Please Know...

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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Monday, June 11, 2018

Short Stories from Emerald and Frankford Avenues.

With my move from my former rented house to my new apartment almost complete, I need to take a moment to share with you my experiences in Emerald City and Frankford Avenue communities yesterday.[1]  My typical pattern has been to stop in Emerald City first and then Frankford Avenue afterward making my way from one to the other by way of a small uninhabited connector street named Sterner.  I chose to do the opposite order this morning.  I pulled off to the side of Frankford, just outside the coverage of the bridge and unloaded my cooler with its two cases of donated water and bananas that Acme had bagged specifically for me at their reduced brown-speckled banana price of $.33 per pound. 

Demetrius and Cecelia

As I drifted past the first tent quietly calling out "Bananas and water… Banana Man is here." I noticed a familiar blanket serving as a front door to a tent.  "Demetrius, are you in there?  His lady, Cecelia, opened the cloth door and peeked out with a smile.  We greeted each other as would any friends.  I mentioned the cloth door that I've come to know to be theirs from Emerald City.  She explained that they chose to move due to an increase in the rat population over there.  We chatted briefly as Demetrius slept on a mat in the tent a couple of feet away.

On the opposite end of these tented sleepers on this cool and damp Sunday morning, a man sat on a mat in obvious discomfort with a swollen ankle.  He told me of the abscess on his hip due to a bad injection and his concern that the infection was going down his leg.  He was planning on going to Episcopal Hospital to be checked out.

I made my way on block over to Emerald City where the population of men and women has increased since the evictions of Tulip and Kensington Avenues.  There were many new-to-me faces and names to try to learn.  For some of these people, they seemed a bit bewildered by me as I extended my hand to shake theirs. 

I returned to Emerald City after church at Urban Hope and saw Jenny, peering sadly out of her tent.  "Chris, I've just learned that my Dad died.  Can I use your phone to call my Mom?"  Of course, Jenny." I handed her my phone and she called home for the first time in who knows how long.  After that call, Jenny and I chatted briefly. 

Once my banana supply was depleted, I pulled out my bins of clothes that had been donated by people in Delaware County.  I almost always have plenty of women's and occasionally a few men's clothes.  Today was the same except for the rather large supply of women's "unmentionables" as my grandparents called them.  I placed that bin down, explained to the cluster of women gathered that this was what it was.  I smiled and said "Help yourself and… I won't watch."  They laughed. 

One young lady sat propped against one of the support posts of this railroad overpass.  She appeared to be very uncomfortable.  I asked her what was wrong and she explained that her scoliosis is particularly painful on cold and damp days.  I asked her if some ibuprofen would help.  She said yes and I gave her a donated bottle.

As with the bananas and water, clothing distribution is an opportunity to talk to each person as they look through what's available, well, except for when they are looking through those "unmentionables."  Conversations vary of course.  People take what they need and save the rest for others.  I always bring home whatever was not selected. 

One very petite and ponytailed young lady had a black eye and showed me the bruises on her arm and shoulder from a fight with some "women who don't like me."  I expressed my concern and mentioned the clothes.  She asked a friend to look through what I had available because, as she explained, "I can't look now because I have an appointment."  "Please be safe," I said to her.  Her all too common response:  "I'll try."  She walked up the sidewalk past Sterner Street and slipped into the passenger seat of a small car driven by a 'man.' 

As I walked around with my tub of clothes, I was reintroduced to an addicted mother and daughter who share a tent.  As they looked through the last remaining tub of clothes, they reminded me of their names which, in this blog are Malinda and Darby.  They also reminded me that they are both from a town in southern Delaware County.  After selecting a few things, I stepped away and my Aston Pa. neighbor, also Malinda (but not really) popped out of her next door tent.  She gave me her charming smile and then she did something with me for the second time since we realized that we call home so close to each other separated by five miles of Concord Road.

Malinda walked over to me and hugged me and just kept hugging me for probably 30 seconds.  During that time, I told her that I've prayed for her each time I drive down Concord Road.  I pray for her safety and that one day, this lifestyle will be a chapter in her past.  She seemed a bit surprised that anyone would pray for her but also seemed appreciative. 

As she stepped away from her hug, I asked if she needed a quilt and she said that she did.  We walked to my car and I gave her one that had wide pink and white stripes.  She carried it and a small stack of McDonald's napkins that she saw sitting near the quilt.  As she grabbed them she looked at me and simply said "I need these…"  She turned and with the quilt in hand, walked to and turned onto the uninhabited Sterner Street.

Sprinkled throughout this visit were three nearly identical comments to me made by one man and two women.  "Chris, your hair is getting sort of long." 

I love this relational ministry!

It's now off I go to get my hair cut…

[1] Sunday, June 10, 2018

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