Hope for the Homeless Population

Hope for the Homeless Population

A memorial mass for a local homeless man framed our trip to Salt Lake City the day before we left town. The homeless man, hit and killed by a car in March on a busy Central Florida road was partly identified through his pockets full of Starbucks and Panera gift cards given to him by caring people who took time to get to know him. At the memorial service, a simple urn donated by a county memory garden contained the remains of this bearded, beloved to many, homeless man.IMG_0080

Our trip took us to Denver, CO, before boarding the California Zephyr Amtrak train to Salt Lake City. Four random Denver taxi drivers, all from Ethiopia, expressed their gratefulness to be living in the United States. There is a homeless population living on the streets of Denver. The California Zephyr’s route travels through majestic, yet desolate canyons, following the Colorado River. As we left Denver, many homeless people stood along the station’s railroad tracks.

Arriving in Salt Lake City, we observed homeless people of every age on street corners, sleeping in vacant building entrances, holding signs asking for assistance. I saw the face of the local homeless man reflected in each homeless person I encountered in Denver or Salt Lake City.

Homeless people are around us from coast to coast, living under bridges, trees, in woods, on streets, carrying belongings in borrowed shopping carts or in well worn garbage bags.

The day we flew home, news reports mentioned our local officials visiting Salt Lake City to observe best practices to help their homeless population. It is too late for the man hit by a car last March but a glimmer of hope is building for others. May the area officials respond in more generous and permanent ways to help the homeless community before more lives are tragically lost.

“Have I ignored the needs of the poor, turned my back on the indigent, taken care of my own needs and fed my own face while they languished? Wasn’t my home always open to them? Weren’t they always welcome at my table?” (Job 31:16-18, The Message)

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Back to School

 

Lonesome for Children's Voices

Do you sense fall in the air? Have you noticed the sun’s amber glow? The summer heat is waning. Last month, many families shopped for school and dorm supplies, anticipating the beginning of a new school year.

Yet many families didn’t have money to purchase new clothing or supplies. Their children will have to make do with what they have. Their children need clothing in larger sizes; they have outgrown already worn-out shoes.

Anticipation of a new school year is a joyful time for most children. For children living in poverty, it will be another year of being left behind, receiving leftovers, used clothing, maybe a new pair of shoes, receiving a donated backpack filled with school supplies.

Lining Up for Assistance before 8:30am

People Lining Up for Assistance

Poverty is a constant uphill battle, a formidable foe. It affects a child’s ability to learn. Poverty creates subtle stress in families. If parents can’t put food on the table for their families, how can they afford to provide needed clothing and shoes for their children much less afford to buy school supplies?

You can ease the cycle of poverty:

  • Volunteer at your local school.
  • Find out what a teacher needs for the classroom and donate it.
  • Be a mentor for a child.
  • Help a child learn to read.
  • Donate food to a local pantry.

Be generous to the poor—you’ll never go hungry; shut your eyes to their needs, and run a gauntlet of curses. (Proverbs 28:27, The Message)

 

Celebrate Summer

Going through the school’s playground late Thursday, he pushed a cart loaded with red bins covered with green lids, like bins you use to store Christmas decorations. The bins on his cart didn’t contain decorations. They were filled with food for children living in poverty.

Some students were on the playground as he pushed the cart to the bus boarding area. A young boy ran up to him, “Did I miss you Monday,” he asks? “I wanted a pastry.” The man pushing the cart tells him, “We’ll be there at 5 o’clock Monday. Don’t forget.”

On Monday, the young boy was the third child to arrive while we were unloading the car. Joseph arrived first, offering to help us set up. Then Andrew wearing Mardi Gras beads arrived carrying a smile as big as the beads around his neck. The young boy who missed the previous Monday arrived, selecting bread for his family. He took a French loaf, some sliced bread, and a cheese loaf. I suggested he take his overflowing grocery bag full of bread to his family, assuring him I would save a place in the pastry line for him. When he came back, he stood in his reserved place. When his turn came he selected a large cookie shaped like a flip flop covered with green icing that matched his shirt. He asked, “Can I take something for my mom?” I explained, “We have to make sure that everyone in line gets something. Stay in line so that you can get something else.”

At the pastry table for the second time, he selected another treat for himself and a treat for his mom. He stayed around, coming back to the pastry table a third time with crumbs on his face. He took another sweet for himself.

A young girl whose family moved from the motel to an apartment a few months earlier surprised us today. She lives closer to her school but misses her friends at the motel. She likes to ride the bus to be with her friends. Her mom picks her up at the motel a few days a week.

Summer Fun

Summer Fun

These young children remind me of the simple joys of life.

  • Offer to help others.
  • Give genuine smiles.
  • Wear Mardi Gras beads to celebrate anything.
  • Share bread and pastries.
  • Ride with friends.

The last day of school is a week from Thursday. This summer, let’s try to help others. Smile a lot, celebrate something every day, share food and stay in touch with friends.

We can learn a lot at any table filled with bread and love especially when children are around us.

Just Enough

Just Enough

Your heart melts, looking into her beautiful green eyes watching her lift each of three young friends to the table to choose a donated danish, cinnamon roll or chocolate chip cookie. She is nine years old, but acts more responsible than some adults. She steers another child to the front of the line, “She’s new. She doesn’t know what to do,” she says. Nine people are in her family. We give her a loaf of raisin bread dusted with powdered sugar to make French Toast. Walking away, she is smiling. Your heart melts a second time.

Today, there was just enough bread and pastries for everyone. A woman, a regular, was missing. We wonder where she is. Has she moved?

