The Intermittent Volunteer’s Weblog

Befriending People in Dallas Who Are Homeless

The Roots of War March 31, 2008

Filed under: and a little child shall lead them,Buddhism,peace,Vietnam — Karen Shafer @ 6:30 pm

Our youngest granddaughter, now three years old, was born in Vietnam. Knowing and loving her has given us all a special interest in this beautiful country and its history, as did coming of age during the Vietnam War.  KS

 

The Roots of War

“In 1966, when I was in the U.S. calling for a ceasefire to the war in Vietnam, a young American peace activist stood up during a talk I was giving and shouted, “The best thing you can do is go back to your country and defeat the American aggressors! You shouldn’t be here. There is absolutely no use to your being here!”

He and many Americans wanted peace, but the kind of peace they wanted was the defeat of one side in order to satisfy their anger. Because they had called for a ceasefire and had not succeeded, they became angry, and finally they were unable to accept any solution short of the defeat of their own country.

But we Vietnamese who were suffering under the bombs had to be more realistic. We wanted peace. We did not care about anyone’s victory or defeat. We just wanted the bombs to stop falling on us. But many people in the peace movement opposed our proposal for an immediate ceasefire. No one seemed to understand.

So when I heard that young man shouting, “Go home and defeat the American aggressors,” I took several deep breaths to regain myself, and I said, “Sir, it seems to me that many of the roots of the war are here in your country. That is why I have come. One of the roots is your way of seeing the world. Both sides are victims of a wrong policy, a policy that believes in the force of violence to settle problems. I do not want Vietnamese to die, and I do not want American soldiers to die either.”

The roots of war are in the way we live our daily lives — the way we develop our industries, build up our society, and consume goods. We have to look deeply into the situation, and we will see the roots of war. We cannot just blame one side or the other. We have to transcend the tendency to take sides.

During any conflict, we need people who can understand the suffering on all sides… We need links. We need communication.

Practicing nonviolence is first of all to become nonviolence. Then when a difficult situation presents itself, we will react in a way that will help the situation. This applies to the problems of the family as well as to problems of society.”

                                                                        ~~Thich Nhat Hanh, Peace Is Every Step, “The Roots of War”

[see previous entry from this author, “Meditation on Love,” 3/11/08]

 

Guest Writers From the Street? March 29, 2008

Filed under: Christianity,healing,homelessness,hunger,inspiration,Vocation — Karen Shafer @ 1:08 pm

I have long wanted to have guest writers on this blog — especially people who live on the street — but never got down to figuring out how to implement it. Perhaps this will be the way!

Today I received this comment on ‘Blogger Profile’ from my friend, Reagan, with whom I work on Friday nights at the Day Resource Center. She is one of a very dedicated group of people from Northwest Bible Church, who bring dinner to over 200 homeless individuals every Friday and have done so for many years.

These people do much more than serve dinner, however. They befriend street people in a very personal way, pray with and for them, and many of their number support homeless individuals quietly and without fanfare, helping them in countless ways with transportation, doctor visits, clothing needs, paperwork issues, and, above all, love, support and genuine friendship. The word ‘volunteer’ doesn’t even begin to cover it. They enter into real relationship and commitment with people from the street. [Website: http://www.ourcalling.org]

“Hi, Karen-

I’ve been thinking about you lately and have missed you the last couple of weeks at the DRC Friday nights! 

I met a woman tonight, Sherry, who lives on the street and writes about her experiences. Prose and poetry, and I really enjoyed hearing some excerpts. Do you know a way or a connection so that her stuff might be read? either on a blog or in a publication? Just a thought.

Reagan”

“Hi, Reagan,

It’s great to hear from you. I’ve missed being there on Friday nights the past few weeks, but will be coming next week.

I would love to invite Sherry and other people who live on the street to write guest posts on this blog! What do you think?  Leave it to wonderful you to help create another level to this blog which I had in the back of my mind when I began it but hadn’t thought how to implement! Synergy and Spirit, eh?

