Please Know...

As I come to know the men and women of Kensington, specifically the homeless and addicted, their stories become increasingly sensitive and personal. Their collective story is what I am trying to share with you as my way of breaking the stereotypical beliefs that exist in regard to these fine people. Names are rarely their actual names and wherever I can do so, I might use the opposite pronoun (his/her, etc.) just to help increase their privacy.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Today was payday. God’s Timing is Perfect.

Today was payday.  Sadly, I had an unexpected bill that absolutely had to be paid today.  The total of it was 77% of my paycheck.  Ouch!

If I allowed it to do so, this financial frustration could have caused me to stay home and lay around on the thin mattress of my remaining funds.  I chose instead to make a trip to Kensington.  What better way to cheer myself up than come alongside men and women whose struggles are more than you and I will ever understand. 

I’m glad I did.

I’m glad I did, not so I could compare my frustration with their suffering but rather so I could receive the awesome blessings that come from people who have nothing more to give than a smile and a sparkle in their Faith-filled eyes, or the genuine nature of their handshake, fist bump or hug.  

My first stop was Prevention Point to look for two people I’ve not seen in a while.  Neither one was there.  I try not to be worried when I don’t see someone who has shared so much of their story with me over these couple of years but I do…

From there, I drove to the “Last Stop” very near the intersection of Kensington and Summerset.  Men and women who I’ve known for various lengths of time greeted me as I shared bananas, water, and song sheets.  

Whenever someone asks for two or more bananas, I always ask if they are asking for more because they find them ‘appealing.’  We laugh and then I point out that to the best of my knowledge, that’s the only banana joke out there…

Sometimes they laugh and say “Yes.”  Other times they say “No. I’m pregnant” Or “No. I need them for my children at home.”

It’s in a moment like that when the 23% that remains available from my current paycheck for the next two weeks gets put into quick perspective.

God’s Timing is Perfect

If I had not stopped at Prevention Point when I did and if I had not done each little thing leading up to my next story in these following paragraphs, what I'm about to tell you might not have happened…   

I was chatting with a couple of men who I’ve met before.  They were sharing with me their latest news on possible housing.  I glanced up the steps that lead to “The El” there at Summerset Station.  Of all the people to be walking down them and using crutches to do so, is the man I’d been talking to just before the shooting that occurred a bit to close to me a couple weeks ago.  He was just returning from a few days in the hospital.  He looked relatively great having gotten cleaned up and tended to for what had been ailing him increasingly so for weeks.
                                                                                                                      
As I mentioned before, this man likes to call a particular member of "Angels In Motion" a wonderful outreach group that visits on a regular basis.  We made that phone call while this man sat in the front seat of my car while I continued to share bananas, water, and song sheets.  It wasn’t long before the pieces were coming together for this man to be taken by the person he called for a trip to “The Net” a place where people go to be screened and processed for admission to any one of several detox/rehabs scattered throughout the city primarily for people reliant on Medicaid.

I saw this man making his way down “The El’s” steps on his crutches about 1:00 pm.  It’s now 9:15 pm and I have just learned in the middle of this sentence that he has just now been approved and cleared for placement somewhere in The City of Brotherly Love “sometime in the next 72 hours.”  That is three days!!!  Three days of waiting!!!

Between now and then, he’s in a holding pattern, something like a plane circling a foggy airport, waiting for the fog to clear and hoping not to run out of fuel (determination to stick with his plan).  The plane running out of fuel in this analogy and this man running out of determination to see his plan through will lead to the same result, a crashed plane and a postponed hope for a new future being right around the corner.

In the midst of all of this, 

There was the moment when a street bound daughter asked me to text her Mom and tell her that she loves her very much and may have an injury that needs medical attention.  Her plan was to go to the nearby hospital after she earns[1] $10.00 to buy and inject her medicine.

There was the couple who wanted me to know that they were moving to their Pathways to Housing apartment next week.  They promised to let me know where and when so that I can visit.

There was the group of men who would intimidate a suburbanite as they clustered around me asking for bananas in multiples…  “Why?  Do you ALL find them appealing."  They laughed.

*****

My blogs don’t always have a conclusion.  There’s a reason for that... 

As you read these last words, these stories from the streets continue whether I’m there to witness them or not.  

Each person mentioned is still there, ‘earning” funds to support their medicinal needs, trying to figure out how to feed their children, feeling desperately lonely, wondering if their arm is broken, being rained on with no way to dry off, being told to move from where they had hoped to lay for the rest of the night, wondering if they will see the next sunrise, missing their family, wondering why and “How will I…” and…….





