Thursday, August 22, 2013
I am not sure what time it is but I see light peeking through and around the trees. I reach to make sure my new family is still with me, and then sluggishly I get up and find my way to our outhouse. Yes an outhouse! I head back to my place of rest and I take a shared tube of toothpaste. Every movement appears to take place in slow motion and I can still remember every color, every odor and every noise. Everything is so vivid; it is almost like I have never seen a sky or trees or grass or anything of beauty before today. I pause just for a moment and gaze at the beautiful colorful unripen fruit on a nearby tree. I am in awe of this new found beauty that surrounds me and that it would reach out to me to someone so insignificant and yet gently greet me. Then there are these clouds, these clouds of shimmering cotton seem to follow me, as if they were assigned to protect me and my family. I gather myself and walk to a nearby water hose and wonder at the ability it has to wash away my mess, my judgment and all my ignorance. This particular hose provides water heated by the sun itself and I am under the impression that it never cools off. I pour the water on my legs and even this small task makes my heart hurt. I begin to wash off all the nights’ debris; I pour water on my feet in hopes of keeping my perfectly maintained pedicure intact. I watch as the warm water gushes on my pretty pink toes and even if just for a second, they are clean. Oh but wait because just as quickly the mud that I am standing in creeps right back on to my well-polished toes. I stand out in the open and begin to wash my face and once more water washes my tears away. Cautious but not caring whose watching I continue washing every uncovered limb. The water is soothing to my spirit and somehow my heart mends just a little. Only 12 hours in and my heart is in pieces and my spirit is broken. I want my husband to come rescue me. I do all I can and finally head towards a picnic table where our two night watch men are seated. Two of the men in our group couldn’t sleep so they kept watch of our family. We sit silently for what seems like forever. Everything and everyone is gentle at this point and softly we begin talking of our restless night. Not complaining simply speaking of our night. It is somehow silently understood that no one really slept more than 20 minutes at a time and comfort was certainly nowhere to be found. Weeks later I still have bruises on each hip from the hard side walk I slept on. I now so sadly understand the use of cardboard and newspaper for bedding. No one should have to understand this truth. One by one the others join us and a tangible comfort is among us. I keep saying “It is silently understood” because our form of communication no longer requires words. We sit anxiously not knowing what to expect but we are certain of one thing and that is that “we are all in this together”. We are allowed inside our meeting place only to find a small group eating their breakfast. We are given the opportunity to watch. Before we disburse we are given a list of items to find and we are sent on our way but not before they wish us luck on finding food. The temperature now is about 102 degrees and the only reason I know this is because I goggled the temperature for this day, when we were back home with our technology in hand. We are in search of food and water as we are all being harmed by the sun hanging so high above us. I spot a title loan place and go inside. I ask the receptionist if she could tell me where we could find some food and water. She seems to be displeased with my appearance or may be the way I smell offends her. It doesn’t take long for me to understand that I am not welcomed. I leave without help and not an ounce of kindness is offered. I do leave with a new label this one is titled shame. Outside I stop a lady walking down the sidewalk; I ask if she could tell me where I can find food. We notice chips and snacks in a bag she carries. She gives me plenty of information but gives no help just another label. This one is called defeat. We are now 22 hours in and we have been walking forever. The hunger has passed and now I have a headache and suddenly I begin to struggle with my stomach. We are seated in front of a large church. We are here to be sheltered and cared for by people of faith. No one sees us and we see no one. Jamie is lying on the lawn feeling the symptoms of dehydration. We grow concerned of her health and at this point we fear we will have to find a way to a hospital. We sit quietly with many labels, some we brought with us and now we have been given new ones. We sit still hoping that someone anyone will love without words. Matthew 25:31-46 31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ 41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ 44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ 45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
Wednesday, August 14, 2013
It has been weeks since I returned from my “hopeless and homeless” journey and I’ve tried several times to write about my experience, to no avail. Each time I sit to write I am quickly overwhelmed with emotion at the hardship I endured during my homelessness. During that time my heart was crushed and my spirit broken. As you know I live in a fantasy world a world where humanity is alive and well. I live in a world where people “Love their Neighbor” and people show love rather than just speak it. I live where we come together so children can learn and parents can experience value. In our neighborhoods and in our schools our goal is one. It is all about people. I knew it would be tough to leave this little world I live in but because I work in a community where we have 1560 children living in transition, meaning they have no place to call home. I wanted to experience the emotions and attitudes that these families face. I wanted to go and walk in those shoes. I wanted to be able to relate to a family that finds themselves homeless. I don’t or rather I didn’t know what homelessness was like. I just know this could never be me because I have family; my two sisters would take care of me and my family. My two brothers would stand by just in case something was left undone. My parents, my church family, my friends would come to the rescue; homelessness is not something I fear. I wanted to go and learn the reason behind the behavior. I wanted to understand the acting out of children while in school, when they find themselves without their basic needs. I wanted to go and learn about how to better meet the needs of those that suffer temporary homelessness. I wanted to know what it felt like to be homeless and still function in everyday life. I wanted to better understand what these children and parents are going through. My purpose for going was to become a better provider. It is Friday and we arrive at 7:14, check in is at 8:00. We are anxiously standing around in anticipation of this thing we call Poverty Simulation. My thought is; we will experience what it is like to stay in a homeless shelter and may be eat at a local soup kitchen. It wasn’t long before I was told that would not be the case. We are in a group of 6 and we have all packed for a three day weekend. They ask us to choose 4 items we would like to keep for the weekend and the rest would be turned in and locked up. One person out of our group picked the wrong card and was not able to choose four items. They took everything she had. It was at that very moment that we became family. We go to a nearby thrift store and stand outside in the rain waiting while others shop. Rain begins to cleanse the battered pavement and mud begins to build where there is no pavement left. I look up and raindrops fall washing my body and my spirit of all misconceived notions of homelessness. I smile and am meekly thankful for my evening shower. I stand near the ally of a place so unfamiliar. My heart hurts as the feeling of loneliness takes over. Even with the people all around me I feel alone. My heart is heavy and I begin to worry of where I will sleep. It is finally our turn and we are allowed in the store out of the rain. I begin to rummage through clothes that well-meaning people have donated. There is paint, holes, missing buttons and stuff I wouldn’t dare wear. There is no other option, I have to choose something and in minutes this simulation has turned into my reality. We are allowed to choose a top, a pair of bottoms and a pair of shoes. Once we choose our items we go to a storeroom and change our clothes. They have stripped me of my identity and now I am just homeless. There is no soothing my crushed heart. I think of all I have given in the past. I don’t think I want to play this anymore. We leave all gussied up in our not so new attire. I don’t know what time it is but I assume it is around midnight because I am weary. I am lying on a sidewalk next to a fence with my new family. I feel the mist of rain drizzle on my face and God himself is washing my tears away. I dare not think of my comfortable home because it just saddens me more. I hear as the drops hits the mud puddles around me. I hear the blades of grass next to my head. I doze off just for a moment and I wake at every sound the tree next to me is making. I hear dogs in the distance and a soft sputter as cars go by. I hear others chat and I quietly wait on God to allow the sun to shine on me once more. Matthew 35 I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home.