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.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

The Sidewalk Garden

On this Thanksgiving Day, I am thankful for the privilege of having personal stories shared with me by addicted and homeless men and women as many of them bear witness to their Christian Faith.  Here is one example which I share with you as a parable:


The sidewalk garden had been tended by its loving gardener.  This gardener took care of the garden’s every need.  One day, an uninvited gardener turned the soil of this beautiful garden and planted a seed.  The garden and its loving gardener were saddened by this violation.  Within a short time, the garden realized that the seed was starting to grow.  The garden told its loving gardener who continued to care for and love the garden.  The garden then told some of the other sidewalk gardens.  Most said, “Remove that sprouted seed before it has a chance to bloom.” 

This garden said “I believe that my creator would not want me to do that.  The unauthorized gardener and the sprouted seed in my soil are two distinct beings.  I will allow this flower to grow and to bloom.  When the time has come for this flower to bloom, I will allow another more established and healthier garden to raise my flower as its own.  My creator will guide my heart and give me the strength that I need during this time.”

And so the sidewalk garden continues on this Thanksgiving Day to tend to the needs of this sprouted seed and the loving gardener continues to tend to the needs of its beautiful sidewalk garden as they await the blooming of this flower in a couple of months.

An Update:

In Mid December 2017, the flower bloomed, that is to say, Nicola's son was born and was named after two men of the Bible. He was placed in the legal custody of her parents. Nicola and her boyfriend continued to live on the streets of Kensington.  In March 2018, they were sponsored to go to detox and rehab.  Once life gets straightened out, they plan to be married.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

And She Slept

As I go about doing what I do in Emerald City for the community of 40 to 60 people under the Emerald Street Bridge, there are certain people who catch me off guard and throw my understanding of what it means to be a homeless and addicted person into a bit of confusion.

I’ve told you about a man who is an ordained pastor and knows the spiritual battle he’s in from the personal and professional side like no one I’ve ever met.  I’ve told you about a woman who has her MSW and explained homeless addiction from the personal and professional side like no person I’ve ever met.

Today, I want to tell you about a young woman in her mid-20s.  "Diane's" spirit shines bright with the inner light of her Christ who I know lives in her heart as she worships Him almost daily in Mass at the local Roman Catholic Church.   On Sundays, she occasionally attends a contemporary worship service at another church and invited me to join her there some Sunday.  She does what she can to stay physically clean and well dressed.  She always has a smile and an extra hug to give away.

To num the emotional pain of her childhood and through no fault of her own, addiction found its way into her life.  Having been cut off from her family, she financially supports her life by walking the streets looking for dates.  As she prepares to do so, she looks at me and says “It’s time to go humiliate myself.”  A tear, perhaps God’s tear from deep inside her soul, spills out and down her cheek even before she can complete that short sentence.
                       
The mental anguish of self-humiliation and long hours with no sleep bring with them absolute exhaustion.  Upon returning to the bridge, "Diane" curled up on a piece of cardboard and covered herself with a nearby sheet.  As the cold dampness of this late fall overcame her, she began to shiver with no immediate solution to the problem.

Enter the Quit…

Barely an hour before this, a neighbor in Glen Mills gave me a queen sized quilt that had been sitting somewhere in their house unused and not really needed.  She gave it to me to give to someone in Emerald City.  When I saw Diane asleep and shivering just outside the cover of the bridge, I grabbed that quilt and wrapped her in it as snuggly as I could.  She awoke enough to say “Thank you.” as her teeth chattered. 


I knelt in close to her and said softly, “Jesus loves you just as you are.”  She nodded her head as one who knows such a fact as fact would do so.  

And she slept.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Transpose

I've been writing these blogs all year as my attempt to explain the real story of being addicted and homeless to anyone who chooses to read them.  I hope and pray that I've never overstepped a boundary in the balance between sharing stories and breaking confidentiality and the privacy of the men and women I've come to know and love on the streets of Kensington.

This video which has nothing to do with addiction provides a wonderful insight into the life of the man and woman who is living on the street addicted and homeless.  Please take the next 3 minutes and 6 seconds to watch it.


Transpose in your mind's imagination this little girl for any of the following:
  • high school drop out
  • high school honor's student
  • College graduate with a B.A, B.S., Master's or Doctoral Degree
  • A man or woman with highly coveted skilled labor certifications in plumbing, welding, carpentry, electrical work and more
  • Nurses, Doctors, Pastors, Lawyers
  • And the List goes on indefinitely...
  • Some may be on the lower end of the educational ladder but had every very real intent of becoming/fulfilling one of these higher level education jobs, proffesions, and vocations.
The next time you're uncomfortable around that homeless person, remember this little girl and transpose.