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Befriending People in Dallas Who Are Homeless

Servant? Leader? Both. May 23, 2015

Filed under: Christianity,healing,Henri Nouwen,inspiration,Leadership,peace,Vocation — Karen Shafer @ 8:52 pm

Saturday, May 23, 2015

 

Servant? Leader? Both.

“Ministry is… a mutual experience… [Jesus] wants Peter to feed his sheep and care for them, not as ‘professionals’ who know their clients’ problems and take care of them, but as vulnerable brothers and sisters who know and are known, who care and are cared for, who forgive and are being forgiven, who love and are being loved.

 

Somehow we have come to believe that good leadership requires a safe distance from those we are called to lead… Someone serves, someone else is being served, and be sure not to mix up the roles! But how can we lay down our life for those with whom we are not even allowed to enter into a deep personal relationship!

 

We are not the healers, we are not the reconcilers, we are not the givers of life. We are sinful, broken, vulnerable people who need as much care as anyone we care for. The mystery of ministry is that we have been chosen to make our own limited and very conditional love the gateway for the unlimited and unconditional love of God.

 

Therefore, true ministry must be mutual. When the members of a community of faith cannot truly know and love their shepherd, shepherding quickly becomes a subtle way of exercising power over others and begins to show authoritarian and dictatorial traits. The world in which we live — a world of efficiency and control — has no models to offer to those who want to be shepherds in the way Jesus was a shepherd. Even the so-called ‘helping professions’ have been so thoroughly secularized that mutuality can only be seen as a weakness and a dangerous form of role confusion. The leadership about which Jesus speaks is of a radically different kind from the leadership offered by the world. It is a servant leadership — to use Robert Greenleaf’s* term — in which the leader is a vulnerable servant who needs the people as much as they need their leader.”

 

               ~~ Henri J.M. Nouwen, In the Name of Jesus, Reflections on Christian Leadership

 
*Robert K. Greenleaf, Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness

 

Bear Witness September 3, 2013

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Bear Witness

          “Bear witness to injustices that result in poor health, and work to remove those injustices and build health equity.  This is what healers owe society.  And this is what our society desperately needs at this moment in time.”

                                     ~~  Jessie M Gaeta, M.D.,  Medical Director of Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program

                                                Commencement Address, Boston University School of Medicine Convocation, 2013

 

Common Cathedral February 13, 2013

Wednesday, February 13, 2012

 

Common Cathedral

 

I’ve just been invited by my daughter, her family, and a wonderful friend who is a nurse serving the homeless community in Boston to attend services at Common Cathedral one Sunday in the next few weeks.  Can’t wait!

 

http://ecclesia-ministries.org/common_cathedral.html

 

Being Led August 20, 2012

Filed under: Christianity,healing,inspiration,Leadership,Vocation — Karen Shafer @ 2:54 am

From Henri Nouwen:

 

“Let me tell you about a[n] experience connected with my move from Harvard to L’Arche. It was clearly a move from leading to being led.  Somehow I had come to believe that growing older and more mature meant that I would be increasingly able to offer leadership. In fact, I had grown more self-confident over the years. I felt I knew something and had the ability to express it and be heard. In that sense I felt more and more in control.

 

But when I entered my community with mentally handicapped people and their assistants, all controls fell apart, and I came to realize that every hour, day, and month was full of surprises — often surprises I was least prepared for…. Often people responded from deep places in themselves, showing me that what I was saying or doing had little if anything to do with what they were living. Present feelings and emotions could no longer be held in check by beautiful words and convincing arguments…. Without realizing it, the people I came to live with made me aware of the extent to which my leadership was still a desire to control complex situations, confused emotions, and anxious minds.

 

It took me a long time to feel safe in this unpredictable climate, and I still have moments in which I clamp down and tell everyone to shut up, get in line, listen to me, and believe what I say. But I am also getting in touch with the mystery that leadership, for a large part, means to be led. I discover that I am learning many new things, not just about the pains and struggles of wounded people, but also about their unique gifts and graces. They teach me about joy and peace, love and care and prayer…. They also teach me what nobody else could have taught me, about grief and violence, fear and indifference. Most of all, they give me a glimpse of God’s first love, often at moments when I start feeling depressed and discouraged.

 

My movement from Harvard to L’Arche made me aware in a new way how much my own thinking about Christian leadership had been affected by the desire to be relevant, the desire for popularity, and the desire for power.  Too often I looked at being relevant, popular and powerful as ingredients of an effective ministry.

 

The truth, however, is that these are not vocations but temptations. Jesus asks, ‘Do you love me?’ Jesus sends us out to be shepherds, and Jesus promises a life in which we increasingly have to stretch out our hands and be led to places where we would rather not go. He asks us to move from a concern for relevance to a life of prayer, from worries about popularity to communal and mutual ministry, and from a leadership built on power to a leadership in which we critically discern where God is leading us and our people…  Old patterns that have proved quite effective are not easy to give up.

 

I leave you with the image of the leader with outstretched hands, who chooses a life of downward mobility.”

 

~~ From In the Name of Jesus, Reflections on Christian Leadership

 

Solitude May 15, 2012

Filed under: healing,inspiration,peace,The Natural World,Vocation — Karen Shafer @ 11:36 pm

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Solitude

A little over a decade ago, I had the serendipitous good luck to find myself staying in a small village in France called Ermenonville after a wedding I attended in a nearby town.  At the time, I had no idea that the [very inexpensive but lovely] chateau hotel where I was lodging was the location where Jean Jacques Rousseau had, in 1778, spent the last months of his life.

 

 

I fell in love with the village, with the castle itself, and with Parc Jean Jacques Rousseau across the street from the chateau, where I went hiking many times.  On my hikes, I carried along a journal and a sketch pad, and stopped to write and to draw various sites in the parc.  I still can’t believe my good luck in spending a week in those lovely surroundings.

 

 

The odd thing is, on one of my hikes in the park, I was grappling with the question of my own at-times-competing needs for solitude and company, and I was able so resolve some of these vexing questions while in that extraordinary natural setting.

