I realize it’s NaNoWriMo time. I should be building on my measly 1,610 words, I wrote on day one which was still short by fifty-seven words of the daily goal. Sigh. I should be writing to make up for that and taking advantage of my day off to jump ahead of the pack. (all of my writing buddies have more words than me – including my daughter) But I have come to realize, that sometimes, I don’t have a say in what I want to write or should write. Sometimes my heart is in my fingers, my soul urges me to tell the story, and all I can do is follow that lead.
My lead was encouraged by Pastor David Daniels’ revisit to the Down and Out series at Pantego Bible Church from last February. He actually rode with a Police Officer in charge of doing a homeless count for 2009. He met and heard many of the stories of homeless people. There were several videos made. Their stories got to the gut of it. The disadvantaged, the substance abusers, and the ones that rise above it all – against all odds – to have a home after all.
It is truly a heart wrenching story of LOVE MERCY. Their strength, and daily perseverance brings me to tears. I realize it’s something some of us do not understand, and something some of us understand all too well. Whichever side of the fence you are on, you can’t help but be moved.
A lot of people wonder why they don’t just get I.D’s., get jobs, use government help – which most of them do. What they don’t realize is, if you don’t have a SSN number or birth certificate – there is NO getting an I.D. None period. If you don’t have an I.D. you can’t get a job. And contrary to popular belief, most of these people do not WANT help. They WANT to live on their own, survive on their own, and make it on their own. They have pride just like you and I. There is no difference, they are human beings made in God’s image. What makes them different is their circumstance.
A circumstance that could happen to you or to me. I was this close to falling into an endless, irreversible cycle of drug addiction. One of the worst ones – METH. This didn’t happen when I was too young to know any better. This happened as an adult in my early thirties. It pains me to think how close I was to losing everything and being on the street. It’s painful to admit, even today, but it’s true. It’s part of my past, it’s part of who I am, and why I am.
I have compassion for them. I have a glimpse of their world. I know how easily it can unravel. And I’m not saying I know, that’s not what I’m saying at all. My period was a year, year and half, theirs are decades. I don’t know anything. It’s hard, harder than imaginable.
Sunday, a friend from Facebook and Christian Mingle came to Texas to visit her daughter and new baby grandson. In July when he was born, she had planned to visit me and the Church, but unexpectedly had to return to Florida. She promised to return and visit one day again.
That day happened to be this Sunday. She called and I gave her directions to the Church to meet her in the lobby. It was a wonderful connection. She is as dear and genuine in person as she has been online. She is a very heartfelt, and beautiful. Her daughter and grandson were absolutely precious. What a gift it was to meet them, embrace them, and cuddle that precious baby boy. It was the highlight of my day.
Pastor Daniels summarized the Down and Out series, highlighting the specific messages. The true stories of the Down and Out brings tears, heartache, and tremendous hope. Hope for a new understanding, for an awakened passion, and for my friend because her other daughter is homeless, and under the oppression of substance abuse.
I can’t imagine. I can’t imagine the pain of that. What stood out the most was Pastor Daniels saying, for some, you can’t help them. You can be there for them. You can love them, but they are on their own journey with God.
It brought her great comfort to hear this. It brought her peace where their wasn’t any before. It was a message she so desperately needed to hear. A message of LOVE MERCY to a mother who traveled over 1,000 miles to hear it.
My visit of LOVE MERCY happened a few short weeks ago. I was invited by a friend to be part of Feed by Grace ministry, which is a division of Unity Park near downtown Fort Worth.
Unity Park is a fenced in area, with trees, picnic tables, and the above pictured basket ball court. The homeless can come to relax, be entertained, have coffee or Gatorade during certain operating hours. There is a small one room concrete building that houses an even smaller kitchen and bathroom. This is where I gathered with many volunteers for a women’s spa day. A very special engagement.
This event was by invitation only. The director had selected twenty-five deserving women that needed some pampering. Not that they aren’t ALL deserving, they are, but there were only so many spots.
I volunteered to work the nail station. Heck, I LOVE a manicure. It’s nice to be spoiled. To give that to these ladies was sure to be a blessing. Most of them had never had a manicure before. Other volunteers arranged the lunch, and drinks. Also, a paraffin hand waxing station was designated. Three teenage boys arrived to be waiters. They were dressed sharply in nice shirts, ties, and slack – complete with a white towel over their arm.
These ladies were not just being given lunch. They were being offered the royal treatment. An afternoon of sheer pleasure and escape from all their worries. This was the similar to an Academy Award event. White table cloths, center pieces, waiters, and gratification awaited them.