Blessings! — which you and the amazing Friday night crew from Northwest Bible Church bring in spades to our friends at the Day Resource Center!

Karen

 

Ups, Downs, and Blessings March 28, 2008

Filed under: homelessness,hunger,inspiration,mobile soup kitchens — Karen Shafer @ 8:06 pm

       “Joy is the secret gift of compassion. We keep forgetting it and thoughtlessly look elsewhere. But each time we return to where there is pain, we get a new glimpse of the joy that is not of this world.”
                                                                                                            ~~Henri Nouwen, Here and Now

Journal Archives
Saturday, 2/14/04

Ups and Downs

The mobile soup kitchen feeding run last Thursday night was exhilarating and depressing, both in the extreme. It was very cold, and several people at the first and second stops (beside bridges on Industrial Boulevard) lacked even the basics for staying warm.

We had two new volunteers from Centex Corporation; they were wonderful and seemed to be very moved by the experience. When we finished the run, both said they’d never done anything quite like it, even though one of them had previously volunteered in a homeless shelter. They plan to get more involved.

At our first stop, I got off the truck to talk to people — mostly day laborers, the working homeless: one man’s a former university professor. There several people didn’t have any socks, hats, or gloves. A couple of us gave away our stocking caps, but we didn’t have any spare socks.

At the next stop, a young man, who had only been on the street for twenty-four hours, told me he was just so cold he could barely think: he was wearing a thin shirt and a light denim jacket. We had some donated clothes to distribute, but nothing warm, so I gave him my fleece pullover. It’s hard for people to think of the next step in getting their lives together when all their attention’s focused on the cold.

At the third stop, there was Robin, who’s about six months pregnant. I’m going to bring her some prenatal vitamins next week, but, hopefully, by the time the baby comes, she’ll be off the street.

One piece of good news is that Daniel, a homeless man who often rides the truck with us and helps us serve, is now employed. He went to work for one of the volunteers who owns a roofing company. Although we miss him on the truck — he’s a great organizational force as well as being very funny and brilliantly political — it is great news that he has a job.

It’s hard to imagine the level of need that’s out there in our own backyards, so to speak, especially in the cold. The people we feed are so grateful, so loving, and the mix is surprising — many who’ve been out there a long time and some who could be your next-door neighbor. As another volunteer said to me recently, “You can clearly see that many of these people are just one step away from being able to put together a normal life.”

Blessings

When I awoke Friday morning after the Thursday night run, it was with an extreme awareness of my blessings, large and small. Although I generally try to stop and smell the roses, that morning I felt intensely the joy of having a beautiful white lace curtain across my French doors which I could tie back with a piece of gold Christmas cord. The simple act of putting a pan of water on the stove for a cup of tea was a cause of great pleasure, so fortunate did I feel for having cup, pan, tea, water, stove, kitchen and home. The blessings of this work are very great, the disappointments notwithstanding. I only wish all my peeps out there on the street had their own dwellings to cherish as much as I cherish mine.

KS

 

Unfold Your Own Myth March 26, 2008

Filed under: healing,inspiration,Vocation — Karen Shafer @ 9:41 pm

“Unfold your own myth,
without complicated explanation,
so everyone will understand the passage,
‘We have opened you.’ ”

                                  ~~Rumi, Sufi Poet

(Credit to Dr. Gail Thomas, Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture, Lecture Notes, “The Power of Myth and the Healing Traditions”, 3/26/08)

 

Fellow Countrychildren March 24, 2008

This link is from the Co-Grandmother of our three grandchildren, Nancy (married to Steve.)

http://www.photovoice.org/html/galleryandshop/photogalleries/

I hope you’ll look at all the screens, but then go to Screen 3 and click on ‘Street Vision’. These are our youngest grandchild’s fellow ‘countrychildren’ in Vietnam.

