A small, blue carabiner constantly hangs from a belt loop on my left hip, and lately, I have come to see that cheap little piece of metal as my most extravagant jewelry. As I walk down the street, the keys that hang from that loop clink out a little tune with previously undetected lyrics.
Four days a week, Kaylanne and I leave the Worker House around 6:45am and enjoy a few minutes of silence together while we walk the five blocks from our house to her office at the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless’ Stout Street Clinic.
As the soft morning sun streams through downtown Denver, the city begins to come to life. Folks stumble half asleep from the front doors of their apartment to their cars with brief cases over the shoulder and keys in hand. Others jog down the sidewalk beside their dog in a light jacket with their keys hooked to the loop of the leash. Still others wait at stoplights, sipping their coffee and listening to the morning news while their keys hang from the ignition.
And yet, others peak their eyes out from underneath their sleeping bags with no keys in sight.
As we approach the Coalition headquarters, I lift my leg to step over this last group of folks who are sprawled out on the sidewalk in the block surrounding the Clinic. When I change the cadence of my gait, my jingling keys change their tune and I am drawn in to the lyrics of the song, which seem to be alluding to my status, stability, mobility, work, and accessibility.
Before now, I spent my whole life in a world of keys. Everyone had keys on their hip, or in their pocket, or purse. In a world of jingling keys, it’s difficult to make out the lyrics. But, when your keys are the only keys singing on the whole block, the song becomes quite clear.
From my belt loop hangs a key to my car, and a key to my bike lock. I could go anywhere that I want to today, and I have multiple options for getting there. There is a key to the front door of my house where I slept last night in my warm bed. There is a key to the shed behind my house, where I store my possessions that don’t fit in my room. There is a key to my office where I do most of the work that challenges me, and even on rough days provides me with a sense of worth and sustenance.
But this stranger, in his sleeping bag, with no keys in sight, will be dependent upon foot, or paying the price for a bus pass if he needs to be somewhere today. If luck will have it, he’ll be laying here again tonight with all of his possessions beside him. His office has no key, his work consists of moving around the city to find food, come up with a little bit of cash, and to endure the grueling task of having his personhood removed from him.
My keys provide me access to particular places, but moreover they provide access to general places that men without keys cannot go. I can sit in a coffee shop, or a bookstore, or a restaurant, or a park, undisturbed for hours on end because I have keys hanging around my belt loop.
The stranger, on the other hand, has got to keep moving along, he doesn’t hold those magic keys of comfort and privilege. He doesn’t hold the keys of trust, or acceptance. So all day long, all of us with keys sing him our song:
Move along sir, you can’t be here.
Move along sir, you don’t belong.
Move along sir, there’s no room in the inn.
Move along sir, crucify him.