[1] Please read between the lines to realize what "earns" means here.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

It's Way Past Time for Philadelphia Prison Release Reform


The following is adapted from a letter that I recently wrote to a judge on behalf of a person who is currently trapped in the legal system due to their Substance Use Disorder which is an officially recognized condition by the medical community...  Please also read the footnotes... 

Many thousands of people are dealing with Substance Use Disorder, an officially recognized condition as described in the DSM-5.  Virtually every illegal act that lands them in the court system has its roots in this disorder.[1]  Most want to stop using and move on to their new life goals. 

If given the slightest opportunity to do so, a person's Substance Use Disorder will win the battle in demanding that they continue to "take her medicine."[2]  To whatever extent the court can serve as a de facto physician[3] in bringing about healing, I urgently and humbly ask that when the time is right, any person within the court's jurisdiction would be transferred directly to an appropriate care facility that will serve them in a way that is best for them and will truly help them achieve their goals for a new and productive life.[4] 

This situation applies to men and women.  
Women in this situation are forced to carry an extra dose of potential harm…

In the absence of a predetermined place for a woman in this situation to go to directly from her current incarceration, she will be released from RCF[5] any time between 7pm and the middle of the night.[6]  She will be provided with one token for the bus which is available to her right off the jail grounds and will have little choice but to return to Kensington.  She will be released without whatever personal effects she had on her when brought to RCF.  These items, which include her ID and some degree of cash will need to be picked up by her on some future business day between the hours of 9:00am and 1:30pm.[7],[8]  She will be required to hop on the visitor's bus and return to the same building in which she had been incarcerated for days or months.[9]

Between her moment of release from RCF and retrieving her personal belongings, upon her return to the familiarity of the streets of Kensington, with hunger setting in and the call of her Substance Use Disorder screaming for attention, she will have little choice but to succumb to her nightmare of humiliating herself by 'dating'[10] so as to earn a few dollars for food and heroin.

In the absence of the relative safety of community found within Emerald City[11], her chance of finding any place to lay her head will be next to nil.[12]  She will have little choice but to find someone's residential step or piece of sidewalk upon which to lay and consume her first doses of heroin for this round of homelessness.  

During her incarceration, her body has 'reset itself' to its tolerance of how much heroin she can safely[13] handle.  A 'normal' dose for her prior to incarceration could easily end her life on this night and bring one more set of loved ones together for a funeral that could have been prevented.  If she has found an abandoned house to rest in and inject her heroin, it may be days or weeks before anyone finds her decaying body.

She may pass out due to her body having 'reset itself' and not being used to this amount of heroin.   In the absence of communities such as Emerald City, she runs the risk of being attacked while lying unconscious in an area less secure than a 'tent community.' 

Do you see my point?

Let us please work together to establish new ways of transitioning our sons and daughters from incarceration to actual health care and to protect them from the symptomatic behaviors of their officially medically recognized Substance Use Disorder.



[1] This disorder almost always has its roots in some form of emotional trauma.  That's a subject for another day.
[2] This is a recognized pattern for any person who would be in this situation.
[3] acting or existing in fact but without official sanction
[4] The original letter to the judge, upon which this blog is based was written almost three weeks ago.  A direct transfer was already part of the judge's plan for this person.  So far, the judge and this person have fully believed that the transfer would happen on two different dates.  This person is still sitting in a 6x9 jail cell at RCF.  She is sharing this space with another woman and being given no degree of counseling.  In her own words through tears when I visited her two days ago:  "It's humiliating!  There's nothing to do except sit.  When either of us needs to do so, we are forced to piss and shit in front of each other in the exposed toilet in our cell."   Is this any way to treat human beings who are made in the image of God and who are dealing with a recognized condition formally recognized by the medical community as Substance Use Disorder?
[5] Riverside Correctional Facility
[6] I have been there to pick up three people upon release from RCF. The earliest was approximately midnight.  The latest was after 2:00am.
[7] In my recent visits to RCF, there have been more formerly incarcerated women on the visitor's transport bus coming to retrieve their belongings than there have been visitors coming to see their incarcerated loved ones.
[8] To do so, she will need to ride public transit which costs money, money which will most likely be earned through 'dating', an illegal act for which she could be arrested and taken back to jail before her first 'freed' sunrise.
[9] There is no reasonable purpose for expecting a person who has been declared free of their charges or 'done their time' to return to the place of their incarceration simply to retrieve their personal property which includes their ID. This ID is required to be presented in various places so as to achieve services that get these people moving toward the next healthy steps of their life.
[10] And please understand that in the process of 'dating' to earn funds that she was not given upon her release, she may be picked up by police and charged with prostitution and end up back in jail before the sun rises the next day.
[11] Which was disbanded by the City of Philadelphia on January 31, 2019…
[12] Established shelters will be filled to capacity at this time of night.
[13] I know… It's a bit of an ironic and inappropriate word to use but it sort of fits in this case.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Personal Realizations In Kensington