When my daughter and son-in-law went to Vietnam a year and a half ago to bring our granddaughter back to her new home in the United States, they fell in love with her first home and country of birth and its beautiful, gracious, loving, peaceful people.

These pictures touch me to the core. Our granddaughter, now three years old, is an angel beyond what we could have ever hoped for or dreamed of, and so are the children in the pictures.

KS

 

Central Heat March 21, 2008

Filed under: homelessness,hunger — Karen Shafer @ 5:55 pm

Journal Archives
Wednesday, 11/3/04

The central heating in my house went on the blink five days ago, at the start of the first cold snap of the season. After having a lot more problems than usual with the my heating system this year, plus two power outages in my neighborhood lasting several days each, I’ve become more aware than usual of my dependence on the ‘mod-cons.’

I called my repairman, John, and he promised to come by the next day. When he arrived and checked out the system, it needed a gas valve, so he said he’d return the next morning after going to the parts store. I considered going to a hotel, but thought, no big deal, anyone can comfortably live three days in a well-insulated house, right? The outdoor temperature was only in the fifties and sixties.

The following morning, I called John early to make sure of the time he was coming, as I knew he was working several other jobs. He said between eleven and twelve. I put on my heavy University of Tennessee hooded sweatshirt and headed to my neighborhood cafe for breakfast and lots of hot, hot coffee. By now, I was feeling chilled to the bone, despite having been warm sleeping under my down comforter. I felt somewhat recovered after eating breakfast snuggled in my sweatshirt.

I went home to wait for John, but he was held up on a large installation. Well, I thought, this is a good excuse to stay home and get ahead on the reading for my night theology class. But, on this third day without warm air consistently blowing on me, all I could think of was how cold I felt. I wanted to read, but a low level yet persistent discomfort possessed my body and mind. I hate daytime naps, but before I knew it, I was cocooned on my sofa under layers of blankets and robes, sound asleep.

When I awoke and learned that John wouldn’t arrive for a couple of hours, I cleaned out the fireplace, gathered sticks from the yard and some logs from the few left in the woodpile, and built a small fire, thinking I should have done this earlier. I could sit by the fire and read, curled up next to my dog, Honey, whose thick coat apparently wasn’t doing it for her either.

Yet I found I couldn’t focus on anything but fire tending: I was completely obsessed with the warmth which the small area around the fireplace exuded. I used the fire tongs to pick up and replace every shred of unburned stick which fell out of the grate; I arranged and rearranged the small logs I’d gathered in order to get the maximum flame; I gazed lovingly at the small pile of embers which were forming in the ashes beneath the fire.

I don’t think of myself as a wimp. I was brought up by a loving but military father. We raised horses, and he considered it an essential part of my upbringing to be out in the freezing dawn, feeding the horses and breaking the ice on their water buckets. I used to particularly love going riding in the snow, despite the fact that the fluffy stuff packed up into stilts under the horses’ feet and you had to keep jumping off to remove them. But this low level of ongoing chill was different, even though it only lasted three days; it seeped into my bones and stultified my mind. It sounds ridiculous I know, but, by late afternoon of this third day, I couldn’t focus on anything except the fact that my veins felt as if they were running with ice water.

I thought of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, of how hard it is to engage in higher-order activities, even like reading a textbook on a cushy couch, wrapped in a blanket, in the light of an electric lamp, when other basic needs aren’t met. I thought of the people who live on the streets of Dallas, and of what it must be like to be cold and hungry twenty-four hours a day, or even twelve, if one was in a shelter at night.

I’ve met some of these people, and they’ve told me about middle-class citizens who drive by in their cars, spit at them, curse at them, and shout at them to “get a job.” I’ve never been inclined to offer them this sort of advice, but, if I had, my experience with my central heating would remind me that it might just possibly be easier said than done when you have no place that is safe, warm and dry to garner your resources.

