The Intermittent Volunteer’s Weblog

Befriending People in Dallas Who Are Homeless

If You Have Been Given Gifts, Use Them September 29, 2008

Filed under: Christianity,healing,inspiration,Leadership,peace,Vocation — Karen Shafer @ 5:47 pm

 

Monday, September 29, 2008

 

If You Have Been Given Gifts, Use Them!

 

Yesterday evening we at Church of the Incarnation (Episcopal) instituted and inducted our new rector (senior pastor), The Right Reverend Anthony J. Burton, formerly Bishop of the Diocese of Saskatchewan, Canada.  The service was beautiful and quite moving and was presided over by the The Right Reverend James M. Stanton, Bishop of Dallas.  We are greatly blessed to have Bishop Burton and his family as part of our parish.

 

During his sermon, Bishop Stanton made a statement that stood out in particular to me, because this is something of which I constantly have to remind myself.  The statement was emphatic and simple:  “If you have been given gifts, use them!”  

 

The sermon text was based on the following passage from The Letter of Paul to the Romans.  I am far from a biblical scholar, so it is not surprising that the impact of this text had never come home to me before:

 

     “I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.  For by the grace given to me I bed every one among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith which God has assigned him.  For as in one body we have many members, and all the members do not have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.  Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them:  if prophecy, in proportion to our faith;  if service, in our serving;  he who teaches, in his teaching;  he who exhorts, in his exhortation;  he who contributes, in liberality;  he who gives aid, with zeal;  he who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.  Let love be genuine;  hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good;  love one another with brotherly affection;  outdo one another in showing honor.  Never flag in zeal, be aglow with the Spirit, serve the Lord.  Rejoice in your hope be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.  Contribute to the needs of the saints, practice hospitality.  Bless those who persecute you;  bless and do not curse them.  Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.  Live in harmony with one another;  do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly;  never be conceited.  Repay no one evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.  If possible, so far as it depends upon you, live peaceably with all.”

                                                                                                      ~~Romans 12:  1-18

This passage reminded me of my favorite quote from Mother Teresa, which I have used on this site previously:

 

     “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.”

KS

Website of Church of the Incarnation:  http://www.incarnation.org/

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The Poorest of the Poor and Forgiveness September 24, 2008

Journal Archives

Friday, 2/24/06                                                                                                                                        

Blogger’s Note:  This incident took place in 2006.  The situation for homeless people in Dallas has improved considerably since then, particularly with the advent of our new homeless assistance center, the Bridge, in May, 2008. Also, I believe that the current city administration is sensitive to and proactive in finding solutions to the issues surrounding homelessness.  KS

 

The Poorest of the Poor and Forgiveness

“…to love Him in the distressing disguise of the poorest of the poor.” 

                                                                                                             ~~Mother Teresa

 

On Wednesday, I went out with David Timothy of SoupMobile and another volunteer to feed several hundred people at the Day Resource Center, currently the City of Dallas’s only designated site for groups feeding the homeless.  (The other volunteer was a columnist from the Dallas Observer researching an article on the homeless encampments.)

 

The feeding went smoothly, and people were able to come through the line several times times before we ran out of hot dogs — a hugely popular item:  they’re meat, and they’re hot food.  Most of the people appeared to be ‘chronically homeless’, in pretty rough condition, and are no doubt the ones who were spending the night inside the Day Resource Center prior to the new ruling forbidding sleeping there.

 

Next we went to the I-45 bridge homeless encampment, where about one hundred people have formed a stable community under the freeway bridge, so the reporter could interview an individual who lives in the camp and is its de facto leader, helping to maintain order there.  We pulled up to the chainlink fence surrounding the camp on a dirt road next to a motel.  The interviewee works at the motel, and the three of us waited in the van for him to get off work.

 

People kept stopping by the van to say hi to David and to see if we had food to give out.  The street people seem to love and even revere him.  He told them we weren’t allowed to feed there anymore — if we did we could incur a $2000-per-incident fine.  Soon a nice-looking man named Slim stopped to talk to us;  he doesn’t live at the camp but comes around daily and is friends with many of the residents.