 

 

I had read Rousseau in school but remembered little about his writing, so when I came home I purchased a book or two of his, one of which is Reveries of the Solitary Walker.  Here is an interesting quote from the chapter entitled ‘Third Walk’ on the subject of solitude, a subject with which Rousseau grappled as well.

 

 

“It is from this time that I can date my total renunciation of the world and the great love of solitude which has never left me.  The task I had set myself could only be performed in absolute isolation;  it called for long and tranquil meditations which are impossible in the bustle of society life.  So I was obliged to adopt for a time another way of life, which I subsequently found so much to my taste that since then I have only interrupted it for brief periods and against my will, returning to it most gladly and following it without effort as soon as I was able;  and when men later reduced me to a life of solitude, I found that in isolating me to make me miserable, they had done more for my happiness than I had been able to do myself.”

~~ Jean Jacques Rousseau, Reveries of a Solitary Walker, “Third Walk”

 

Parc Jean Jacques Rousseau

http://www.gardenvisit.com/garden/ermenonville_parc_jean-jacques_rousseau

 

To Tech or Not To Tech? March 17, 2012

Filed under: inspiration,no technosavvywhatsoever,peace,The Natural World,Vocation — Karen Shafer @ 9:10 pm

Saturday, March 17, 2012

 

To Tech or Not To Tech?  There’s a Different Answer for Everyone

Friends sometimes ask me, ‘Why aren’t you on Facebook???  How do you keep up?’  I realize we are coming from different perspectives and that it may be hard to explain.

 

I want less internet, not more.  I see the online world as an invaluable tool but also as a kind of necessary evil.  It seems to me that it can be addicting, yet that it is somehow inherently unrewarding.  Maybe I’m looking for some sort of response there that I never get.  Could the response I’m missing be the three-dimentional experience, either from human beings or from the natural world?  (Or, if you’re a particle physics fan who’s interested in String Theory, that would be more dimensions than three!)

 

Another way of saying it:  ‘I want to smell the actual-not-the-virtual flowers and to pull the three-dimensional weeds.’

 

I want to sit and stare.  At the trees, the sky, the birds and butterflies (and at  this time of year, the shower of pollen!)  Not at a computer screen or a handheld device.  It’s taken me so long to start to learn to ‘be here now.’  I hate to voluntarily give it up any more than is absolutely necessary.  My ‘lights’ will flicker and dim soon enough.

 

As a news junkie, I prefer to get my info from the BBC World Service on radio, the television evening news, and PBS Newshour.  As it is, I think often enough of, for example, of what’s going on in Syria, that I have a friend who lives in Damascus — and that I have no way to know if he and his family are OK.  I don’t really want my newsfeed to be more frequent than that it already is.

 

It may seem disingenuous to say this, given that this blog is on the internet.  The worldwide web has it’s uses, without a doubt.  An extremely positive one is spreading the word about certain crises in the world that need our attention and care.  I just somehow feel that sharing and caring about what time of day a celebrity ate a piece of pizza is definitely TMI.

 

I even think that it’s probably harmful to the human brain to experience the world increasingly through ‘screens’.  I recently learned of a study which found that electronic devices are addicting to the brains of children.  But am I a retro freak who’s behind the times and way out of touch?

 

Along comes an interview with writer Paul Theroux to save my reputation (the word ‘reputation’ is hyperbolic in relation to myself, but please indulge me)!

 

The Atlantic Monthly:  What does the advent of the e-reader mean for reading — for the health of narrative storytelling as a form, for the market for fiction, for the future of books?  E-readers certainly make it easier to tote lots of novels and other texts while traveling.  But don’t we lose something — in sustained concentration, or in a sense of permanence, or in the notion of a book as an art object — in the migration away from the codex?

 

Paul Theroux:  Movable type seemed magical to the monks who were illuminating manuscripts and copying texts.  Certainly e-books seem magical to me.  I started my writing life in the 1940’s as an elementary student at the Washington School in Medford, Massachusetts, using a steel-nibbed pen and an inkwell, so I have lived through every technology.  I don’t think people will read more fiction than they have in the past (as I say, it’s a minority interest), but something certainly is lost — the physicality of a book, how one makes a book one’s own by reading it (scribbling in it, dog-earing pages, spilling coffee on it) and living with it as an object, sometimes a talisman.  Writing is one of the plastic arts, which is why I still write in longhand for a first draft.  I can’t predict how reading habits will change.  But I will say that the greatest loss is the paper archive — no more a great stack of manuscripts, letters, and notebooks from a writer’s life, but only a tiny pile of disks, little plastic cookies where once were calligraphic marvels.

 

TA:  Does the migration to e-readers increase access to good stories or diminish it?

 

PT:  Greatly increases access.  I could not be more approving.  But free libraries are full of books that no one reads.

 

TA:  What has the Twitter-ization of our attention spans, and the hyperlinking of our storytelling, and the Google-ization of all our knowledge meant for imaginative literature as an art form and a vehicle for transmitting ideas?

 

PT:  In a hyperactive world, the writing of fiction — and perhaps the reading of it — must seem slow, dull, even pedestrian and oldfangled.  I think there is only one way to write fiction — alone, in a room, without interruption or any distraction.  Have I just described the average younger person’s room?  I don’t think so.  But the average younger person is multitasking.  The rare, unusual, solitary younger person is writing a poem or story.

 

Crawling into bed and picking up my hard-bound copy of Henry James’ The Golden Bowl is the most peaceful and satisfying part of my day.  I feel like he’s my ‘friend,’ even though neither of us has a Facebook page, or, if he does, I’m pretty certain he’s not the one who put it up!

 

KS

 

Small Things With Great Love December 19, 2011

Monday, December 19, 2011

 

Small Things With Great Love

 

My son-in-law sent me this story today.  What these two people are doing is not small, but the love they express — each in her or his own way — is great indeed.  It reminds me, despite the difficulties in the world, that there are people out there quietly doing wonderful things every day.  KS

 

 

 

 

Austrian chef, Catholic nun are spirit behind Trinity Cafe

Monday, December 19, 2011 01:16:00 AM

Dec. 19–TAMPA — Alfred Astl frets a lot.