KS

 

The Capitalist March 19, 2008

Filed under: and a little child shall lead them,homelessness,hunger,inspiration — Karen Shafer @ 5:39 pm

My five-year-old grandson, Louis, has an entrepreneurial streak. This past weekend, his mother (my daughter) called me and said, “He is sitting on the front porch with his old beat-up red fireman’s helmet and a sign reading $5.88, trying to sell the helmet to people walking by! Should I make him come inside?” Then, the next day, he had added his well-used child’s yellow construction hard hat to the venue, and the price for the two had gone up to $22.67! “I don’t need these any more,” he told his parents.

This fondness for cash makes all the more remarkable what he had done the previous week. He phoned me to say he had something for me, asking if I would come by their house on my way home to pick it up. When I arrived, he presented me with an envelope which had “Karen” written on the outside. I knew this was important business, because he always calls me “Gaz”, a name he began to call me as a toddler which has become my official grandma name.

In the envelope was a five dollar bill and two quarters, enclosed with the following letter, written out in his careful cursive-and-print-combo handwriting, with wonderful phonetic spelling:

“THEIS IS MUNE FOR THE HOMLISE”

I was unbelievably touched by his generosity and thoughtfulness, which was completely his own idea. It’s all the more remarkable because his total savings at that point was $18, much of which he’d worked hard for by raking leaves and doing other chores for his family.

I asked him, “Do you want me to take this money and buys some socks with it and give them to people?” “No,” he said, “I want you to give them the money directly.”

When you think of it, $5.50 is an embarrassment of riches. It will buy Donna a cup of coffee at McDonald’s, which she loves to have to warm herself up at bedtime. It will purchase a copy of StreetZine from Gordon. And there will be still be some left over for whatever special person comes along with a need or a wish.

 

Blogs, Their Wills, and Their Mothers March 18, 2008

Filed under: no technosavvywhatsoever,Random Post,Uncategorized — Karen Shafer @ 4:44 pm

Just recently, my blog has been unwilling to acknowledge me as its mother. About a week ago, in a matricidal impulse, it banned me from its premises.

Fortunately, through some delicate negotiations and not inconsiderable tech support, I am able once again to be a player (albeit a very minor one) in the Weblog Game.

Who knew blogs had wills of their own? I just hope that, when the time comes, my blog remembers its own mother in its will.

KS

 

Meditation on Love March 11, 2008

Filed under: Buddhism,healing,inspiration,peace,Vietnam — Karen Shafer @ 8:25 pm

‘The mind of love brings peace, joy, and happiness to ourselves and others. Mindful observation is the element which nourishes the tree of understanding, and compassion and love are the most beautiful flowers. When we realize the mind of love, we have to go to the one who has been the object of our mindful observation, so that our mind of love is not just an object of our imagination, but a source of energy which has a real effect in the world.

The meditation on love is not just sitting still and visualizing that our love will spread out into space like waves of sound or light. Sound and light have the ability to penetrate everywhere, and love and compassion can do the same. But if our love is only a kind of imagination, then it is not likely to have any real effect. It is in the midst of our daily life and in our actual contact with others that we can know whether our mind of love is really present and how stable it is. If love is real, it will be evident in our daily life, in the way we relate with people and the world.

The source of love is deep in us, and we can help others realize a lot of happiness. One word, one action, or one thought can reduce another person’s suffering and bring him joy. One word can give comfort and confidence, destroy doubt, help someone avoid a mistake, reconcile a conflict, or open the door to liberation. One action can save a person’s life or help him take advantage of a rare opportunity. One thought can do the same, because thoughts always lead to words and actions. If love is in our heart, every thought, word, and deed can bring about a miracle. Because understanding is the very foundation of love, words and actions that emerge from our love are always helpful.’

                                                                        ~~Thich Nhat Hanh, Peace Is Every Step, ‘Meditation on Love’

Thich Nhat Hanh, born in Central Vietnam, is a Zen Buddhist monk currently living in exile in France. He has taught at Columbia University and the Sorbonne, was Chair of the Vietnamese Buddhist Peace Delegation to the Paris Peace Talks, and was nominated by Martin Luther King, Jr. for the Nobel Peace Prize.