 

While the reporter went into the heart of the camp to conduct his interview, David and I talked to Slim.  The subjects came up of the new strict enforcement of regulations on groups feeding the homeless and the closing of the Day Resource Center as a night shelter.  A prominent public official was mentioned, and I said I was having a hard time not being quite angry with her for her part in the way homeless citizens in Dallas are being treated.  I said that a couple who live in a homeless camp in the woods near my home said that before this woman was elected, she used to routinely give money to panhandlers, courting the homeless vote, then turned the tables on them once she was in office.

 

Right away, Slim began to talk in Biblical terms about love, forgiveness, and turning the other cheek.  What he said was profound and learned, but even more important, he hit upon truths that I had been missing.  I have a tendency to ‘hate the haters,’ often expressing my outrage at injustice in terms of anger, and he said in a loving and understanding way:  “Satan has thrown a veil over [this politician’s] eyes, so that she doesn’t see the harm she’s doing, but is deluded by her power and that of those she’s trying to please.”  This good man, who stays among the homeless and is their friend, was preaching love and forgiveness towards those who persecute them!

 

I hear this sort of faithfulness all the time when I’m with the homeless population.  The men and women I’ve met on the street are the most spiritual people I’ve ever known, and here was another example of that faithfulness, embodied in Slim, now teaching me, the middle-class advocate, the true meaning of Christian love, which should be so evident to me, but which I find so easy to forget:  LOVE YOUR ENEMIES.  How hard is this to do????  But here was a man who, along with his friends, is constantly persecuted by city and state officials, and he is reminding me about the heart of Christian love.

 

“Slim, this is unbelievable,” I said to him.  “This is just what I needed to hear!  I am so focused on the problems in Dallas right now  [ie, what you resist persists!], and your message of love and compassion for those in power, even in their misguided actions, is something I’d totally missed.  Thank you.”

 

It was a powerful message.  I feel Slim was ‘sent’ to gently remind me that, even if I can’t love a particular politician at the moment, to focus all my attention on my frustration with what’s going on with the city and the homeless may be missing the point.  While I don’t have to ignore injustice, perhaps this represents a call for me to go deeper within myself with this work, and to be as good as the street people I want to stand alongside.  I can focus more on the solutions and less on the problems, if for no other reason than that focusing on the problems dissipates my energy, taking it away from loving, helping and serving and into the ‘combat zone.’  I have to continue to fight injustice, yes, but maybe in a different way than letting it anger and frustrate me so much.  The battle is within myself, and it is there that I need to look:  for guidance, for love towards all sides.  Perhaps that’s how healing will come.  I don’t have to agree, and I can still speak out about the actions of people who I feel are persecuting the homeless, but I am called at the same time to embrace them with love.  Not an easy thing.  The more deeply I go into this work, the more it challenges me to grow — in unexpected ways.

 

KS

 

Favorite Underdog Story September 18, 2008

Filed under: inspiration,Random Post — Karen Shafer @ 9:09 pm

Thursday, September 18, 2008

 

Paul Potts:  Britain’s Got Talent, 2007

 

This is my favorite ‘underdog’ story.  (The look on Simon Cowell’s face is worth the viewing.)

What’s yours?

 

Paul Pott’s initial audition on Britain’s Got Talent, 2007…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1k08yxu57NA

 

the Semi-Finals…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rDB9zwlXrB8&feature=related

 

and the Winner is…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eqWvuMJV0Yw&feature=related

 

I listen to his CD, One Chance, almost every day, and I’ve had it for many months!