This past weekend was a time of personal realization as I went about doing what I do in Kensington.  The first moment that I caught myself in this theme of realizing how comfortable I am there was as I was walking across Kensington Avenue at Summerset so as to look for people I know.

Allow me to set the stage…

This was not one of those times when I was out doing my own thing.  I was with the Urban Hope Church.  About 50 teenagers and their accompanying adult leadership from three youth ministries from across Pennsylvania were with us.  We had set up tables right about here so as to distribute food and clothes, to chat and to pray with those who wanted prayer. 


As I walked around this corner from right to left in this linked picture, I saw a few men and women who I know and many who I don't.  A man who I'd not seen since Emerald City's deletion walked up to me to be sure I knew that he and his wife have been approved for housing by Pathways to Housing and will be moving in next week.  I gave him my card and asked him to please call me so I can visit.  He promised he would. 

A few steps later, I found a woman whose partner is in RCF.[2]  "Will you go visit her for me, Chris? I'm not allowed." 

"Sure.  I'd be happy to… Would you like to check out the clothes Urban Hope Church brought?  We have a table set up across the street."

"Yes please…"

She gave me a sidearm hug that stuck all the way back across "The Ave." and to the table set up and hosted by rural teens who greeted her with the love of Christ.

As she was checking out clothes, Louise, an active member of Urban Hope, and I decided to look for "Natalie" who had recently been released from RCF after about a year of confinement and was back on the streets.  Louise, whose real name is Louise and "Natalie" whose real name is not "Natalie" developed a bond one day when Natalie visited Urban Hope with me during a time when she was not using her "medicine." 

Jump Back About One Year
                                      
Shortly before that year-long incarceration, Louise had asked me on a "Homeless Ministry" outreach event at that time and at the same intersection if I had seen Natalie recently. 

"I've not but I sure wish I would so the two of you could connect again.  I know the two of you have a natural bond."  No sooner had I said that (Keep in mind that this was over a year ago.)  that I looked across "The Ave." and there she was, dressed in such a way that I knew she was looking for a date or multiple dates for the night so as to fund her medicinal needs.

That night over a year ago I called over to Natalie.  She came over and gave us both a hug.  Louise and Natalie chatted together something like a loving mother and daughter who had not seen each other in some time.  After a while, Natalie left and continued her availability on her street corner of choice.

Back to This Past Weekend

Louise and I walked across "The Ave." We meandered to and then stood next to a table hosted by a Mennonite group of men, women, and teens as they served dinner, drinks and conversation with people coming to and leaving from "The Last Stop."

Barely a couple minutes later the unthinkable, the non-imaginable in the absence of the divine hand of God happened.  From out of nowhere from our earthly seat in God's plan for her, Natalie walked right up to us and started to walk past having not seen us.  I called out to her using her preferred street name which is neither her blog name nor her real name.  She turned around.  Natalie's bond for Louise bloomed into a delightful smile.  They hugged and chatted as if no time had passed.

After a few minutes, Natalie excused herself, this time to buy her next medicine so as to num her soul enough so she can perform her tasks on men that she must perform so as to buy her medicine to avoid her dope sickness and num her soul enough to perform her tasks so as to earn money to buy her medicine so she does not get dope sick and so that she can find multiple dates to buy her medicine....

This 'sentence' above was not any sort of typographical error or computer glitch.  It's a fairly accurate order of events 24 hours each day and seven days each week, for almost every homeless woman on the streets who are dealing with Substance Use Disorder.

Please understand the miraculous nature of this true story thus far.  On two out of two occasions when Louise was hoping to find Natalie with whom she feels a motherly bond, Natalie walked right onto the stage.  "Dates" take ladies to the front or back seats of cars where they provide their 'services' on streets right there in Kensington or in very expensive center city hotels or in by-the-hour motels in PA, N.J. or Delaware.  Natalie has been in all of those settings and could have been on either of these nights. 