 

The Good; The Bad; The Very Sad March 9, 2008

Journal Archives
Tuesday, 5/10/05

The Good

Today I got this thrilling e-mail from my friend David, which speaks for itself:

“Today, I saw Patrick. He said he and Candance were still having problems and were not together. However I found another man who lived in the apartments just up the street from where Patrick and Candace were living. I didn’t get all the details, but it seems that Candance was staying in one of the apartments temporarily with a family. I gave the Bible to the man/family that Candace was staying with. He promised to give it to Candace.”

I am over the moon with joy at hearing some word about these two sweet people. And, although it is sad that they are not together, it is wonderful that Candace is off the street, where life is particularly hard for women. Knowing they are alive and well gives me tremendous peace.

The Bad

Received two very disturbing phone calls today from another friend who says that the I-45 homeless camp, where Dee and her dogs, Mack, and around a hundred people live, was once again razed this morning. Texas Department of Transportation bulldozers and dump trucks moved in and scooped up people’s homes and belongings — five dump-truck loads went into the city landfill. It’s especially frustrating because the camp was at its most well-stocked: church groups had just donated new tents, blankets, towels, clothing, food and personal care items. From a purely practical standpoint, what a waste of resources for both donors and recipients!

The Very Sad

A couple of weeks after this I learned that, in the chaos of the camp being destroyed by TXDOT, the beautiful Simba, the older of Dee’s two dogs, was hit by a car and badly injured. After languishing for many days, he died.

KS

 

Shutting Down March 7, 2008

Filed under: homelessness,Vocation — Karen Shafer @ 8:28 pm

       “I must not attempt to control God’s actions. I must not count the stages in the journey he would have me make. I must not desire a clear perception of my advance along the road. I can’t know precisely where I am on the way to holiness… I must leave to him the choice of the means which lead to it.”

                                                                                        ~~Mother Teresa, Come and See, by Linda Schaefer

Journal Archives
Thursday, 5/5/05

Losing track of Patrick and Candace has shut me down: can’t write, can’t think about them without crying, can’t sort the bags of clothing which people have passed on to me to give away and which need to be out there on the street keeping people clean, warm and dry.

The few paltry insights I have about this situation still don’t give me a handle on why this couple had such an impact on my life, since I’d only known them for a few weeks.

My friend, David, wrote this to me about it:

“I know that you are sad that [Candace and Patrick] have broken up and you have temporarily lost contact with them.  However you need not be too discouraged. Life on the streets is not very stable and things can change quickly… remember that God has us on our own separate paths. Sometimes those paths will merge and other times they will diverge…”

This is true and sensible, of course, but I’m as yet unable to derive comfort from it. The impact of the loss is so strong that I feel queasy writing about it. I have to move on and let it work itself out. There are lessons in all of this, that much is clear. But I’m not yet sure what they are and don’t have the perspective at the moment to discern them.

‘Vocation,’ like so many of life’s great processes — birth, death and love, to name three of the most awe-inspiring — isn’t really in our control, and perhaps trying too much to control it can rob it of meaning and power.

[to be continued]

KS

 

Are You Willing To Be Transformed? March 5, 2008

Filed under: Christianity,homelessness,hunger,mobile soup kitchens,Vocation — Karen Shafer @ 9:31 pm

       “…Are you willing to be transformed? Or do you keep clutching your old ways of life with one hand while with the other you beg people to help you change?

…It is not a question of willpower. You have to trust the inner voice that shows the way. You know that inner voice. You turn to it often. But after you have heard with clarity what you are asked to do, you start raising questions, fabricating objections, and seeking everyone else’s opinion. Thus you become entangled in countless often contradictory thoughts, feelings, and ideas and lose touch with the God in you. And you end up dependent on all the people you have gathered around you.