KS

 

The ‘Way’ September 15, 2008

Filed under: healing,inspiration,Leadership,peace,Taoism — Karen Shafer @ 7:55 pm

 

The ‘Way’

 

“The mystery of the ‘Way’ [in Taoism] can never be explained or named, but we can live it.  No matter what we think, say, or do we are embraced by the ‘Way.’…   [It] is infinitely compassionate, supporting and nurturing even in our ignorance, but we cannot truly be wholly nourished until we forgive ourselves our mistakes along the way and thus cease blaming others for our wounds.  The Chinese I Ching says “no blame.”  The Lord’s Prayer says similarly, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.”…

 

The separation of spirit and nature is based on the subject-object split, the great divide in consciousness that says sense perception and logical thought are objective whereas feeling and intuitive thought are subjective.  In our scientifically oriented Western culture, objectivity is seen as the main criterion of truth, and subjectivity is considered personal and relative.  But an insight, vision, or intuition may be more true than logic and description of objects.  The test is the effectiveness of living the vision.

 

Once we lose the ‘Way’ in this subject-object abyss, innumerable are the ills that grow out of it.  The abuse of nature for technological exploitation, the resultant pollution, illnesses, and lack of wholesome food, water, and air for life are extreme signs of losing the ‘Way.’  God and the world seem to be antithetical because humans create culture in ignorance of spiritual and natural laws.  Then supreme effort is required to return us to the ‘Way.’…  It necessitates awareness of the earth as a living being, not inert matter to be exploited.  As traditions break down we are forced to meet the ‘Way,’ which is both a mystery and a source for regenerative global culture.  The essence of spiritual traditions can never be lost, for the ‘Way’ is perennial wisdom, eternal truth.

 

The Tao, the ‘Way,’ is the eternal harmony of heaven, the human and earth in all times and places.  It is ever renewed and yet inexhaustible…”

 

                                        ~~Rowena Pattee Kryder, Introduction to the Translation by                                                                                     Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English of Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu

 

Sleeping On the Hard Streets of Dallas September 9, 2008

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

 

Sleeping Among the Homeless on the Hard Streets of Dallas

by David Timothy (AKA SoupMan)

 

In 2003, on a wing and a prayer (s) I started a nonprofit charity called the SoupMobile. We are a ‘mobile’ soup kitchen that feeds the homeless in the Dallas area. In those five years we have progressed from serving 5,000 meals per year to serving over 125,000 meals per year. The SoupMobile has changed from a virtual one-man operation to an organization that has an army of volunteers, donors, supporters and prayer warriors.

 

During this past five years I have worked the homeless streets of Dallas on almost a daily basis. And while my given name is David Timothy, on the streets of Dallas the homeless call me the SoupMan. During that time I have been privileged to meet and come to know thousands upon thousands of homeless men and women. I have fed them, bandaged their cuts and wounds, become friends with them, laughed with them, cried with them, visited them in jail, sat with them in the large cardboard boxes they call home, watched them fail miserably, and at times watched them succeed beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.  Yet there was one thing I hadn’t done. I had never slept overnight on the streets among the homeless.

 

In the winter of 2007 I decided I would forgo my cushy bed and peaceful nights behind locked doors and venture out onto the hard streets of Dallas. I decided to do this for two reasons. One was to show solidarity and support for my homeless friends, and the second was to find out ‘up close and personal’ what it was like to sleep on the streets just like the homeless do every night.  I did not tell anyone of my plans.  I knew if I did they would try to talk me out of it.  I was committed and determined to follow through. So during the winter of 2007, I slept out on the streets overnight with the homeless on two separate occasions. 

 

I carried a backpack loaded with a thin blanket, a bottled water, a sandwich and a granola bar. I carried $2.00 in my pocket. I had made it a point not to eat any food that day. I wanted to hit the streets feeling the same hunger the homeless did.  I did not take my car, but put on my backpack and hiked to the location where I would be sleeping outside with the homeless. That first night out on the streets was not a fun night. It wasn’t like sleeping in the backyard of my house in a tent when I was a kid. In fact it was cold, dark and windy. I’m not embarrassed to admit that it was a little scary. There were no locked doors, no police protection, and I had to fall asleep trusting that none of the hundreds of people sleeping around me would do me wrong.   