Natalie has prayed for her own healing for as long as I've known her.  We met on June 17, 2017.  As you read this entire linked blog, toward the end of it, you will see my first reference to her prayers for her own healing

Stay tuned for Part Two…






[1] The Elevated Septa Line
[2] Riverside Correctional Facility 

Saturday, March 9, 2019

The Judge as De Facto Physician

The Judge[1] as De-facto[2] Physician[3]

I witnessed something this week that thrilled and inspired me in Philadelphia's Criminal Court System.  

'Diane' sat teary-eyed in front of a judge whose probation order she had violated.  She ended up back in jail two or three months ago and before him this past Wednesday.  As this judge sat in his seat of judicial authority, he looked at Diane, calling her "Miss (Family Name)" and directly apologized to her for the way he felt he had failed her in judicially supervising her 'case.'

I was stunned.  

I sat and watched an incredible event unfold on this day and on Friday, 48 hours later.

Having written a letter to the Judge on Diane's behalf, it was my hope that the Judge would read it and take it into consideration as he determined her future path.  I shared a few thoughts under oath pertaining to Diane's character and level of Faith as a Christian in the Roman Catholic tradition as the letter was presented and distributed to the attorneys for the defense and the State.  The judge asked everyone in the room to take a seat while he silently read it.  What a moment that was as I watched the public defender and the attorney for the State (prosecuting attorney) read their copies as well.  I sat quietly and prayed for a peaceful spirit for all involved, especially for Diane who was noticeably nervous.

The judge had already determined that Diane should not be released to any place or situation other than the next appropriate place for her to receive the care that she needs to reestablish her healthy life.  

Deliberately scheduled as the last case of the day, those of us who care so much about Diane - and this includes this judge - in a conversational style reviewed options.  With Diane's tears flowing freely at one point, the attorney for the State of Pennsylvania, a woman about Diane's age, walked to a portion of the judicial area where, technically, she should not go.  She retrieved a box of tissues and handed them to the very person who, in her role as attorney for the State, should probably not openly demonstrate personal care for one bit.  That was one incredible and probably largely unnoticed moment.

The pieces for determining where Diane would go to directly from RCF[4] were not coming together quickly.  The judge looked at his court scheduler and said that he wanted to address the case of "Miss 'Family Name'" "every single day as able until it is resolved."  Diane was scheduled then and there to come back to court from RCF 48 hours later with the hopes that the missing pieces of her care would have been put in place and she could, under the care of this judge, her de-facto physician, enter the next stage of regaining personal health and re-entry into motherhood of her children.

48 Hours Later…

Diane is reliant on the Public Defender's Office for her legal representation.  This meant, in her case, that her attorney on Friday, did not receive all of the needed details from the attorney who represented Diane on Wednesday.  As a result, some of the missing pieces for Diane's continuum of care were still missing.  In a casual moment between cases, the judge was informed that there were still some missing pieces to Diane's placement puzzle.  The judge said, "We need to get this figured out before Miss 'Family Name' comes out here otherwise this is going to be one very tear-filled court session."

With that, the judge asked the attorneys for the defense and the State, Diane's recovery coach and me to come back to his conference room.  On the way back to the conference room, the attorney for our State happened to be holding the door as I entered.  I thanked her for getting and handing the box of tissues to Diane two days earlier.  It was then that she told me of the possibility of her getting in trouble with the court deputy for walking where she did to get that box.

After some brief discussion around the conference room table, the judge personally called a representative for the most logical place for Diane to go for the next stage of her recovery process.  Pieces were coming together but slowly and I had to leave for work.  As I was arriving at Recovery Centers of America in Devon for my 3-11 shift, I received a text from Diane's recovery coach stating that all of the pieces came together and Diane would be transferred from RCF directly to this appropriate place in the next few days.

I can only imagine Diane's Christian Faith-filled tears as this judge who has done more for her health care than any recent physician, presented her with this news.


The Judge[5] as De-facto[6] Physician[7]






[1] a high-ranking court officer, formerly a lawyer, who supervises court trials, instructs juries, and pronounces sentence
[2] acting or existing in fact but without legal sanction
[3] a doctor who diagnoses and treats diseases and injuries using methods other than surgery
[4] Riverside Correctional Facility
[5] a high-ranking court officer, formerly a lawyer, who supervises court trials, instructs juries, and pronounces sentence
[6] acting or existing in fact but without legal sanction
[7] a doctor who diagnoses and treats diseases and injuries using methods other than surgery

Thursday, March 7, 2019

“Do you have any water?”

