This blog is my public diary of experiences that I've had as I become increasingly involved in the area of Kensington, Pa. I am including experiences that I am having as I sit down, one on one, with homeless people who are dealing with Substance Use Disorder. All Names have been changed and, occasionally, I share a story using the opposite pronoun (he/she him/her), as an additional way to assure privacy.
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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Saturday, April 20, 2019
In Memory of "Diane"
Thursday, April 11, 2019
The Days of Their Lives
After a bit over two years of visiting the good people of the streets of Kensington, I’ve been privileged to have them reach out to me by text, Facebook messenger and even that oldie but goodie – phone conversation.
Sometimes people contact me when they need something. You might be thinking that it’s only when someone needs money that they contact me in hopes of getting some from me. There’s a little of that but not much and people these days know that I won’t give money anyway. Apart from being flat broke myself these days, it’s dangerous if that money goes toward their “medicine.” That one five dollar bill could be unwittingly exchanged for that one packet laced with something that ends their life. I don’t want to know that I gave them the money that ultimately killed them.
As trusts grow between us, I get calls for help that include the more vulnerable aspects of living on the street. I’ve been asked to take an individual to an emergency room for a condition that has arisen as a result of living on the street. These have included orthopedic injuries from being hit by a motorcycle, or soft tissue injuries from an infected abscess, the result of an ill placed injection. I’ve taken people in when pneumonia was taking over.
I’ve been called on to help move belongings from Emerald City to a new residence. And, yes, I’ve even been called on by a lady who was stranded at a distant hotel when her ‘date’ left her without paying for her ‘services.' In that situation, I was not able to get there but I thanked her for the trust she showed in reaching out to me – knowing that I would not judge her.
Each of these opportunities to serve these men and women bring with them the knowledge that there is trust in these relationships. From time to time, things don’t go as expected or desired. Whenever something goes not quite right, I try to take it as a learning opportunity to adjust how I do things and move forward.
There’s a new aspect of this reaching out to me that I’m loving. It’s those times when a person who I met on the street contacts me to tell me they’ve moved into an apartment. More than once now, I’ve had the joy of sitting on their sofa, drinking their coffee that they made in their coffee maker as we watch a movie on their TV.
It’s only through meeting people on their terms that this privilege can come to be. By providing water and fruit and occasionally clothes and care packages, the doors of communication and caring are opened and established. Closely related to this are the song sheets that I create and distribute at the same time. The songs that I choose are current Christian songs that have lyrics of topics raised in conversations.
As the water, bananas and song sheets have been more and more recognized as my typical things to hand out, it’s not unusual to be told by an individual that they don’t need the water or the banana but they do want the song sheet.
As these months tick on by, I’ve noticed a growing trend, one that I appreciate. It’s when one of these wonderful people contacts me just to say “Hi” or “Hey.” And “How are you?” The needs of the street to occupy their every woken moment are giving way to the joys of their re-established life. They are able to focus on the feelings of others.
In all of these moments, I’ve come to understand that these days that turn into weeks, months and occasionally years are the days of THEIR lives not mine. It hurts to the point of shedding my own tears to know that he is sleeping in an as of yet uninstalled drainage pipe in the I-95 construction project as he recalls that fateful night not so long ago and wonders why God killed his entire family in one swift car crash AND to know that she sleeps in some location that she thought was safe and secluded until she woke up only to realize she was “mostly naked with a guy almost on top of (her).”
It is indeed, our joy and privilege to demonstrate the Love of Christ with a blanket of dignity, honor, respect and love covering these men and women and to walk with them as they navigate the days of their lives…