Only by attending constantly to the inner voice can you be converted to a new life of freedom and joy.”

                                                                                                        ~~Henri Nouwen, The Inner Voice of Love

Journal Archives
Saturday, 4/23/05

Church and Candace

When I last saw Candace a couple of weeks ago, she asked me to take her to church with me sometime, and I said, “Sure!” There is something unique about Candace. She feels like my daughter. And Patrick is someone I think I might be proud to have as a son-in-law. But I can’t help but wonder, is it wise to take a virtual stranger in my car, even one who feels like family?

I asked my friend, David, for his opinion, as he is familiar with street culture, and he responded:
“You asked if I thought it would be a problem with you taking Candace to church. No, I don’t see a problem there. I think this would be a very kind thing to do for her. However each case is different. There are definitely some individuals on the street that I would not want you to take anywhere in your car. My sense for Candace is that it would be fine for you to take her to church.”

So I’m going to try to arrange to take her to church with me on Wednesday.

Wednesday, 4/27/05

Losing Track

This early evening, during which I’ve done a fair share of crying, proves the point of the above Henri Nouwen quote on transformation, it seems to me, with unusual clarity. I’ve lost track of Candace and Patrick, and the impact of the loss feels overwhelming. Now they’re gone, and I have no way to find them.

I had asked David to tell Candace when he went by their camp yesterday that I would pick her up for church today at 5:30 P.M. But he didn’t see her, so I drove to their little house at that time to see if she could go. I pulled up beside their lot and they weren’t there, so I stopped to ask two people who were sitting on the Stairs Going Nowhere, waiting for the bus.

“Candace isn’t here,” they said. “Are she and Patrick still staying here?” “No, she and Patrick have sort of split up for a while.” “Do you know where she is?” “No.” “Is Patrick still here?” “He’s around.” I knew they didn’t trust me enough to say more. The street’s a closed society until people know you. “Please tell them Karen said hello,” I said, as there seemed nothing else to say.

I pulled away and began to cry — ‘the ugly cry,’ as Oprah calls it, face all distorted, nose running, the works. On my mobile, I tried to call both of my daughters for comfort — no answer.

I drove around, feeling I’d lost track of something of irreplaceable value, feeling so lost myself, drowning in the conviction that I’d missed something vital with which I was supposed to connect. So odd and inexplicable, how one can love certain strangers after knowing them such a short time. I had met hundreds of people while going out on the street to give away clothing and food, but Candace and Patrick had drawn me to them and their little home like a magnet. Our meeting on that Holy Saturday seemed providential.

It had taken me two weeks to get around to taking my new friend and surrogate daughter to church with me. I had kept thinking about it but not getting it done. And my friends who felt like family had slipped through that small crack in time.

[to be continued]

KS

 

Chocolate That Melts In Your Hand March 3, 2008

Filed under: homeless people's pets,homelessness,hunger — Karen Shafer @ 9:06 pm

       “Love until it hurts….What I do you cannot do: but what you do, I cannot do. The needs are great, and none of us, including me, ever do great things. But we can all do small things, with great love, and together we can do something wonderful.”
                                                                                                            ~~Mother Teresa

Journal Archives
Wednesday, 4/13/05

I had a great time going to Target and buying shoes and other essentials for Candace and Patrick. My daughter, Rose, chipped in some things, and we were able to put together several outfits for Candace from donated clothing, as well as a sizable bag of body care products given by my neighbors. I packed up t-shirts, jeans and socks for Patrick.

Rose went with me to take it all to their house, but they were not at home. We drove over to the large homeless camp to take Milk Bone treats for two dogs who lived there, Simba and Dude. The dogs won Rose’s heart as they gamboled around her feet in the dust of the camp while we talked to their owner, Dee, an intelligent and friendly woman who has a tidy tent near the camp gate. Dee works full-time as a temp but can’t get housing because she was once in prison.

