I got a lot of honks and waves at my spot at Madison and the bypass today, but some of the expressions I saw on the faces of passersby were comical. You’d have thought I was green and had two heads and horns, which made me laugh and wave even more. I’ve gotten some really good “advice” while standing on street corners. My favorite is “Get a job”—evidently, there are a lot of people who believe they know how to fix all homelessness. They don’t realize how hard it is to get a job when you have no transportation, no address, no place to take a shower on a regular basis, and no place to leave your backpack if you do get an interview. The fact is, there are many homeless people who do work but just can’t earn enough on minimum wage to keep an apartment. I’ve also had a few people see my “Do You Care?” sign and tell me that no, they don’t care. And I’m sure that a few people who are waving are doing it with one finger, but I’m not looking that closely. So I just pray and give everybody a thumbs-up or a peace sign and let it roll …
All in all, the response has been truly amazing; for every negative comment or gesture, there have been 100 positive ones. Some have really touched me, like the ones where a mom brings her children because they want to give me something. Some parents have even told me that, if they had let them, their kids would have bought the whole store out. Military families have brought me things; one woman whose husband is deployed told me that the homeless bags I’m receiving have some of the same items that people send to their deployed spouses—for instance, baby wipes, since they don’t always get to take showers either. The thing that has most impressed me is the people who stop to give me things but don’t know who I am or what I’m doing—they just want to help a person who’s down. You guys rock.
I’ve gotten lots of hugs. Some visitors have laughed with me, some have cried with me, some have just stood there speechless, but all have encouraged me. You see, even the ones who have been negative have convinced me that we’re on the right path because people are afraid of or against what they don’t understand … and how will they know and understand unless we tell them?
This morning while I waited for the bus, I had a great conversation with a couple who met each other while they were homeless. Now they’re married, working, and trying to survive. They’re very familiar with Manna Café both as clients and as volunteers. It was a great conversation, and I’ll talk more about it in future blogs, but they used a phrase that made me do a double-take: “bowling for homeless.” This phrase is used among the homeless and refers to when a driver sees a homeless person walking or standing along the street, and there’s a mud puddle close by, and instead of slowing down and trying to miss the water, the driver intentionally speeds up and hits the puddle to see how wet he can get the homeless person. The couple mentioned times in Clarksville when this had happened to them. There’s a lot I could say about this, but these verses say it best:
“There was this rich man who had everything—purple clothing of fine quality and high fashion, gourmet meals every day, and a large house. Just outside his front gate lay this poor homeless fellow named Lazarus. Lazarus was covered in ugly skin lesions. He was so hungry he wished he could scavenge scraps from the rich man’s trash. …”
(Obviously, the rich man walked past Lazarus every day and ignored him.)
“The poor fellow died and was carried on the arms of the heavenly messengers to the embrace of Abraham. Then the rich fellow died and was buried and found himself in the place of the dead. In his torment, he looked up, and off in the distance he saw Abraham, with Lazarus in his embrace.
“He shouted out, ‘Father Abraham! Please show me mercy! Would you send that beggar Lazarus to dip his fingertip in water and cool my tongue? These flames are hot, and I’m in agony!’
“But Abraham said, ‘Son, you seem to be forgetting something: your life was full to overflowing with comforts and pleasures, and the life of Lazarus was just as full with suffering and pain. So now is his time of comfort, and now is your time of agony’” (Lk. 16:19–25, voice).
Something to think about …