And with good reason: He’s the chef at Trinity Cafe, a restaurant that serves the homeless and working poor in downtown Tampa. He operates on a razor-thin budget, stretching pennies instead of dollars, in order to feed the growing throng of hungry people who come for a free noontime meal Monday through Friday.

“He always thinks he’s going to run out, which he never does,” confides Sister Maureen Dorr, the 81-year-old Franciscan nun who stopped in to volunteer 10 years ago and never left.

“I tell him not to worry. I happen to know another man who multiplied. He really had a way with loaves and fishes, and so does Alfred.”

That’s how it is with the Austrian chef with the serious demeanor and the fun-spirited Catholic sister who’s a bit of a flirt. They are the yin and yang of Trinity Cafe. He does the nourishing — creating innovative and well-balanced meals from soup to dessert at about $2 a serving. She does the nurturing — walking among the homeless guests to dispense hugs, give counsel and offer prayers.

“Sister Maureen is an angel on earth. And Chef Alfred is a grizzly with the heart of a teddy bear,” says Cindy Davis, program director. “They are the heart and soul of the cafe. To have them working here together is a real blessing for us and every guest who works through the door.”

Neither seeks out attention. But they got it anyway last month.

Sister Maureen was named a local hero by Bank of America, which came with a $5,000 check. Astl, 61, was chosen as a community hero by the Tampa Bay Lightning — an honor that came with a $50,000 award. Both directed their winnings to the cafe’s food account.

Davis says the windfall came at a time when the nonprofit needs it the most.

The cafe’s $455,000 annual budget — which depends on donations and grants — is being challenged by an increase in the number of people it serves. The limit was supposed to be 200 meals a day; that’s jumped to about 230. And looming in the future is a $650,000 project that will allow the cafe to relocate from its current cramped quarters at the Salvation Army to its own permanent building in the V.M. Ybor neighborhood.

When the cafe eventually moves, it will be open seven days a week. And it will keep that same “dining with dignity” tradition, using volunteers from churches and community organizations to serve patrons at tables covered in white cloths and set with silverware.

That’s a touch Astl insists upon.

Before coming to Trinity Cafe, he spent 35 years in the hotel and food industry, honing his skills as a chef in exclusive settings from Aspen to New York. He worked at a Four Seasons, country clubs, high-end inns and corporations. He owned his own continental restaurant in Tampa with wife, Sandy. He worked for the late George Steinbrenner’s Yankee Trader at Bay Harbor Inn. For four years, he served as division chef for five Rusty Pelican restaurants.

But for all the prestige and money that came with his career, Astl got burned out. He missed out on seeing his two sons grow up. Working six or seven days a week, sometimes 18 hours a day, took a toll on his health.

Then he saw the help wanted ad for a chef to work “five days a week, lunch only.” He thought it would be a nice break for a little while. That was 10 years ago.

Obviously, there are differences. He doesn’t deal in ahi tuna or Kobe beef anymore. He haggles with food proprietors on the cost of odd-shaped chicken breasts. $1.34 a pound? I’ll give you 60 cents.

Good quality food is a must, he says, “but I have to get it cheap.” And nothing is wasted. Today’s leftover braised corn is tomorrow’s corn chowder. Every meal starts with salad or soup, a healthy portion of protein, a starch, a vegetable, a dessert and a piece of fruit. That same gourmet style he developed when working in exclusive restaurants is reflected here.

“I approach this the same way I did everything else — I come in and do the best with what I have,” Astl says. “Only I know this is the only meal of the day for these guests.”

While the chef is working his magic in the kitchen, Sister Maureen is making the rounds in the waiting lines and at the tables. Some of the faces are familiar; once a week, she’s at the jail, counseling and ministering to those who ran afoul of the law. She has a special fondness for the men, and often offers herself as a dance partner in the middle of the dining room.

“Stay with God,” she whispers to a bearded man, sitting forlornly against the fence while waiting for the cafe to open. “He won’t abandon you. Don’t give up. He’s here.”

For 40 years, Sister Maureen worked in education as a teacher and administrator. She says this is just another extension of what she has done since entering religious life at age 17.

“St. Francis taught us about living out the gospel and serving the poor,” she says. “But truth is, I don’t minister to them. I minister with them. I firmly believe there are such good people who have had bad opportunities. They show me the way to God as much as I try to show them.”

She acknowledges her advanced age, but quickly dismisses any notion of retirement. “Nuns don’t retire,” she says with a laugh. “We just get recycled. As long as God gives you the health, you keep on moving.”

Yes, Astl and Sister Maureen admit, their personalities are different. He’s all business, quite serious about the balance between pinching pennies and providing a substantive meal. She’s quick to crack jokes and wrap her arms around a lost soul who needs a human’s touch. Both agree that those differences don’t matter. The bond they share — their compassion for the poor — trumps everything.

“She is marvelous,” Astl says with admiration. “Just marvelous how she connects with everyone.”

“And he is a God-centered man,” Sister Maureen says. “Though he doesn’t think he is, I know it’s true.”

 

 

Change November 16, 2011

Filed under: Christianity,healing,inspiration,Leadership,peace,Vocation — Karen Shafer @ 8:02 pm

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

 

Change

Change — even change for the better — is often approached with apprehension.  “In giving up something,” people think, “will I be left with nothing?”  It takes courage to renounce the known for the unknown.  It is not easy even to renounce a famliar pain for an unknown, and therefore uncertain, happiness.  The mind is like a horse that for years has pulled its delivery wagon.  The horse grows accustomed to its daily route, and cannot be convinced easily to walk a new one.  The mind, too, will not lightly abandon its old habits, even when it knows they cause only misery.

 

Beneficial changes should be embraced with courage.  As long as one’s hope for better things are opposed by fear of their attainment, the mind can never be at peace.  Accept change, therefore, as life’s only constant.  Our lives are an endless procession of gains and losses, of joys and sorrows, of hopes and disappointments.  At one moment we find ourselves threatened by the storms of trials;  moments later, a silver lining brightens the gray clouds;  then, suddenly, the skies are blue again.

