It’s been a long time since I’ve written.
I have a story on my heart, which I’m not sure what to make of. It isn’t new, but is a conversation that took place almost a year ago. I don’t have anything to add to it, but I want to share it, because it provides a real look into the life of a prostitute, whose life is usually covered by the mask of fake happiness.
I spent 1 1/2 years working on the streets with prostituted people, mostly transvestites. These young men, most of whom have had sex changes, dress in tight and revealing clothes, and spend their nights attracting clients (mostly North American men) in downtown San Jose.
One night last March, my team and I got in a van and went downtown like we did every week to go and give coffee and cookies to the men & women on the streets. The first stop we made was in the red-light district where 3 transvestites were standing on a street corner. My friend and I hopped out of the car to go talk to them. We asked them how they were, and one of the three, whose fake name was Tara, told us he was feeling very sad and discouraged.
We told him there was hope in God; that it was good he was feeling that way, because it meant that he wasn’t satisfied with a life of being on the streets.
I asked him what he thinks God is like; how he would describe God. He said strict and serious. I asked him if he sees us as strict and serious and judgmental when we come to the streets to give coffee every week, and he said of course not. I told him that the only reason we come is because God put it in our hearts to come—it wasn’t our idea, but God’s. I said that I would have no desire to go to the streets and talk to people there if it weren’t for God putting it on my heart. I told him he didn’t belong on the streets and that one day he would live a different life.
At that point in the conversation he grabbed my hands and it was like another person came out of him, almost wild he was so passionate, and he said: “I want to leave this place, but material things consume me. I love material things. I love them. I love having beautiful things, I love money, I love material things. I need them. I need to have a new handsome man every night. And I get all those things and I’m not happy. There is an emptiness inside my heart. Nobody on the streets is happy. We are all sad. We are all depressed. Not one of the people you see here is happy, and if they tell you they are happy they are lying to you”.
My friend who was with me asked Tara what his dream was in life. She had already asked him that same question maybe a month earlier, and he had said his two dreams were to leave the streets and work in a nursing home, and also to find unconditional love (crazy, right?!). She felt that God wanted her to ask him the same question again, and this time he said his dream was to leave the streets, and to live forever. He said he wanted to never die but to live forever and to live in goodness (his exact words!!).
He said he wants to get off the streets but that he doesn’t have the strength to do it and he doesn’t know how. I told him it was possible with God’s help, and he grabbed my hand, almost at the point of tears, desperate, and asked me if it was true, if I was really from God, if I could promise that I was saying that on God’s behalf and not my own.
I told him it was true he couldn’t do it in his own strength, but that I promised that it was true that God wanted him to leave the streets and could give him the strength to be able to do it. I asked him what his real name was, the name his mother had given him. He told me.
We held hands on that street corner late that Friday night, and prayed together for the strength to be able to leave the only life he knew.
I don’t know where Tara is tonight, and I haven’t seen him in many months. I guess the only conclusion I have is that this world is hungry for something more. The things we think will satisfy our empty hearts don’t really fill them – we actually are looking for unconditional love, to “live forever and live in goodness”.