“You are the light of the world. A city on top of a hill can’t be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they put it on top of a lampstand, and it shines on all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before people, so they can see the good things you do and praise your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16, Common English Bible)

You are the Light

You are the Light

A green-eyed child taking care to see that other children get a sweet treat on a hot Florida evening is a light in a dark world. Her light shines in spite of the darkness of poverty around her. Just enough good things shut out darkness.

How Many Jackets Do You Wear?

How Many Jackets Do You Wear?

An eighteen year old watches us set up tables of donated bread as wind whips through the parking lot. Children’s clothing covers another table. I asked the eighteen year old if he needed a jacket. Motioning him to follow me to my car, I showed him a few men’s jackets. He selected a red fleece pullover, smiling as he took it into his hands. After receiving the pullover, I sensed he felt more at ease with us. 

Donated bread can bridge differences, equalizing deliverer and receiver. For a few minutes, we meet in Christ’s love. Helpful children place bags of bread on tables, talking to each other as they sort through clothing. Grateful to receive some bread and newer clothing, wind gusts carry their many thank you’s into the air, including the thanks of a shy eighteen year old, now with a red fleece pullover to keep him warm.

Can you spare a jacket?

Can you spare a jacket?

Do you own extra jackets? Have you considered giving one to someone who needs it more than you? When you give anything away, Christ’s love will fill your heart.  

  “He also said to them, ‘Imagine that one of you has a friend and you go to that friend in the middle of the night. Imagine saying, ‘Friend, loan me three loaves of bread  because a friend of mine on a journey has arrived and I have nothing to set before him.’  Imagine further that he answers from within the house, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up to give you anything.’  I assure you, even if he wouldn’t get up and help because of his friendship, he will get up and give his friend whatever he needs because of his friend’s brashness.’” (Luke 11:5-8, CEB)

Like an eighteen year old young man, some people are too embarrassed to ask for help. If called upon, some people will get up in the middle of the night, maneuvering through a house full of people to help.

What if people helped the needy before they had to ask?

 

In-between Times

In-between Times

Life is like a Kodak Gray Scale that is used in photography and film making. Lives may not be so much pure black or white but are lived in the in-betweens of  black and white, teetering between good and bad, secure and insecure.
A woman holds a tattered cardboard sign asking for spare change at a busy intersection.
Nearby, a weary-looking man wearing well-worn clothing pushes a shopping cart containing a single black trash bag. I suspect the over-stuffed trash bag holds his life’s belongings.
Two people, living in-between secure and insecure. How many others are living in-between, attempting to survive the insecure, fighting to get to something secure.
Spare change. Black trash bags. Tattered cardboard signs. Tonight’s local weather forecast predicts chilling temperatures. No county homeless shelter exists where this woman or weary man might go to stay warm. What will they do?

Egino Weinert's Good Samaritan, available through creatormundi.com

“There was once a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. On the way he was attacked by robbers. They took his clothes, beat him up, and went off leaving him half-dead. Luckily, a priest was on his way down the same road, but when he saw him he angled across to the other side. Then a Levite religious man showed up; he also avoided the injured man. A Samaritan traveling the road came on him. When he saw the man’s condition, his heart went out to him. He gave him first aid, disinfecting and bandaging his wounds. Then he lifted him onto his donkey, led him to an inn, and made him comfortable. In the morning he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take good care of him. If it costs any more, put it on my bill—I’ll pay you on my way back.’ What do you think? Which of the three became a neighbor to the man attacked by robbers? ‘The one who treated him kindly,’ the religion scholar responded. Jesus said, Go and do the same.” (The Good Samaritan from the Gospel of Luke, 10:30-37, The Message)

Season Unclear

Washington Redskins Quarterback Robert Griffin, III (nicknamed RG3) experienced a life-altering injury Sunday 14 September. He dislocated an ankle. One newspaper headline read: “RG3 leaves game with dislocated ankle, status for season unclear.” Having injured both ankles, I cannot imagine his pain. For months, I wore a “boot” that looked suitable for an expedition in outer space.

Late Saturday afternoon our telephone rang. An unfamiliar voice asked if we had food. We offered to drop off groceries. When we met him, he said that he lost his job 3 weeks ago, causing the family to fall behind in their obligations. He and his wife have a newborn son. Today, he started a new job. He works days while his wife works evenings so that they can care for their son. Because of a job loss, the family had to move into a motel. They live in poverty.

Season Unclear

Season Unclear

“Season Unclear” is a headline that applies to many families who are homeless or living in poverty. RG3 is a Christian athlete. His Twitter account states, I have no Religion. I have a relationship with God. Live your life so it doesn’t live you.”  He also lists Jeremiah 29:11 which reads: “I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the Lord; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope.” A relationship with Jesus Christ can fill an unclear future with the hope of eternal life.

For RG3 and a new father with a 2-month old son, I will pray for healing, restoration and hope for a future filled with God’s peace. “Season Unclear” strikes millionaire star athletes and families living in poverty who are trying to make ends meet. Trusting in God can make the time of a “season unclear” more bearable during life-altering circumstances whether one is a millionaire or living in poverty or a homeless situation.

Are you aware of the homeless or those living in poverty in your community? Do you serve or avoid them? You can help them in their times of “season unclear” by providing funds for shelters, donating food to pantries or volunteering at organizations of goodwill. You can be a part of God’s community that helps provide a future filled with hope.

There are 46 million people living in poverty in America. How many live in your area? What are you going to do about it?