 

                                  ~~ Paramahansa Yogananda, The Wisdom of Yogananda, Volume 5

 

 

What a Night! December 4, 2009

Friday, December 4, 2009


Dallas International Street Church Celebrates It’s Twelfth Anniversary


Last evening, the Dallas International Street Church and Ministries celebrated it’s Twelfth Anniversary, and the event at the church at 2706 Second Avenue was great fun, quite moving and extremely inspiring.  Founder and Senior Pastor Karen Dudley got the ‘call’ twelve years ago to minister to her sisters and brothers who are living on the street — truly out of options — and she has, from then to now, answered that call with a love, persistence and dedication few could emulate.

The music, as always at the DISC, was of the ‘make-you-wanna-get-up,-dance-and-shout-hallelujah’ variety.  You can’t not clap and sing along, and, if you’re not careful, you’ll soon find yourself on your feet, even if it is a formal do, like last night.  My favorite entertainment was the Praise Dance, reminiscent of Martha Graham done with great reverence.

Needless to say, the most moving part of the night was the series of stories and testimonies from the church Discipleship relating how Pastor Karen’s love and faith have helped them to relinquish the darkness in which they were living and to begin walking a clean, clear path of faith and action in Christ.  The stories are stunning.  One of the women began her testimony with the words:  “My background is in prostitution and crack addiction.”  When she described how Pastor Karen once walked into a local drug house to get her and said, “You’re coming with me,” I doubt there was a dry eye in the room.

City Councilperson Carolyn Davis attended the party, and she seemed moved by what she learned of the Street Ministry.  In her speech, she said, “When I’ve driven by this building in the past, I’ve had no idea of all that was going on here.  I’m committed to helping you in any way I can.  This is what church should be:  helping the poor and needy among us.”

I don’t know how Pastor Karen does it, but she seems to go forward on the rocky and extremely challenging path she’s chosen with a humility and lack of ego that are rare in the nonprofit world.  But, if you ask her, she’ll brush aside the question with the quick answer, “It’s not me doing it.”

The event was organized by Pastor Karen, the church Discipleship, and church Business Manager Judith Sturrock, and they all did a superb job.  We had delicious barbecue dinner and a wonderful time, and, as always when I show up at the DISC, I took away with me a peace and a joy which pass all understanding.

KS

www.kdministries.org

To read about a recent experience Dr. Janet Morrison (Central Dallas Ministries Director of Education) had at the Dallas International Street Church, click here:

http://janetmorrison.blogspot.com/2009/11/whats-in-your-community.html

Praise Dance at DISC 12th Anniversary Party

 

Living Proof November 21, 2009

Saturday, November 21, 2009


Living Proof


As you may know, the stereotype of the adult Trust Baby who lives on the street by choice because he or she doesn’t want to obey society’s rules is, if not a downright myth, then at least a rare exception among those experiencing street-dwelling homelessness, particularly on a long-term basis.  At a Homeless Advocacy Meeting I attended this week at The Stewpot, as I looked around the room, I asked myself, as I often do:  “What is the profile of a person who is homeless?”  My answer, after years of pondering the question, is that there is no profile.  As with the ‘housed,’ each person’s story is unique.  However, I have observed that a history of family poverty and an interruption in the process of formal education seem to be a common themes among many individuals experiencing so-called ‘chronic’ homelessness that I’ve come to know over the past six years.

 

So, when I hear someone offering solutions to problems of poverty, disease and a lack of education on a global scale, and offering them in a clear-headed and practical way, I tend to listen.  That happened last week when I caught an interview with Melinda Gates on the Charlie Rose Show on PBS (KERA.)

 

It was later than I like to be awake, but I couldn’t quit watching and was riveted to the interchange within the first couple of minutes, because I saw in Melinda a passion and conviction which I’ve come to recognize in those who are committed to positive action on a deep level.  A statement she made — “That mother in Africa whose child is dying of malaria cares just as much about her child as I care about mine” — shows me:  she’s been ‘on the ground,’ engaged in frequent and genuine contact with people who are suffering.   For her, it’s no longer ‘us and them.’

 

What struck me first of all was her manner.  When asked a question, one could tell she had so much information to give in reply that she had to hold back some of it in order to respond to the question within the timeframe allotted.  That kind of interest and accumulation — not to mention synthesis — of data, comes only from a deep and impassioned curiosity.

 

A few things stood out from the interview.

~~ She said that the money she and Bill have put into the The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (many billions) was a drop in the bucket towards solving the problems they address.  In particular, she mentioned the goal of the complete eradication of certain diseases from the planet — malaria, polio, smallpox, HIV-AIDS — and the improvement of public education.  It was Warren Buffet’s donation of tens of billions more that allowed the Foundation to ‘go much deeper’, in her words, in addressing these problems.

~~ She could answer the hard questions, but never in a contentious and divisive way.  When asked about the diversion of aid funds by corrupt governments in the developing world, she answered, with practicality but without blame, that she and Bill had learned that the work was best and most successfully carried out in certain countries where they could work well with accountable governments  — in other words, tried and true solutions based on experience.

~~ The solutions to large, global problems lie, not in one segment of society alone, but rather only in partnerships between private philanthropy, government funding and cooperation, and faith-based organizations.  That’s why, when I hear opinions put forth with monolithic solutions — and most often government participation as an evil is mentioned —  I realize that these comments are based in ideology rather than in reality.  The massive problems of hunger, homelessness, poverty, and global disease are indeed only amenable to large-scale partnering.

~~ The Gates Foundation sticks with it.  They’ve been working on public education for a decade and are just now coming up with really workable answers to the question of what can make it succeed.  At first they tried organizing smaller communities within the larger ones so that troubled kids could feel a sense of connection, but what they’ve learned over time is that the really important variable is — guess what?  the particular adult individual teacher within the classroom.  (How does that make you feel about the Dallas Independent School District laying off experienced, gifted teacher during its budget problems?)  So now, they are trying to quantify exactly what are the characteristics of successful teachers, so that those can be taught and mentored to others.  They are doing this through transparency in teaching methods and outcomes in pilot programs a couple of states — so that success can be shared, passed along, and hopefully instituted across the country.

