The Intermittent Volunteer’s Weblog

Befriending People in Dallas Who Are Homeless

Our Brokenness January 25, 2010

Filed under: healing,Henri Nouwen,homelessness,hunger,inspiration,peace — Karen Shafer @ 9:20 pm

Monday, January 25, 2010


I’ve often observed that, if one has a sandwich or a blanket to share with our friends living on the street, there is a grateful response, but a hug, eye contact and a smile are the things that are most appreciated.  We all need to know that we matter.  KS

Our Brokenness


“The moment has come to talk about our brokenness.  You are a broken man.  I am a broken man, and all the people we know or know about are broken.  Our brokenness is so visible and tangible, so concrete and specific….  There are many things I would like to say to you about our brokenness.  But where to begin?

Perhaps the simplest beginning would be to say that our brokenness reveals something about who we are.  Our sufferings and pains are not simply bothersome interruptions of our lives;  rather, they touch us in our uniqueness and our most intimate individuality….  Our brokenness is truly ours.  Nobody else’s.  Our brokenness is as unique as our chosenness and our blessedness….

Although many people suffer from pysical or mental disabilities, and although there is a great amount of economic poverty, homelessness, and lack of basic human needs, the suffering of which I am most aware on a day-to-day basis is the suffering of the broken heart…  In the Western world, the suffering that seems to be the most painful is that of feeling rejected, ignored, despised and left alone.  In my own community, [L’Arche Daybreak Community in Toronto, Canada], with many severely handicapped men and women, the greatest source of suffering is not the handicap itself, but the accompanying feelings of being useless, worthless, unappreciated, and unloved.  It is much easier to accept the inability to speak, walk, or feed oneself than it is to accept the inability to be of special value to another person.  We human beings can suffer immense deprivations with great steadfastness, but when we sense that we no longer have anything to offer anyone, we quickly lose our grip on life.  Instinctively we know that the joy of life comes from the ways in which we live together and that the pain of life comes from the many ways we fail to do that well.

How can we respond to this brokenness?  The first response… is to face it squarely and befriend it.  This may seem quite unnatural.  Our first, most spontaneous response to pain and suffering is to avoid it, to keep it at arm’s length;  to ignore, circumvent, or deny it.  Suffering… is almost always experienced as an unwelcome intrusion into our lives, something that should not be there.

I am convinced that healing is often so difficult because we don’t want to know the pain…  The deep truth is that our human suffering need not be an obstacle to the joy and peace we so desire, but can become, instead, the means to it.  The great secret of the spiritual life… is that everything we live, be it gladness or sadness, joy or pain, health or illness, can all be part of the journey toward the full realization of our humanity…  real care means the willingness to help each other in making our brokenness into the gateway to joy.”

~~Henri Nouwen, Life of the Beloved

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Haitian Relief January 16, 2010

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Haitian Relief

Readers may already have a preferred way of supporting relief efforts, but if you are concerned about the aid getting in, or about the integrity of the pathway through which it goes, here’s an appeal that can be counted on to do what it says in the way it says.  And it is already established in Haiti and has programs operating there.

Having had personal dealings with Dillon International, our family has found them to be very credible and accountable.  In particular, it’s quite laudable that they operate not only adoption programs in many countries around the world but also humanitarian efforts in these countries — for example, a home for street children who will not be adopted or otherwise cared for in Vietnam.

Also, there is a local connection, as they have recently paired with Buckner Family Services to increase the scope of the operations of both.  Below is an e-mail from Deniese Dillon, a founder.

KS

Dear Friends,

We are so very saddened by the tragedy that has hit Haiti!  We have learned from Gladys Thomas, the Director of Dillon’s Programs in Haiti,  that the Children’s Village and Hope Hospital are okay.  There has been some flooding, one of the walls on a building collapsed, and many people are gathering in this location but otherwise all is well.  The Village (orphanage home) has food but the children are scared.

There will be many people throughout the Haitian community that will continue to come to Hope Hospital looking for care…it is already very full with earthquake victims.

The great need right now is gasoline to run the generators. If you are interested in helping provide aid to the children and people of Haiti please click the link below.  We are able to get the funds directly to Gladys and the funds will be put immediately to use.

https://secure.groundspring.org/dn/index.php?aid=22119

Please check the Dillon International website periodically for updates on this situation. http://www.dillonadopt.com/

Thank you for your help,

Deniese Dillon

3227 East 31st Street, Suite 200 I Tulsa, OK  74105

Voice: 918.749.4600 I Fax:  918.749.7144
Email:
tonnie@dillonadopt.com

www.Dillonadopt.com I www.orphancareintl.org I www.Buckner.org
Making Life Better for Orphans, Vulnerable Children and Families

 

Comfort and Community January 12, 2010

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Comfort and Community


There’s both a reality and a myth, it would seem, that some people experiencing homelessness would choose to stay on the street even if they were offered shelter.  I’ve been one of those among many who has said in the past, ‘I don’t know anyone who would rather be on the street than indoors.’

