Friday, September 13, 2013

Homeless, Hungry and Human

I am firm believer in my faith.  I am also a true believer that actions speak volumes, so much more clearly than any words could ever speak.

For such a wordy person, I am at a loss for preaching and am significantly more comfortable living those words.

In our neck of the words, we have three homeless young people.  Out in 100 degree heat, holding cardboard signs stating that they are hungry and homeless. We don't have this in our part of the world.  Downtown, yes.  Here, no.

My initial response was, "GO HOME."  I was of course, assuming they were teenagers.

Wednesday, after dropping my oldest off at football practice, I stopped and talked to one of the girls, Melissa.  I texted my girl next door and asked her to keep an eye on my girls because of course, I would only choose to do this on a shift night. <eyeroll> I took Melissa to dinner.

I asked what her story was.

And as she shared that with me, I was moved by how she savored every bite of that chicken sandwich.  She was quite open with her tale.

They are not teens, they are 22 and 23.

Melissa's mom died, her sister also died - from a methadone overdose.  She wears a cross decorated vial of her mom's ashes around her neck. She has never met her dad.  She and her friends were staying with her grandma and her grandma died.  They stayed in the house, until the bank repossessed it.  The now sleep in a truck in a park and ride in the suburbs because the city cops won't let them sleep in the city.  They panhandle in the city because the suburbs won't let them panhandle there.  They apply for jobs the first couple of hours of the morning and panhandle for their fare back to the park and ride to sleep for the night.  They are on the waiting list for low income housing in another suburb because the waitlist in the city is three years (this I KNOW is true).  They are using one of the "kid's" grandmother's address for their applications and they each have government issued phones.  She wants to go to school to be a clinical psychologist.

Being the teacher, I asked if she had any college credits.  Her response told me she had not yet been to a post-high school institution.  "I have one."  I knew what that meant - she had taken an AP class.  She could not remember her score on the exam.  But, her AP Psych class motivates her to look beyond where she is now, to where she wants to be in the future.  I have to do something, was all I could think.

I can go on and on and on.  I spent an hour with her.  When I dropped her back off at her triangle median, the mom in me took over.  I ran into the grocery store, grabbed some pb&j, bread, plastic silverware, some fresh fruit, some applesauce and a pack of bottled water.  I didn't want to buy them crap, but it needed to be something that would last with the heat of the car.  I dropped the meager supplies off and reminded them to be safe.

Many people think this is my time to spread the Word.  And it probably is.  However, I am not an evangelist.  That is not my role in the greater world. Fr. Alejandro made me breathe a little easier on Easter morning - when I was barely mobile after my surgery, bringing the kids to mass alone (again), hoping (selfishly) that my FF would not catch a PNB and make it to mass to help me with the kids...his homily was meant for me.  He said (in a nutshell), yes it is a year of Evangelism.  But, what if we tone down the talk and actual LIVE a more Christ like life.  That spoke directly to me.  My beliefs had recently been shaken, as to whether or not I was on the right path.  And it made me think.  No, I am not an evangelist. I am however, a servant.  If I see a need, I work to fill it.  That is okay.  And that is what I have done here. I have contacted some of the agencies that I have worked with in the past to see if they can reach out to them.  I have tried to go back to them to find out some more information, but they have not been at their places.

Now, my message here is not look at how amazing I am.  I am as imperfect as they come.  I have a short temper and a sharp tongue to match.  I am envious of my husband's time away and I hate cleaning.  I am sarcastic and very well aware of my shortcomings, please let me know if you need a list and how I am working to address them. My message is this - acknowledge your neighbors.  Whether they are homeless or wealthy, schizophrenic or average, intolerant or the most patient person you have ever come in contact with - acknowledge your neighbors with a "good morning".  I am not asking you to give money, some concerns are very real, but if you are able - what if you kept a gift card or two for a restaurant in your wallet.  Or, simply stopping to to chat.  Find out what their story is or just discuss this crazy weather.  They are human and our society is so uncomfortable with the marginalized that it is just easier to act as if they don't exist.  As if we truly have invisible people walking among us.  Reach out to the less among us.  At anytime, that could be us.  Or, as I was thinking, my kids.  I would hope that someone would stop and reach out to them.  To help them remember that they are human, that they are worthy of our attention.

All I can say right now, is that I pray they are safe.
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