Under the bridge -- notice the tents, even in the background.
Yesterday in the rain and cold, we traveled down the block in our little neighborhood to bring coffee under the bridge.
It took me two months to go back there after she was killed, and the first time I went I felt terrified.
But there was something healing about walking back there, knowing that the intended outcome of her death -- fear and pain -- would not ultimately win.
An entire unexpected world bustles under this bridge; if you live in Dallas, it is one you have likely driven over hundreds of times, never realizing a strong community of people who truly have no home live there.
Sometimes we get caught in the trap of believing that people are homeless because they want to be.
And in some rare cases it may be true that if you asked a random homeless person, "Do you want to be homeless?" they would say, "Yes."
But more than likely that "yes" would be a surface answer, and if we really got to know that person, we would soon learn that their deepest hopes are for a different kind of life.
Yesterday, under the bridge, I remarked to a homeless man who came to get coffee, "Today is a really tough day to be out here."
And he said back to me, "Yes, but even with the sun shining down, every day is a tough day to be out here."
He has been homeless and living outside under this very bridge for four months.
Another man we met yesterday asked for help to get to rehab. He is caught in the underworld of drugs, but he wants to escape so badly. He just doesn't know how. He walked to the coffee cart from his makeshift bed, created just that day after his tent was swept away by the storm. He told us, unprompted, that he had come from his bed reading his Bible. "I read the Bible all the time," he said. "I just don't know how to get out of here."
If there is anything working with the homeless shows me, it's that my assumptions about people are so often wrong. I think we like to put people into categories like "homeless" and "don't want help"/"love their homeless life" so that we don't have to deal with them.
At least that's what I have always done. If I could rationalize their homeless state away by thinking that they wanted to be homeless, I could stay a long arm's length away from them. I could just see them as homeless and not as person.
But going under the bridge and hearing two different homeless men deeply desire a different life demands I see homelessness differently. It demands I begin to see each and every homeless person I encounter, including those I myself still write off after a year and half of doing this work, as human beings who likely -- albeit maybe only deep down -- desperately crave a new way to live.
And so we keep going. And we walk alongside. And there are no quick answers or easy fixes, but we are available for change to happen. But it is not just change for the person who is homeless; it is deep -- and I think much deeper -- change for us.
the coffee cart in the rain