~~ Something I observed in her manner was a presence of deep caring coupled with a lack of sentimentality.  It may sound strange, but, as I’ve learned myself — sometimes the hard way — sentimentality about an issue can sometimes cloud its reality, and I believe its takes away from the dignity of those experiencing the problem.  There is a fine line between these two, shall we call them ‘values?’ — compassion and sentimentality.  But it’s probably an important line to learn to identify, in order to keep ourselves from enabling on the one hand and becoming cynical on the other.

 

Regardless of our situations, we are all human beings made of the same flesh and blood as well as emotional and spiritual components, and we are in this together.  Not only is ‘right action’ a moral imperative, it is the correct practical option to try and solve these problems that plague our world.

 

KS

 

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation:  All Lives Have Equal Value

http://www.gatesfoundation.org/Pages/home.aspx

The Living Proof Project

http://www.gatesfoundation.org/livingproofproject/Pages/video-gallery.aspx#video=/livingproofproject/Pages/kangaroo-mother-care-malawi.aspx&pager=0

 

Overwhelming Need November 14, 2009

 

Saturday, November 14, 2009

With winter upon us, it’s a good time to reflect upon the extremes of need that will exist this year for those who are not yet housed and are living on the street.  I found this entry in my journal from the end of last summer, when I still volunteered at the Second Chance Cafe, run by The Stewpot at the Bridge, and thought I would share it.  KS


Journal Archives, Friday, August 16, 2008


Overwhelming Need


Sometimes the amount of need among people who are experiencing homeless in Dallas — even with the welcome advent of the Bridge, our new homeless assistance center — seems overwhelming.  This was one of those nights.  The enormity of the problems of the people involved, the monumental scope of the pain in their lives, the scarcity of readily available solutions, such as adequate housing:  these things were at the forefront of my mind tonight as I left the Second Chance Cafe at the Bridge after helping to serve dinner to somewhere between seven hundred and eight hundred people.

 

Of course, this evening’s bright spot was, as it always is, looking into the eyes of people as they came through the food line.  Always, but even more so tonight, the eyes of the guests meeting mine as they came through the line — almost without exception — were full of light, respect and dignity, longing for acceptance,  willingness to respond with love to the smallest kindness — so much more so than I would ever be able to be in their circumstances.  They almost always say ‘Very Blessed,’ or at the least ‘Can’t complain,’ when asked how they are doing.  The other great blessings are the other volunteers, who show up every week, and the Stewpot staff, which shows up every day.

 

I find that if I just hand somebody a plate in the food line at the Bridge, they may be looking down, preoccupied or frowning, and go on their way with a ‘thank you,’ but without ever looking up.  If I greet them or ask how they are doing, their whole face, their whole being changes — they become radiant.  If I say their name, they become a friend.  And that is no different than you or me.  It’s just that the desperate nature of their circumstances keeps it real:  they know how much it means to have a friend, and what it means not to have any.

 

Why is it that sometimes, like tonight, I look at homeless individuals and the scope of homelessness in Dallas and feel weighed down by the challenges?  Is it seeing people as their ‘diagnosis’ or label rather than seeing them just as the people they are, in the here and now?  Maybe. 

 

I usually see the beauty when I go to the Bridge.  Tonight I could only see how far there is to go.  It was one of those rare times when I say to myself, “How do those who deal with this face to face every single day — for example, the Stewpot staff or the caseworkers and management at the Bridge — how do they do it all the time without losing hope or becoming jaded?”  Granted, I think, write or talk about homelessness in Dallas every day, but I go to the Bridge only a couple of times a month.

 

Perhaps it’s a ‘fix-it’ mentality that one can get into, although trying to ‘fix it’ is a necessary component of approaching the problem as a whole.  Sometimes, though, until we can figure out what we need to ‘do,’ maybe it has to be enough just to go to where the pain is and ‘be with’ it.  It seems that there is tremendous grace in that.  In face, maybe, while action is necessary, being present for someone is the most important part of taking action anyway.

 

Granted, it may not be enough to ‘hang out’ with people who are experiencing homelessness.  But being with them, talking with them, sharing their concerns — one human to another — is one of the most essential parts of what we do, just as it is with our families.

 

KS

 

Mutuality of Ministry November 3, 2009

Filed under: Christianity,healing,Henri Nouwen,inspiration,Leadership,peace,Vocation — Karen Shafer @ 10:52 pm

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Mutuality of Ministry

 

“I am the good shepherd.  I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for my sheep.”  ~~ John 10: 14-15


“…the same Lord who binds us together in love will also reveal himself to us and others as we walk together on the road.”  ~~ Henri Nouwen

 

I read the following passages recently and felt they challenged, in important ways, certain commonly-held cultural assumptions about ‘helping’ and ‘serving others’.  What do you think?  KS

 

“Ministry is not only a communal experience, it is also a mutual experience…  [Jesus] wants Peter to feed his sheep and care for them, not as ‘professionals’ who know their clients’ problems and take care of them, but as vulnerable brothers and sisters who know and are known, who care and are cared for, who forgive and are being forgiven, who love and are being loved.

 

Somehow we have come to believe that good leadership requires a safe distance from those we are called to lead…  Someone serves, someone else is being served, and be sure not to mix up the roles!  But how can we lay down our life for those with whom we are not even allowed to enter into a deep personal relationship?

 

We are not the healers, we are not the reconcilers, we are not the givers of life.  We are sinful, broken vulnerable people who need as much care as anyone we care for.  The mystery of ministry is that we have been chosen to make our own limited and very conditional love the gateway for the unlimited and unconditional love of God.

 

Therefore, true ministry must be mutual.  When the members of a community of faith cannot truly know and love their shepherd, shepherding quickly becomes a subtle way of exercising power over others and begins to show authoritarian and dictatorial traits.  The world in which we live — a world of efficiency and control — has no models to offer to those who want to be shepherds in the way Jesus was a shepherd.  Even the so-called ‘helping professions’ have been so thoroughly secularized that mutuality can only be seen as a weakness and a dangerous form of role confusion.  The leadership about which Jesus speaks is of a radically different kind from the leadership offered by the world.  It is a servant leadership*… in which the leader is a vulnerable servant who needs the people as much as they need their leader… a leadership that is not modeled on the power games of the world, but on the servant-leader Jesus, who came to give his life for the salvation of many.”