Candace and Patrick were home when we got back to their house, and Candace ran to meet us as before, with Patrick walking behind. I introduced them to Rose, and we handed them their clothes and supplies. They were overjoyed.

“There’s a bag of Snickers candy bars in there for you guys,” I told them. “Well, you’d better give them to me if you want me to have any,” said Patrick, “’cause I didn’t get one bit of that Easter candy.” Candace giggled. “Yep,” she said proudly, “I went to sleep that night with my candy clutched so tight, held up here against my neck so nobody would take it from me, that I woke up with it melted in my hand!” We all thought it very funny, especially Candace, who was pleased with herself. But, though Patrick took it in good humor, you could see he was disappointed that she now had charge of the Snickers. “Candace, are you going to share with him?” I teased her. She held onto the sack with the Snickers inside. “Hmmm, maybe,” she said slyly.

After we’d talked for a while and were preparing to go, Candace threw her arms around Rose and said happily, “I’m going to be your ‘Auntie!’”

[to be continued]

KS

 

Candace and Patrick Revisited March 1, 2008

Filed under: homelessness,mobile soup kitchens — Karen Shafer @ 7:04 pm

Journal Archives
Tuesday, 4/12/05

SoupMobile

I had an extraordinary experience today going out to feed with a different mobile soup kitchen, SoupMobile, run by David Timothy, also known as SoupMan. His group feeds lunch five days a week to people who are homeless and goes to where they live, under bridges or beside dumpsters. We were able to spend plenty of time at the stops talking to people about their needs and concerns.

David is extremely dedicated to ‘his people’ and has an exceptional rapport with them. He visits them in jail when they’ve been arrested for sleeping in public; goes to see them in hospital when they’re ill; knows which couples have broken up because somebody’s in rehab and somebody isn’t. He really seems to have people’s trust.

Tent City

I finally had the opportunity to visit the large homeless encampment under a bridge with SoupMobile today, unveiling to me another chapter in the homeless story here in Dallas. It seems to be a fairly stable community, complete with a porta potty and trash cans, and even has a de facto political structure, complete with a ‘mayor,’ Mack, whom I met. He’s a friendly man, and I get the idea that he looks after things and helps keep life in the camp peaceful.

Robbed

As we were driving away from the camp, I thought I recognized the street corner where I’d met Candace and Patrick! David agreed to stop and check on them. I got out of the van, climbed the steps and called their names. It was the first time I’d seen their house in daylight. It consisted of a jumble of boards, sheets of tin and plastic, and some wire.

The rest of the SoupMobile team got out of the van too, but, seeing no one, we were turning to go when I heard a high-pitched shriek and wheeled around to see Candace bolting full tilt across the yard towards us, her arms waving wildly over her head. She was laughing happily and looked like a gleeful child running for the ice cream truck.

“Do you remember me?” I asked her, “I came by here on Holy Saturday.” She jumped up and down in delight. “Yes, you’re the lady who gave me the bedspreads and pillows! Oh, you should see how I’ve got them all propped around my house! It’s just beautiful! I feel so cozy. I love my new stuff so much. You’re that lady. Sure, I know you!” Once again, her open spirit was contagious. The others gathered around, and I introduced everyone.

David had already bagged up a generous sack of food for their little camp and was giving it to them, when Candace burst out with the news that they’d been robbed the night before. “They took everything, even my Bible!” she told us. The loss of her Bible was the thing that upset her most. The shoes she was wearing were battered, formerly-pink terry cloth house slippers. She got me aside and told me the thieves had even stolen her underwear. “I’ll get you some clothes,” I promised her.

At that moment Patrick appeared, very cordial as before, and she introduced him proudly to my friends. We expressed our regrets over the robbery, and David promised to bring them food the following week. One of the volunteers, Matt, offered to get Candace a new Bible.

We said our goodbyes and left them, full of that happiness which genuine connection with people can bring. Odd coincidence that we showed up just after they’d been robbed and were in such need.

[to be continued]

KS