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.
Tuesday, July 4, 2017
This past Thursday, I picked up three luggage style bags of items from Dolly before heading to Kensington as I do every Thursday. I go to the Christian based recovery meeting at Urban Hope with the hope that I can find an interested homeless addicted person to go with me. (It's always someone with whom I've had some degree of previous contact.)
On my way, I stopped at the Wawa on Aramingo Avenue. There was something different this time. There were less homeless folks than normal. In fact, I didn't see any.
I saw a security guard and knew things were changing. I drove around the store and when I got between the Wawa and the Rite Aid, there was Mickey sitting on the curb out of authority range of the guard. I sat on the curb with her for a bit and asked if she was hungry. She said that she'd not eaten all day and had no money. "Let's go in and get something," I suggested. We did. The guard walked around behind us never taking his eyes off of Mickey's actions. I turned to him and said politely. "She's with me."
Mickey ordered from the deli and picked out some other decent food as did I and we went to the register. The whole time, she (or we) were under direct surveillance. We went to my car where we ate dinner together in its air conditioning. It was a hot day and Mickey appreciated the moment to sit in some cool air and eat. I hear the words "Thank you." from Mickey a lot.
Whenever I'm with Mickey or any of the other people on the streets I'm getting to know, I do what I can to bring our LORD into the conversation. Mickey is very resistant to this. She told me that at some point, she went to a church and they yelled at her. She has never gone back to any church since that. I brought God into our dinner there in the front seat by simply saying, "Thank You, LORD, for our food." and left it at that.
As we ate, Mickey shared briefly that she's frightened and alone. She wants to go back to Atlantic City where she has friends (or family). "Would they welcome you back?" I asked. She wasn't sure. I suggested that we call the people to get their thoughts on her coming to them. She didn't have phone numbers and would not tell me names to look up. I suggested that she come with me to the recovery meeting that I was heading to in a few minutes. Someone there could give her ideas on how to appropriately contact these friends in Atlantic City. She wasn't interested because the meeting is at a church.
As we continued to eat dinner in my car, she mentioned she really needed boots and socks for all the walking she does. I told her about the items that I had just received from Dolly and that I didn't really know what was in the three large bags that I'd just picked up from her. We finished dinner and went to the back of my Chevy Uplander. I opened the back hatch and pulled out the three bags. Mickey sat on the left side of the bumper while I sat on the right. "Let's see if there are any boots and socks in here," I said. I unzipped the bag and guess what I found immediately....
BOOTS in Mickey's size and SOCKS!
I was so shocked that I called Dolly right away. When she answered the phone, I explained what had just happened. Mickey expressed her appreciation directly to Dolly through tears as she reiterated how frightened and alone she feels. The three of us talked for a couple minutes. Dolly was great with her unconditional love for Mickey and called her "Kiddo" a couple of times which Mickey seemed to like. Mickey thanked Dolly several times during that brief call. I did my best to convey to Mickey that she's loved by God and the provision of these boots and socks as she'd requested before WE knew they were there is evidence of that love. "Really?" she asked. "Yes. really." Again, I left it at that.
Thinking that this experience might have softened Mickey's heart, I invited her one more time to come to the recovery meeting. She wasn't interested. We said goodbye and I made my way there. I arrived a bit late and slipped in as unnoticed as I could while Brenda was gloriously singing. Rick provided a powerful message for the evening.
I don't normally speak at these meetings but this time I did as I shared with the group very briefly what I've just written at more length above. Brenda and others agreed that this was a God moment for Mickey whether she saw it as such or not. "Keep pouring yourself into her." was my encouragement from the group.
I'm making it a point to see as many of these homeless people with whom I have some degree of ministry going about every two days. With the Fourth of July Schedule rearranging my typical pattern, I decided to go up Friday and see who I could see. The "doorman" at Wawa and the man who washes car windows for a dollar are gone from Wawa now that there's a guard. David and Autumn were working at a local intersection and too busy to talk. Gina is in Rehab (I think.). Ian is now working.
But there was Mickey - on the curb out of authority range of the guard. She looked exhausted. I sat down next to her and she said she'd barely slept since I saw her the evening before. Nor had she eaten anything significant.
I'll write more about the details of this evening later. Here's a summary. She sat in my passenger seat as we went to Wendy's at her request for a burger. Before we got there, she was sound asleep. I sensed this was the sleep of any human being that had not slept well in the past 24 or more hours. I pulled into the Rite Aid Parking Lot and parked near a security camera (as I always try to do) across from Wendy's and let Mickey sleep for about an hour while I read my Bible and prayed for her and my ministry efforts.
We made our way to Wendy's where we each had a burger, fries and iced tea. Our conversation included her thoughts on Atlantic City, being frightened, alone and tired of this lifestyle and not liking church.... Sprinkled throughout were my attempts at pointing Mickey toward an understanding that God loves her. "I'm doing these things for you, Mickey, because I care and Jesus loves and adores you." I even tried to sing "Jesus Love Me." Mickey turned up the radio... I laughed.
Now jump ahead two days... Sunday morning... Again, there are more details than this but this blog is already too long...
I saw Mickey after I had been at Urban Hope. She looked at me and asked, "Are you going to church tonight?" "I've already been. Would you go with me if I was going tonight?" Her answer from this child of God who doesn't like church because she was yelled at is why I keep doing what I'm doing...