 

                               ~~ Henri Nouwen, In the Name of Jesus, Reflections on Christian Leadership

 

*Robert K. Greenleaf, Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness.


 

A Night To Remember: Steve Martin and CDM October 28, 2009

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


A Night to Remember:  Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers

An Evening of Bluegrass and Banjo Benefitting Central Dallas Ministries


One of my daughters and I attended the above concert at the Meyerson Symphony Center last evening, and we had a great time.  The hall was sold out, and the concert was not only fun, the music was terrific.  Of course, Steve Martin told his share of funny jokes and played a masterful banjo, and the Steep Canyon Rangers are excellent musicians and vocalists.  A fine concert supporting an extremely worthy organization.

 

After the concert, my daughter and I were talking to the fiddle player, and I was telling him that Bluegrass music is close to my heart, since I’m from Tennessee.  “Eastern Tennessee?” he asked.  “Oh, yeh!” I said.  “Our band lives in Asheville,” he told us.  We high-fived.  “You know,” he said, “East Tennessee and Western North Carolina are a separate state unto themselves.”  “Yes,” I said, “no more beautiful place on earth.”  “Absolutely,” he replied, “a well-kept secret.”  A band after my own heart.

KS

 

Starlight October 19, 2009

Filed under: Christianity,healing,hunger,inspiration,Leadership,peace,Vocation — Karen Shafer @ 7:59 pm

Monday, October 19, 2009

 

Starlight

 

“So do not fear,  for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”  ~~ Isaiah 41:10 


“Pain is inevitable, misery is optional.”  ~~ Mary Shafer

 

The Shafer clan lost a radiant light when Mary Shafer died this past Wednesday in my hometown of Knoxville, after a 14-year battle with recurrent breast cancer.  A book could be written about her accomplishments, but I like thinking back to when I first met her.

 

I was going through Freshman Sorority Rush at the University of Tennessee, and, when I walked into the Phi Mu room at the Panhellenic Building, Mary, then the sorority’s president, met me at the door.  She took a look at my name tag, and her eyes opened widely.  She put her hand on my arm.  “Are you related to Bo Shafer?”  she said, her face alight with what I took to be hope.

 

As I answered Mary politely, “Yes, he’s my cousin,” and she, becoming even more animated, said to me, “We’re dating!” my first thought — which I obviously kept to myself — was, “Uh-oh, I can see that this poor girl is already in over her head.”  My second:  “Please… don’t get your hopes up,” which, fortunately, I also didn’t share, and next, “Ah, well, another one bites the dust.”

 

I don’t mind telling you, her question was one I got often, because, in addition to being tall and handsome, my older male cousin was frequently in the news.  He’d played varsity football for Tennessee and had met Mary when she was cheerleading there, but his philanthropic work and business acumen were what kept him in the public eye.  

 

This cousin of mine was a quintessential illusive bachelor in our town.  How many beautiful women had set their sites, and their hearts, on him?  I’d met a couple of them at family gatherings — rarely did I see them again.  It’s not that Bo was an intentional heartbreaker — it’s that he was looking for the Real Thing.  I realize now that he’d know it when he saw it, and it turned out to be Mary Gwyn, because the next thing I knew, they were married.

 

Bo wasn’t looking for a trophy wife, but rather for a partner in life, and he surely found it in Mary.  He was quoted on KnoxNews.com this week as saying, “I was so old I didn’t think I could fall in love, but I fell head over heels in love with that woman,” he said. “We never had an argument. Her goal in life was to keep a smile on my face, and my goal in life was to keep a smile on her face.”

 

A number of years ago, when Bo was International Kiwanis President, Mary traveled the world with him, even though she was in and out of cancer treatment at the time.  I could never figure out how she had the stamina to keep up the fierce pace of their commitments, and she never, ever complained.  Instead, she called her battle with cancer ‘an adventure.’  A devout Christian and active member of Second Presbyterian Church, her faith never seemed to waiver.

 

It was Bo who told me throughout my life:  “As middle-class Americans, we are in the top 2% of fortunate people living in the world.  For most of humanity, life is entirely different and much, much harder.  We are extremely spoiled.  It is our privilege and our obligation to give back.”  In Mary, he found someone who lived this philosophy at his side, day in and day out.

 

Bo said that, during the year of his Kiwanis presidency, he and Mary lunched with the King and Queen of Thailand and spent time in the most poverty-ridden villages in Africa.  It surprised no one that Mary was equally at home in either place.

 

During one of my family’s trips to Knoxville in recent years, each time we were with Mary, I knew I was in the presence of someone who was truly living the moments of her life to the fullest, cherishing her family and her life’s work.  The phrase ‘Seize the day’ describes her way of being in the world.  She was the kindest, the friendliest, the most caring individual one could ever meet, with an incisive intelligence.  She was also incredibly fun-loving.  As close as she and Bo were, her description of their recent wine-tour of France, with her imbibing a glass with every course, and Bo being a teetotaler, was hilarious.

 

At their house on the lake, where they spent every weekend, they have a tire swing in the living room.  Not too many women would think that went with their decor!

 

Mary and Bo sent out yearly Groundhog’s Day cards, which were always upbeat and inspiring.  In recent years, their greetings contained business cards for an organization called water.org., as Mary had developed a passion for finding solutions to the problem of clean water scarcity in developing nations.  Together, they built wells in Ethiopia and Guatemala.

 

The message of this year’s card was that life is so precious, we should never complain about small things.  She truly and fully took her own advice.  I am in awe of the life she lived and the legacy she leaves us all.  

 

Looking back to that week of Freshman Rush when I first met Mary, I recall that at the end of the week, Phi Mu did a pageant in which she played the lead.  The title of the presentation was “Starlight.”  All these years later, it fits more than ever.

 

KS

 

http://water.org/

http://www.knoxnews.com/news/2009/oct/15/local-philanthropist-mary-shafer-dies-at-64/

http://www.knoxnews.com/news/2009/mar/29/shafers-honored-for-their-service-to-others/

http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/knoxnews/obituary.aspx?n=mary-gwyn-shafer&pid=134419134

 

 

 

Available On a Street Corner Near You! October 1, 2009

Thursday, October 1, 2009

 

Available On a Street Corner Near You!