Yet look at this video from Channel 11 during last week’s bitter cold snap:

http://cbs11tv.com/local/operation.code.blue.2.1409978.html


When I saw in the Dallas Morning News on January 6 stating that city officials were launching Operation Code Blue to try to get people indoors for the bitterly cold weather that was upon us, I felt both hopeful and cynical:  we’ve been through these ‘Operations’ more than once, and what that has sometimes meant for ‘homeless’ people walking around downtown has been offering them the limited options of shelter, mental health facilities or getting a citation.  At the camps, it’s generally meant ticketing and as well as confiscating the temporary homes and belongings of those living there — even as recently as a few weeks ago.

http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/latestnews/stories/010710dnmetcoldhomeless.4f9af7d0.html

http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/news/localnews/stories/DN-codeblue_07met.ART0.State.Edition2.4bb01fe.html

I’ve often wondered, is the theory of the these city policies that if you take misery and add to it a greater portion of misery, the sum of the misery will encourage people to make a change?  I’m not sure if that accurately elucidates the philosophy, but I know it doesn’t work, as has been proven time and again both in Dallas and across the world.  People have to be ready to move out of their situation, and their options have to be manageable.

I won’t attempt to explain the complexities of why someone would turn down shelter on a night in Dallas when the temperatures sink into the teens, because I don’t fully understand them.  For certain, in past winters, I’ve known many people experiencing homelessness who have sought refuge in Dallas shelters and the homeless assistance center and been turned away for lack of space — even when the shelters have expanded their hours (beyond a 4 P.M. cutoff to secure a space) and lifted their space limitations to accommodate more people for cold weather policies.  Certainly a number of people living outdoors have increasingly lost faith in the system that provides shelter.  Yet I got an additional insight into their perspective last Thursday afternoon when I drove to one of the camps with one of my adult daughters to see how people were faring in the bitter cold.

We pulled up in my car and spoke to one of the camp leaders, whom I know.*

I introduced him to my daughter and asked, ‘So the city’s been here trying to get you all to go into shelters?  How did that go?’

‘Did you see us on television?’  he asked.  ‘We didn’t want to go.’

I said I hadn’t seen the television coverage.  ‘Is the city strong-arming you?’ I asked him, and, to my surprise and relief, he said, ‘No.’

Then he surveyed the immediate landscape of surprisingly tidy cardboard homes and belongings stored in plastic bags along the sidewalk under a freeway overpass, and he swept his hand in an arc over what was around us.  And a look of tenderness that took me aback passed over the face of this tough man.

‘This is our safety,’ he told my daughter and me.  ‘This is our shelter.’  There was pride in his voice.

And in that moment, I understood something that I haven’t quite fully gotten in my six years of visiting the camps from time to time.  Whatever camp life looks like to the rest of us — and, in this weather, it looks pretty grim — it represents life, community, survival and independence to the people who live there.  It may not seem like much compared to the comforts of a warm place to sleep, and yet…

After all, independence and self-sufficiency are two of the premier American — and democratic — values, are they not?

I believe that, until we understand this sense of and desire for community, operating alongside autonomy, which every human being needs and values above many other things (apparently including comfort and convenience), we will have great difficulty in resolving the issue of long-term street-dwelling homelessness.

KS

*[Ironically, this is the same man whose Bible and birth certificate were confiscated by the city in a sweep which I wrote about in this blog post.  This is a perfect example of the counterproductivity of the sweeps, as, at the time of this post, he was very motivated and going through the process of getting off the street, yet he’s still out there.]

https://theintermittentvolunteer.wordpress.com/?s=the+bible+and+the+birth+certificate

 

T.S. Eliot on Epiphany January 3, 2010

Filed under: and a little child shall lead them,Christianity — Karen Shafer @ 8:21 pm

Sunday, January 3, 2009


T.S. Eliot on Epiphany


1NOW WHEN Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men [astrologers] from the east came to Jerusalem, asking,

2Where is He Who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the east [a]at its rising and have come to worship Him.

~~Matthew 2

The Journey of the Magi

by T.S. Eliot


‘A cold coming we had of it,

Just the worst time of the year

For the journey, and such a long journey:

The ways deep and the weather sharp,

The very dead of winter.’

And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,

Lying down in the melting snow.

There were times we regretted

The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,

And the silken girls bringing sherbet.

Then the camel men cursing and grumbling

And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,

And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,

And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly

And the villages dirty and charging high prices:

A hard time we had of it.

At the end we preferred to travel all night,

Sleeping in snatches,

With the voices singing in our ears, saying

That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,

Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;

With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,

And three trees on the low sky,

And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.

Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,

Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,

And feet kicking the empty wine-skins,

But there was no information, and so we continued

And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon

Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,

And I would do it again, but set down

This set down

This: were we led all that way for

Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,

We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,

But had thought they were different; this Birth was

Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death,

We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,

But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,

With an alien people clutching their gods.

I should be glad of another death.