This is Part two of a two-part blog.  Click here for Part One.  Each blog is it's own true story.  When considered together, the reality of this one day will be made real to you...

“Do you have any water?”

“I have one left.”

'Rose' walked across the street to my open driver’s side window.  She told me how thirsty she was.  The rate of drizzle was increasing.  Her winter coat and hair were getting soaked.  Tears were running down her cheeks. 

“You’re crying.  What’s happened?”

Her hands were so cold, she asked me to open her water bottle.

Rose pointed east on Lehigh as said, “I started to wake up from my high and realized I was almost totally naked.  There was a man almost on top of me.  I was able to get him off of me.[1]  He took off in a large white pickup truck.  ZHR was part of the license plate.” Sometimes quotes in my blogs are paraphrased a bit to protect privacy.  This portion is not a paraphrase.

She continued on…

“I’m so sick of this!  I want my life back!  I'm a Mom!  I love my children!  No one understands how horrible my life has been!  I was found in a trash can shortly after I was born…  My mom got me high from my earliest years…  My uncles molested and raped me during my late childhood and early adolescence.[2]  When I finally met my dad as a barely legal adult, he routinely raped me and told me he did not see me as a daughter but as something to use."

The rain was starting to fall heavier.  Raindrops which have fallen to this earth since Genesis 1:6[3] ran through Rose's hair and tears made up of the same with the added ingredient of a broken soul poured down her cheeks.  I got out of my car there on Lehigh.   Rose sank into my chest and wailed with the agony of her multiple family betrayals.

After a couple of minutes, Rose composed herself enough and took the conversation in a direction I wasn't expecting…

"I've been watching you for months, Banana Man."

"I'm actually Chris.”

"Chris, you’re a good man.  You're a caring man.  I see how much you care about everyone here."  Please put out your right hand."

I extended my right hand.  With the grace and smoothness of a seemingly anticipated moment such as that point in a wedding when you slip the ring on your new spouse's finger, with these words, Rose slipped a bracelet from her wrist to mine…

"This is my favorite bracelet.  Will you please wear it and be my Dad?"

After a moment of stunned silence on my part…

"Of course, Rose."

With rain soaking both of us and tears now running down two sets of cheeks, she continued…

"I don't want any money from you.  I don't want tricks.[4]  I just want you to be my Dad and for you to love me like a daughter."

We spent the next half hour or so being lightly rained on and talking the way a father and adult daughter would upon meeting for the first time.  A new twist to this was to friend each other on Facebook as a way to keep in touch in the absence of Rose having a phone. 

I had a few socks left and gave them to her. 

Rose shared with me her goal of getting into a detox very soon by way of Prevention Point.  I've sent her a note or song each day since.  She's not been online so I'm trusting that she's in the blackout stage of her detox.[5] 

Before going to Prevention Point, she needed to buy her next dose of "medicine." She made no attempt to ask me for money to cover its cost.  Her departing request was that I watch her from my car as she walked down Lehigh and turned out of sight onto Emerald.  I did exactly that.  I prayed for her as she walked away as I do now each day.

I had to sit some more in my car there on Lehigh.  In the past four hours, I'd

  • been within fifty feet or so of drug dealer related shooting and in the midst of a community scrambling for safety,
  • been given a purple planted orchid by a Saintly named woman out of her baby carriage filled with her worldly belongings, 
  • been adopted into fatherhood by a young lady whose life story is tragic beyond words to convey and
  • been given a purple beaded bracelet as a sign of this daughterly adoption.


It was quite a day… 

I can't wait to go back to this area 35 minutes away.




[1] She carries a taser and mace.
[2] The exact quote included the number of uncles and her exact age range of these attacks.
[3] And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.” So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so. God calledthe vault “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day. NIV
[4] "Tricks" is another term for the 'dating' that young ladies do on the streets.
[5] This is a several day period in which the patient is not allowed to be in contact with any outside friends or family.  This is also a time when patients begin to break their communication, hopefully permanently, with those people in their lives that have caused so much harm.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Sunday, March 3, 2019, was a day that changed my ministry efforts forever.

But be aware… This is a two or three part blog…  There may be a surprise ending…

The day started out normal enough with a quick visit to the roaming remnant residents of Emerald City.  I saw many of the regular folks and a bunch of new ones.  I was aware of, well, let's call it "commerce" taking place on the side streets that connect Emerald Street with Frankford Avenue.  When I see this, I make it a point not to go down those side streets.