 

Here are some of my impressions of that first night. As I lay upon a slab of blacktop and was huddled under my thin blanket, I noticed how incredibly cold it was. It seemed the blacktop just radiated the cold right up into my bones. Of course there was no thermostat to turn up the heat, and I couldn’t go into my closet to get an extra blanket. And just like the hundreds of other homeless people out there, I was on my own.  I carefully hoarded the small amount of food that I brought with me. I knew once it was gone, that was it. No midnight visits to the fridge and no late night trips to the 7/11 store.

 

One of the moments I will never forget was about midnight when I was finally able to start to drift off to sleep.  In those final minutes as my breathing slowed and my eyelids started to droop, I realized I was going to be sleeping and had absolutely no protection against anyone doing me harm. No locked doors, no police protection, and no recourse if trouble started. For me those last few minutes before I fell to sleep were the diciest moments of the entire affair.

 

Finally sleep came, and then all too suddenly I heard voices shouting. Okay, ‘time to get up, get a move on’.  It was 5:30 AM, pitch black, and some security guy was moving us off the blacktop parking lot where we had bedded down for the night.  We all scurried about gathering up our things and getting ready to hit the road. No morning cup of coffee, no hot breakfast, no reading the morning paper, and no early morning conversations with your fellow nighttime blacktop bunk mates. 

 

The first thing I noticed as I was gathering up my belongings was that it was even more incredibly cold, and I had absolutely no way to get warm. After a night of sleeping on the blacktop my bones were stiff and my hands seemed frozen. And I was hungry. The night before I had decided to save my granola bar. Oh, was I glad I did!  I greedily opened up the wrapping and carefully ate every bit of the bar, even the crumbs. I even licked the wrapper when I was finished. So with breakfast over I finished packing up.  Security kept pushing us to get going. In those next few moments hundreds of homeless people started moving out in different directions and vanishing into the pitch black morning that seemed as if it was still night. 

 

As I moved out with stiff limbs and cramped cold feet, I knew where I was heading. I was hiking it back to my place. But that hike back wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. Here I was hiking through deserted dark streets with a backpack on my back and $2.00 in my pocket. I felt like a marked man. I was alone and had absolutely no one else to rely on if trouble materialized. What if some unscrupulous guys decided I was an easy mark? What could I give them if I was stopped? My two dollars? Somehow I didn’t think they would be satisfied with that. 

 

I also felt like a marked man in another way. What if the police saw me hiking through the darkened streets at 6:00 AM in the morning with a backpack on? Would they think I was up to no good? Would they ask what the heck I was doing out there? What would I tell them?  Hey officers, its okay, I’m the SoupMan, and I just wanted to spend a night out with my homeless friends to show them support. Oh yeah, I’m sure that would have been totally convincing.

 

Fortunately I made it home safely that first night without any trouble from the bad guys or the police. So having survived that first night sleeping with the homeless, I decided I needed to do it one more time just to be sure that the first time out had been the real thing.  A few weeks later I ventured out again and slept on that same blacktop parking lot with hundreds of homeless people. Guess what. It was almost an identical repeat of the first time. Still no fun, still dark, still cold, still hungry and I still felt like a marked man as I hiked back home in the dark the next morning.

 

So what did this whole experience do for me? Well, it gave me an empathy for the homeless that went beyond anything I had ever known. I had already built up an incredible compassion for the homeless as I had fed them the last five years, but now it went even deeper. In those two nights I got to experience what they have to go through every night. All the uncertainty, all the fear, all the hunger and the feeling of being a marked man.

 

It also gave me a renewed thankfulness to the Lord for what I do have. Whenever I get the urge to complain or grumble about my circumstances, I just think back to those two nights on the streets, and I quickly look upward and thank the Lord for what I do have.  I am truly a blessed man!

 

David Timothy is the founder and Executive Director of the SoupMobile.  The preceding story will be included in his upcoming book on his experiences.  Stay tuned!