The first woman’s hands, I took in mine was named Beverly. I couldn’t begin to guess her age but she told me she had three children in their forties that lived in Tulsa. I would have pegged her about sixty-five. She was a small woman, mostly skin and bones, but there nothing frail about her. She was tough. She was strong, wise, and determined.
She told me her story as I caressed her weathered hands. Her pride beamed as she described her grown children. Her brow furrowed as she detailed beating breast cancer, becoming a survivor, and to find out the cancer had returned. She was in crisis once again with her head held high. She said she was going to get an apartment. She was going to get on her feet, but would not undergo chemo again. If this was her time, well then, she was ready.
I buffed a black spot on her nail, where she said a door had shut on her finger, as the black lifted away, she watched the stain disappear, her pleasure radiated. I smoothed the ridges, soaked the cuticle, trimmed, and polished her fingertips. She smiled when we finished, her nails had never been treated so well before. One last squeeze and she went back to the tables covered in cloth to await lunch. Her courage in the face of her situation astounded me, humbled me even.
Three more times, I talked, treated and tried to offer these homeless women a shred of love. The only kind I could offer, my service. Every one of them was sweet and grateful. They felt like princesses. After the nail station, two more volunteers were offering hand massages. Then they could move on to the hand waxing.
At first, some of the women thought hand waxing was the plucking of hair. We advised them it was actually much more pleasurable, some were brave enough to try it. I helped peel the wax from their hands. The exclaimed in glee as they felt their hands transformed to silk. The first thing they would do was touch their face, rubbing their soft hands on their skin, eyes closing in enjoyment. Such a small thing, yet so indulging, and so beautiful to behold.
Lunch was served by the handsome young boys. The women thought they looked like soap stars. They were star struck as they bashfully accepted a plate of food, a glass of tea, and a dessert. Giggling like school girls and shying their eyes away. It was sweet.
As the luncheon came to an end, a woman behind me stood up. In front of twenty-five women and ten volunteers she told her story of being homeless, losing her children due to drug abuse, getting herself rehabilitated, getting her kids back and learning to live and work again. Then she sang from her heart, a lullaby, written by her mother when she was a small child.
The room was silent as her voice lifted and carried, all the pain, the heartbreak, and the sheer will for a better life, lifted and touched every soul. When she finished, thunderous clapping erupted, tears were wiped away. She bared herself for all to see, in order for other women to have strength. She told her story for them to rise up and be champions. What an impact.
They were pampered for now, but back to the street they would go. To sell their bodies, or to miss their babies, or to look for shelter, or a bath, to an abusive husband or mate, and even to that addiction if they have one. Maybe this ounce of compassion could sustain them for a brief while.
Before the luncheon closed, Feed by Grace director had one more surprise for the ladies. She brought out hand knit hats and scarves, all unique, all made with a hue of brilliant color. Knitted by a group of women that pray over each thread. Women who selflessly offer their talent for a strangers warmth and comfort.
The ladies were told the hats and scarves were prayed over as a covering for them this winter. Hence the hat to cover their head and the scarves to wrap around them. A covering of protection from the cold. A covering of love and prayer. They also handed out purses filled with kits of useful things for a street person. Items we would trash, they treasure.
Lastly was the prayer locket. A silver chain hugging a heart that opens, inside you can put prayers, close the locket and wear it on your chest. Faith, love, and mercy – they can hold in their hand. Something beautiful to fill their every aspiration.
My beautiful friend Beverly as she saw her heart locket.
As they departed, I hugged every neck I could. I tried to touch them as they had touched me. I held them tightly and prayed for strength and energy and heart to go forth with them. The woman that sang her song, I told her keep singing and keep telling her story. It would change lives, just keep shining.
Some people might say what a blessing I AM. To those people, I would say – the blessing was ALL MINE. I will never forget that day, not one second. I look forward to future outings with the down and out. I hope to continue in this mission as much as I can.
You might think, WOW , I wish I was like you. But listen, I am an ordinary person. A single mom with little resource. My only resource I can give is my heart, my time, and my service. If you knit, look for those opportunities, blankets, scarves, and hats. If you can serve, find those places that need a hand. They are all AROUND you. Ask God to open your eyes to them. You will be amazed and blessed beyond measure.
Lastly, seek your compassion every day. Don’t shy away from what you don’t understand. Open your heart and receive. It will uplift your life.
1 Timothy 6:18 (Contemporary English Version)
18 Instruct them to do as many good deeds as they can and to help everyone. Remind the rich to be generous and share what they have