After a wonderful and very meaningful time of authentic praise and worship at Urban Hope Church, I returned to Emerald Street and parked just a car length or so north of Silver Street.  I unloaded my cooler of water and case of bananas.  I asked one man if it was OK for me to walk down Silver Street, something that I don’t think I’ve ever done.  As I made my way down, I was aware of a dealer selling people their "medicine" and a considerable number of people, buying or just hanging out in the area.  I saw one man whose health is deteriorating and loves to call one of the other outreach workers if I’m there and that person is not.  We casually tried to make that call and ended up Facebook messaging back and forth just a few yards from the dealer and the rest of the crowd.  Many of the men and women appreciated the bananas and water.

At some point during this, a person – and I can’t think who right now – I don’t even recall if it was a man or woman – asked me if we could talk privately.  I said “Sure.  Let’s go back to my car and chat behind it.”  In this link, you can see the paved area on the left.  This is Emerald Street where I was parked.

In retrospect, that was the first obvious moment when God pulled me off of Silver Street.  Within a few minutes, a white car pulled up on the opposite side of Emerald and a man got out of the driver’s side.  I didn’t think much of it.  People drive up and park there all the time.  It’s usually suburban people buying their drugs to take home.

Within a few seconds, commotion ensued as it was realized among the crowd of these people who I care so very much about that this was an armed robbery of the drug dealer.  The man got back in his car and drove away.  The commotion died down and I continued to distribute socks that had been recently donated. 

A few minutes later, I’m not exactly sure of the order of gunfire or screams of “He’s got a gun!” but somewhere in there, the deepest and loudest booms echoed throughout this high walled area just north of the former community called Emerald.  The sounds were so deep and so loud that the first two of the five that I heard I was convinced could not be sounds from a gun.[1] 

As people ran out of Silver Street and other people ran from where they were to where they were not yet out of sheer confusion of not knowing where these explosive sounds were originating, the lady looking through the socks jumped into the passenger side of my car and I jumped in my side.  I drove away while she called 911 on her phone.  Within seconds, the area was swarming with Philadelphia’s police.

We drove around for a bit checking on our scared and scattered street friends.  To the best of our knowledge at the time, no one had been hurt.  

UPDATE:

I'm probably going to do a re-write of the next couple of paragraphs but don't have the time to do so right now.  I discovered a couple of days later that the person shot five times and killed on Emerald that day was killed several hours after I was there as he slept under the bridge.  The five shots I heard apparently hit no one...


It was only that evening, that I learned from the other outreach worker mentioned above of one fatality, a man in his 30s to 40s who had been shot five times, the exact number of booming gunshots that I heard…

I was deeply concerned for the man who had tried to use my phone in the minutes before all this happened.  He does not move quickly these days due to failing health secondary to his Substance Use Disorder and was on Silver Street when this happened.  I did not find him at all in the minutes following the shooting and I feared the worst.  I made some phone calls to Philadelphia authorities and was told that the person I was concerned for was not the person killed.  I’ve still not heard who it was.   I might know him and I might not. 

I took my passenger back to her shelter at Prevention Point and handed out the remainder of my bananas and all but one water that I decided to keep.  Upon reflection, keeping that one water was God's way of building the stage upon which the events described in the upcoming part two of this multi-part blog played out.

As I had been handing out water and bananas, I was telling people not to go to Emerald right then.  One older woman who I'd not met but she recognized me said that she was there when the shooting happened.  This lady who is named after a Saint, then looked at me with a deep smile and reached into her cart of worldly belongings.  She pulled out a purple planted orchid and gave it to me as a gift along with a hug.  This orchid now sits on my desk in front of me as I type this in my suburban apartment and is named after her.

As I started to head for home, I had to stop for a while and consider all that I had just experienced.  I pulled over on Lehigh Avenue pointing east and up a hundred yards or so from Frankford Avenue.  A heavy drizzle was starting to fall.  I sat and considered the shield of protection that I felt as the shots rang out.  I thanked God for keeping so many people safe. 

I glanced out my driver's door window as I sat there.  A young lady who I've seen but not interacted with very much was walking toward Emerald Street on the opposite side of the street.  I called over to her not to go down there right now.  She waved and then asked…

"Do you have any water?"

"I have one left."






[1] In retrospect, I compared them to the sound of your standard Boom of an M80 firework.