emotionally, thick skin where problems, conflicts, even the daily bumps and bruises seem a bit more tolerable when one has thick skin. At least that has been my ideal, or my perception. Just today, a couple of people opened up to me the idea of seeing vulnerability as something of a gift. One of these people was a young woman who describes the stigma of being ‘sensitive’ and the case for being a sensitive person. Four Thought, Sensitive Souls
On the Straßenbahn ride into the city centre today I sat opposite a young man who by all appearances had thick skin. He just seemed to be wearing a chip on his shoulder. On a very full streetcar, nobody seemed prepared to sit across from this young guy…so I did. His hands, or rather his knuckles, were heavily tattooed with words that intrigued me, they said, “LIVE” and “HOPE”. I guess I was staring, (it is hard not to when you sit toe to toe) and he seemed like he was needing to test to see how long I would sit near him. He opened his bag and a thick fragrance of marijuana started to fill the air. People started to stare, and more backed away as the guy began to grind up large chucks of pot. “Nicht besorgt?”, said the young guy. What I took to mean, ‘Not concerned?’.
It is a truly interesting feeling to walk through a town and know the places, to see familiar faces, and also to look beyond the ‘chip on the shoulder’ to see that someone seems to want to express so much across their knuckles, and yet devise ways to guard their heart. Maybe that is what I do too, with a blog that acts as words across my knuckles, I’m just glad for the chance to walk the city with those who feel vulnerable.
At the end of the day, walking and talking, it is possible to cover a large area of Freiburg. It is not a pilgrimage getting from A to B, but much a kin to digging deeper and deeper in a labyrinth where after much plodding, we find ourselves at the centre with God. Who, I think might also have the words LIVE and HOPE tattooed across knuckles.