 

Today the October, 2009, issue of StreetZine was put into the hands of licensed street vendors downtown and around the city.  As usual, StreetZine is chock-full of fascinating articles and tidbits, and this month you will also find an important article by Pat Spradley, Editor, on the pending court case against the City of Dallas, defending the rights of groups who wish to feed people on the streets of downtown who are hungry and homeless.  [http://thestewpot.org/streetzine.asp]

 

There is also a recent interview I did with The Gardeners from the Dallas International Street Church ministry’s The Garden: South Dallas, Texas.  In it, you will get to know some of them personally and see what gardening organically has come to mean to their lives.  Included are lovely pictures by Mandy Mulliez of a few of The Gardeners and of the Fall Garden at the DISC.

 

Special kudos and big appreciation to Pastor Karen Dudley, Founder and Senior Pastor of the DISC, not only for her soon-to-be twelve years of dedication and commitment to helping people salvage their lives from the ravages of street living, but also for continuing to pay the water bill on The Garden throughout this long hot summer, when it appeared as if the total yield was going to be somewhere around a single cherry tomato and ten green beans!  [www.kdministries.org]

 

Here are some quotes from the interview:

 

ks:  Noting that many of the people in the Dallas International Street Church have experienced homelessness in the past, do you think that having a Garden has any special meaning for people that have been or are homeless?  Does having experienced homelessness give people a special appreciation for having a place to grow their own food?

Luis:  Yes.  Do you remember the first time we planted and we used those community service men and women from the City of Dallas community court program?  You know, last week, two of the guys who did community service came back just to see the beds they had helped build!

ks:  How did that happen?

Luis:  They just came!  I was out at The Garden in the morning, and I saw them, and one of them said, “I just came to see my garden bed,” and I said, “Cool!  Come on!”  He was surprised, he said “Wow!  This is OURS?”  I said, ‘Yea, look!’  It was great.  

He was telling me about when he was in jail and stuff like that and when he got out, and The Stewpot brought them over here to do their community service.  And he was really surprised at how The Garden grew.  He said, “I didn’t think it was going to grow!”  And I said, “Yea, but look at it now!”  I mean, it’s our pride and joy.

ks:  What keeps you motivated to continue working in The Garden?

Raymond:  Getting the fruit from the plants!  Getting the tomatoes…

Luis: Yea, that stuff.  [Pause]  The best and the most important thing is to be WANTED, to be needed by something that — it grows.  Cause it’s not just the plants that are growing, but US, TOO.

 

I hope you’ll pick up a copy of the October StreetZine from a licensed street vendor (or at The Stewpot, 408 Park Avenue, Dallas, TX 75201) and see the beautiful  garden pictures, as well as the expanded interview.  Selling StreetZine provides a sustainable living for many of these men and women and is helping them get off the street and regain their independence.


Karen Shafer

 

For Mandy Mulliez’ slideshow of The Garden, see:

http://www.kodakgallery.com/ShareLanding.action?c=1bf3gjjt.36pvmvjl&x=0&y=-4ezj3m&localeid=en_US


For background on The Garden: South Dallas, see:

https://theintermittentvolunteer.wordpress.com/2009/04/17/the-garden-south-dallas-texas/

https://theintermittentvolunteer.wordpress.com/2009/05/02/the-garden-raising-day-may-2-2009/

https://theintermittentvolunteer.wordpress.com/2009/05/15/the-garden-is-growing-2/


 

Drawing Apart September 23, 2009

Filed under: Christianity,healing,inspiration,peace,Vocation — Karen Shafer @ 6:28 pm

Wednesday, September 17, 2009

 

Drawing Apart

 

‘And after the fire a sound of sheer silence.’  I Kings 19: 9-18

 

“This verse is often taken (not inappropriately) to suggest that we draw apart from the noisy bustle of the world to listen for the voice of the Lord…

 

But drawing apart from the world is not enough if we take the noise of the world with us, ‘that inner dialog with self that is a jumble of frivolous thoughts, worrisome cares, and negative feelings,’ as Thomas Merton put it. You don’t put all that behind merely by going off to a quite place — unless you intentionally let go of it, and that is not easily done.  It takes practice.

 

When you hose a concrete floor pools of water collect in the low places.  You sweep the floor, but the water returns to the low places.  You sweep again.  And Again.  Finally, perhaps the fiftieth time you sweep the water away, it has evaporated and does not return.  So it is with the cares of the world.  Let them go.  Let them go again.  And again.  Eventually, they will not return.  Then you can listen for the voice of the Lord.”

 

                                                                                   ~~ Forward Day by Day, August, 2008

 

The Soloist: Friendship and Freedom of Choice August 16, 2009

Sunday, August 16, 2009

 

The Soloist:  Friendship and Freedom of Choice

 

“Let your good deeds be like drops of water into the ocean, which then disappear.” 

 

If you have not seen The Soloist, I hope you will.  A friend who has worked among people on the street for over a decade highly recommended it, saying it changed her view of things.  “I’ve been trying to make them like me,” she told me, “but that’s wrong.”

 

I’ve just watched it, and it utterly reinforced one of the most challenging conclusions I’ve come to in knowing and caring about some of the people who are ‘chronically homeless’ in Dallas over the last six years:  one cannot have an ‘agenda’ for people who are experiencing homelessness.  And not having an agenda — yet still knowing them, loving them, being somewhat involved in their lives and trying to be of assistance to them in resolving critical, and sometimes urgent, issues in their lives — that is a very fine line to walk.

 

This past week, someone that I know, care about, and stay in touch with who lives outdoors under a bridge — we’ll call her Mary — became seriously ill.  I’ve become increasingly close friends with this woman and her husband this year and see them from time to time.  She didn’t call me until last Monday night, when the critical part of her illness, which had lasted several days, had passed.  Fortunately, they’d had the money for a motel room for three nights when she was sickest — wracked with pain, drenched in sweat, up all night trying to get her fever down with Tylenol with cold baths.  “We thought I was going to die Saturday night,” she confessed.  “We were really scared.”

