Find out how to "Meet the Need" at the bottom of this post!
One need has already been met!
The group waiting for food two weeks ago
How does one cope with the sadness present on the streets?
On what should have been a bright and sunny day for me—and was in fact a bright and sunny day outside—I felt heavy-hearted.
Glorious things of Thee are spoken.
It was different on the street last week with lots of “normal” people around (many wonderful volunteers came to the Corner last week). I use the term normal because we really do think of ourselves as normal and them—homeless people—as abnormal. It comes across in how we talk about them (myself included). Just last week, a well-meaning, wonderful young man said, “Just go spend time with Elisabeth on the street one week, and you’ll see people who are too stubborn to change their lives.”
Did I really think like that merely 3 months ago?
How uninformed I was. How I judged—without even recognizing it as judgment.
They are not stubborn—not any more than you or me. They are people, just like us. Perhaps they are the normal ones, and we are the abnormal. They do seem more normal, in that they are in touch with life’s reality. We seem abnormal, distancing ourselves as far as we can from life’s reality.
I think that’s why we experience such anxiety. At least maybe it’s why I do. I’m trying always to fit into the façade. But the façade only takes from me; it never gives.
The street corner is the one place each week that I get to let my hair down and just be me. How much freedom do I find there? It is immeasurable.
And I realize I am much more like them than the world of façades. The façade world hides behind homes—of any shape or size. We hide behind potted flowers, yard people, beautiful rugs, countless books, pretty clothes, new clothes, flashy jewelry, designer handbags, and MacBook Pros (like the one I’m typing on).
They come as they are. Their wants are simple. Their wants are simply that: wants. Most of their formerly perceived needs are a distant memory. And I can’t help but thinking they have it right. My “needs” are almost always my wants. Almost 100% of the time. And then their wants, when they’re met, provide more joy and elation than we have on our birthdays with gifts and family piled round.
These are "beds" at the shelter.
- - -
Edward* has a college degree. He and his wife live in the shelter together. They cannot stay together because men and women are divided. They can’t find housing because there is no available married housing. They’ve been married 22 years. She wasn’t able to have children. Edward already had two. He worked in construction; he lost his job. He dreams of carpentry, of crafting elaborate vintage pieces for homes. His wife lost her job at Minyards when it sold.
So they ended up on the street. Do you know what sort of a mind game that plays on you? I certainly did not, not until I heard Edward explain how he has, at times, despised himself for not being able to provide for his family.
Have you ever despised yourself? I have. It’s not a good feeling.
Think how easy it would be then to drink or use drugs to cope. Everything you have ever known is gone—in a flash—and you did nothing to cause it; you are simply the recipient of difficult circumstances. You are on the streets—on the streets. The street is a place you had never considered living—never before in your life. You went to college; you’ve always had a great job. So has your wife. But now you are somehow without a home or source of income. The future looks bleak.
Depression hits. Coping mechanisms are limited. You can’t pay for therapy (you don’t have a job). You don’t have insurance, so the chance of getting antidepressants is slim to none. It’s just you, your wife, and you. You have little to occupy your days, so you think all the time. You beat yourself up for being in this position. No one is there to help. Even if they were, who would understand? You look like a complete failure to the outside world. They do not realize that all they have is from God—their savings, house, job, family fallback plan. Without those gifts, they could be where you are. But they are not, and you feel very alone.
Weeping is an appropriate response to the streets—to the unfiltered, uninhibited, smelly, dirty, difficult life of men and women who live without. Being without a home is really just something we can stamp on them to say: different. We feel—I feel—more comfortable putting them into “homeless” category, as if to say, “I could never be there.”
Edward is the most kind man. He has a hard time talking completely clearly because he needs dentures that he cannot afford. He was talking to me while he ate the wonderful food Texas Instruments prepared, and he was having trouble articulating his words and chewing his food, so he dug around in his backpack to find plastic utensils he carries around for just such a time. (Who thinks of that?)
Edward has white hair, and his heart is wide open. He wants good for his life, his wife, and his family. He is incredibly intelligent. He wants reconciliation with his sons. I truly cannot put into words what a kind, humble, lovely person Edward is. He is such a beautiful person that after talking to him, I wept, silently, behind my sunglasses as Larry and I quietly talked. In Edward, I saw the best of what it means to be human: defeated but not broken—a fighter.
I used to think that if you really knew me, you couldn't love me. Although I was a "good girl" rule follower and may have seemed to have it all together on the outside, inside I screamed for help, for love not based on what I did, not based on my performance.
This love I found in Jesus. In him, I found the love of a Person who left his home and became homeless for me. This Jesus chose to leave the safety of his home to be rejected by "proper" society and have nowhere to lay his head—so that I could know unconditional love. He chose to die at the hands of angry men so that I could live and not fear angry men. This Jesus suffered the ultimate loss of security so that I am secure—I know that I am loved by the One who created me, so I can suffer any loss of love, because he smiles on me. And this is because of nothing I've done; it's all because of what Jesus did.
Edward also knows this love.
Edward lost the last library book he checked out because he had to go to the hospital. Now, he can't pay the $29 lost-book fine, so he can no longer check books out at all . . .
Edward loves to read historical fictions, but because he lost a $29 book, he cannot, at least for now, check books out of the library. I’d like to bring him a book one week.
Which brings me to this: I want to start a "Meet the Need” section of my website, in which I share the little needs I hear on the street. Then, people can volunteer to meet the need.
We already have two:
- A vet who would be willing to look at Sheba and provide her shots.
- A book for Edward. This need has already been met as of early Tuesday evening! One down, one to go!
The one thing need-meeters are going to have to be okay with is that they may work out how to meet a need, and then the person with the need may never return. So, even as we try to meet needs, we may sometimes not get to deliver on the need. We will have to trust the beauty is in the trying.
If you want to meet a need, leave a comment and how I can get in touch with you or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can coordinate.
*not his real name