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As I come to know these fine people, they share with me more of their personal and sensitive stories. Their collective story is what I am trying to share with you as my way of breaking the stereotypical beliefs that exist. "Blog names" have occasionally been given to me by the person whose story I am telling. Names are never their actual names and wherever I can do so, I might use the opposite pronoun (his/her, etc.) just to help increase their privacy.

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Sunday, June 25, 2017

Mickey Makes Music and Gives a Glimpse Into Normal

The ingredients for this story were added to the mixing bowl years ago when I tried unsuccessfully to fiddle with my guitar.  I made only the most basic of sounds with that Yamaha Classical Instrument until my wife, Cindee, found a flier at a customer’s house while she was pet sitting that advertised an offer I couldn’t refuse. 

For $60.00, I could have six group lessons with Michael Favinger, a local guitar player, songwriter, and performer.  I signed up.  That was something like six years ago.  With those lessons coming to an end, Andy Williams, (another student in the class), and I have continued to teach ourselves the course (as opposed to fine) art of playing the guitar once a week.  We’re almost ready for our next performance which, as we explain to our audience of one cat, will be the next week when we get together.  With no intention of actually performing anywhere, it’s just a nice evening to play guitar and talk about life.

Enter my new life with Urban Hope

I’ve written quite a bit thus far about my efforts of personally connecting with homeless addicted people between my exit off of I-95 and 210 East Tioga – my path to and from Urban Hope.  I’ve shared with you the stories of several of these human beings.  I do what I can to connect with as many of them as possible each time I’m there.  It’s very hit or miss or God ordained as to who I find depending on your perspective on the eternal, omnipotent, all knowing, all seeing presence of God. 

Of the 10 or 12 people I’ve been getting to know, I see Mickey most often.  I pulled into the Wawa on Aramingo and there she was still wearing my lifelong friend Dolly Rea’s glimmering white (well, not so glimmering after a week of non-stop wear on the streets of Philadelphia) running suit.  I had just picked up some new (used) clothes at a Block party the day before that was organized by a ministry in which Rick Cartagena and his wife Brenda are deeply involved.  For Mickey today, I had two shirts and a stylish pair of jeans.  She changed into them in the back of my van while I stood guard outside.  The Wawa women’s room would have made more sense for this but they keep telling her to get out whenever she enters the store.

After church, I stopped by the Wawa to see if any of my regulars were there (or any new folks with whom to connect).  None were but there was Mickey, looking sharp in her lady’s purple golf shirt that had a 2016 gold embroidered insignia from some no longer all important family reunion and her new perfectly fitting (except for being too long) non-faded jeans.  I offered her a meatball sandwich prepared specifically for her by the lunch crew at Urban Hope.  She was full from a recently provided Wawa lunch but was anxious to get away from the front door for a while because too many children were “looking at me and making mean comments.”

With an “Extra Sweet” Wawa Iced Tea in her hand and a Wawa “Some Pulp” orange juice in mine, we went to the back of my van that was parked under the one shade tree available to us.  With the hatch open, Mickey sat on the right side of my back bumper.

Mickey had told me she played the guitar years ago.  I pulled that same Yamaha Classical guitar out of its case and handed it to her.  She wouldn’t take hold of it but watched intently as I played my typical miscellaneous progression of chords.

The words just slipped out of my mouth or may have been guided by the eternal, omnipotent, all knowing, all seeing presence of God.  Either way (wink wink), I said: “Mickey, you strum the guitar.” Her cocaine, heroin, alcohol addicted hand reached out and she strummed the strings while I changed chords.   “You’re making music,” I said.  She smiled.

The moment lasted only a few seconds.  In those few seconds, Mickey was not a 29-year-old homeless cocaine, heroin, alcohol addicted woman.  She was a woman strumming a guitar and that’s all and that’s what her eyes conveyed – delight and relief for a brief moment from the living hell of homeless addiction.

While I may be reading into what happened next, I think the moment may have startled or even frightened her.  She stopped and almost immediately asked if I could give her a ride to close to the tracks.  Although she did not say it, I knew that her intent was to go there and buy her next hit of cocaine or heroin.  I gently explained to her that I can’t give her a ride to anyplace where she can purchase anything that may very well kill her.  I told her that even though she might not understand it, Jesus loves her and wants her to be safe and healthy and whole.  With that, our time ended as she explained that she needed to find more money.

May it be so that in some small way, these opportunities that I’ve been given with Mickey and others is fulfilling 1 Corinthians 3:6:  

I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow.

Transposing this scripture to my current ministry: 

By the Grace of God working through the brokenness of my life, I pray to plant a seed of hope and faith in Mickey’s (Autumn’s, David’s, Ian’s, Gina’s, John’s, Joshua’s, Kim’s, Mike’s) life that may be watered by our ongoing interaction and ministries such as Urban Hope and CPLRM all by the eternal, omnipotent, all knowing, all seeing presence of God who makes it GROW. 

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