Day One

Today, there were a lot of “firsts” …

It was my first day standing on a street corner. I got off to a later start than I’d meant to—it was about 10:30 when I actually walked to the street corner with my sign, feeling a lot of emotions all at the same time. I found out that one of the hardest things to do is stand on a street corner with a sign, with everybody looking at you and judging you, some laughing at you, most not knowing what to think of you, and some wondering what great sin you’ve committed to get you there. But the children are great; they don’t judge, they just smile and wave. One little boy in the backseat of his mom’s car gave me a thumbs-up and then mouthed, “I care!” while his mom wasn’t looking. That made my day. photo 3

Some people gave me money, so even though it wasn’t my intent to panhandle, I guess for the for the first time in my life I did; I made $25 standing there for 7 ½ hours in the hot sun and the rain. I can see why some people do this instead of working … Not!

One guy asked me what my sign meant. As I was explaining it, he interrupted me and hollered, “Most of them just need to go get a job!” to which I replied, “The ones I know would if they could.” He just rolled his eyes and drove off. What I wanted to say was, “What, did you read that somewhere?—because I’ll bet you’ve never taken the time to talk with a homeless man to see why he’s on the street.” You know, a lot of people have heard or read someone else’s opinion, and all of a sudden they have the answer for homelessness, without even talking to one person who has actually been homeless.

All in all, it was a really good day. I’d been praying a lot about standing on that corner this morning, and when I stepped up to it, I actually started crying because the presence of God was so strong. I was definitely not alone, and as I stood there and prayed for our city, our homeless Clarksvillians and our churches, Jesus, His angels and I had a really good time.

Riding the city bus was a new experience for me too. I was shocked as to how much time it took me to get across town to my camp. By the time I found a bus stop, got on a bus, and made the trip, it added an hour and a half to my day’s work. And then when I got to my camp—the one I’d planned out so carefully—I experienced a homeless person’s worst fear: all my stuff was gone. My tent, my water, my clothes—everything was gone. It’s a story I hear over and over again from my friends who live on the streets: that they’ve lost everything and have to start all over again because someone has stolen their stuff. I my case, I found my stuff; the property managers from whom I’d gotten permission had changed their minds about me staying there, so they took it upon themselves to throw my stuff into boxes and evict me. I was lucky I guess—I’ve known a lot of homeless people who’ve been evicted by a match because someone burns their tent with all their belongings inside as a way of running them off.

I know of another place to camp, and I’ll set it up tomorrow. Tonight, it’s too dark to try, so I’ll just have to make do until daylight.

This is a shot of a camp that "housed" several people in Nashville's Tent City that my wife and I visited one Christmas. Every month or two, someone's camp was burnt to the ground for one reason or another.

This is a shot of a camp that housed several people in Nashville’s Tent City that my wife and I visited one Christmas. Every month or two, someone’s camp was burnt to the ground for one reason or another.