 

By the time she phoned me Monday, she had improved but was still in a considerable pain, and they were back in their outdoor camp.  She thought she could make it through the upcoming night, but asked if I would be available to take her to the emergency room the next day if the pain became intolerable again, because her husband had to work, and, of course, they have no transport, their lone bicycle having been stolen a few months back shortly after they acquired it.  I said I would.  I offered them money for a motel room that night, but they declined.

 

The next morning, I got busy trying to find out what emergency medical services are available for homeless individuals besides the ER — information I felt I should have known but didn’t.  I called and e-mailed friends who are staff members at The Stewpot and an acquaintance who’s a caseworker at The Bridge and learned the following: 

~~ Parkland Hospital has a mobile medical unit (‘HOMES: Homeless Outreach Medical Services) which is at The Stewpot on Wednesdays and every other Monday.

~~ Parkland also runs a medical clinic at The Bridge each weekday.

~~ The Stewpot has a medical clinic in-house on Fridays.

~~ If one calls the City’s Crisis Intervention Team, there’s now a streamlined procedure set up to process a person with the medical emergency at The Bridge quickly, short-circuiting any expected wait in line which might occur.  But this would only be an option, for me at least, if the friend who is homeless agreed to it, and they are often unwilling to involve city government in their situation for fear of being ticketed.

 

When I was unable to get in touch with Mary by phone all that day, I drove to their camp in the late afternoon, armed with cranberry juice for a kidney infection she thought she had, a bag of ice to combat the heat, and dog biscuits for their dog.  I was shocked at how much thinner she’d become, noticeable just in the few weeks since I’d last seen her.  She’d never had cranberry juice before, but loved it, and we made plans to go together the next morning to the Parkland Mobile Unit at The Stewpot.  This time when I offered to loan her and her husband the money for a night out of the heat in the motel, she accepted.

 

The next morning when I drove up to the camp, she came walking down to the car and got in.  I handed her the breakfast I’d brought her to eat on the way and another bottle of cranberry juice, but now, suddenly, she was hedging about going to the Parkland Mobile Medical Unit.  She was really feeling OK and was no longer in pain, she said, and she looked better.  But I urged her to let me take her to the clinic anyway.  I knew that she has only one kidney with functions fully, and I so much wanted her to avoid another crisis.  As we sat in the air conditioning of the car and the morning outside heated up, I tried again to persuade her to go see the doctor.  I knew she’d be back out in that August Texas heat all day, barely recovered from her illness.  “Shouldn’t we just get you checked out, get you in the system for Parkland?  Then, if you have another crisis or if you need medicine for your kidneys, that will speed the process up for you when you go in.”  But she didn’t want to go — it was as simple as that.  I could see that she was grateful for my help but that she wanted me to support her decision.

 

And then…  there was a moment…  believe it or not, that I almost drove away with her in the car.  I had been worried about her, on edge for two days;  I had put things on hold to help her deal with her medical crisis;  I’d canceled other plans I’d had for that morning in order to drive her downtown.  I.  I.  I.  

 

I argued with myself silently, and the inner monologue was pretty simple, going something like this:  “Are you insane?  This is a grown woman with children and grandchildren!  OF COURSE YOU MAY NOT take her to the medical van at The Stewpot if she doesn’t want to go.”  End of monologue.  I hugged her goodbye, and, bag of breakfast and cranberry juice in hand, she climbed the hill back up to their camp.

 

I know better than that ‘friend-napping’ impulse implies, and it surprised me about myself.  It was my choice to try to help Mary when she was ill.  It was her choice, then, to say, “I’m OK now.”  Would I have had the same impulse with a friend who is housed and lives in the suburbs to drive away with him or her in the car?

 

We cannot have an agenda for those people to whom we want to offer assistance.  Suddenly, in that moment in the car when I had a momentary impulse to drive Mary to the Parkland Mobile Unit to get the medical care I thought she needed, I seem to have flown into maternal — or maternalistic — mode.  I remind myself that the life Mary is living requires strengths, skills, nerve and wisdom which I myself don’t possess.

 

There are very to-the-point discussions in The Soloist about just this sort of issue.  Steve Lopez (Robert Downey, Jr.) tries to get a shelter director to force homeless cellist Nathaniel Ayers (Jamie Foxx) into psychiatric care, medication and housing.

 

Lopez:  “I want you to help him, because he’s sick and he needs medication and you have a team of doctors here.  Tell him to sit down with them.  Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do?”

Shelter Director:  “Nathaniel’s made it quite clear he’s not ready to speak to a psychiatrist.”

“Force him…”

“That’s not what we do here…   Look, even if I did want to coerce Nathaniel into psychiatry… which I don’t, I couldn’t force him to take medication.  The law’s the law.  Unless he’s an imminent danger to himself or someone else…”


Later, Lopez’s ex-wife wisely tells him, “You’re never gonna’ cure Nathaniel.  Just be his friend and show up.”

 

I think The Soloist gets it very right.  We can’t fix people, nor is it our job to do so.  We can love them and do our best to offer them opportunities that we hope will make their lives better — if we so choose.  And they, as sacred human beings in their own right, have every right to accept or decline our offers of assistance.

 

And then there’s this optimistic bit of science at the movie’s end which one may view as a form of Grace, when Steve Lopez says of his friendship with Nathaniel Ayers:  


“There are people who tell me I’ve helped him — mental health experts who say that the simple act of being someone’s friend can change his brain chemistry, improve his functioning in the world.  I can’t speak for Mr. Ayers in that regard.  Maybe our friendship has helped him, but maybe not.  I can however speak for myself.  I can tell you that by witnessing Mr. Ayers’ courage, his humility, his faith in the power of his art, I’ve learned the dignity of being loyal to something you believe in, holding onto it, and, above all else, of believing, without question, that it will carry you home.”

 

Karen Shafer


 

 

‘The Cost of Poverty’: Janet Morrison June 14, 2009

Sunday, June 14, 2009

 

Janet Morrison on ‘The Cost of Poverty’

 

For those who have not come across Janet Morrison’s Community Dialogue blog, I find it a ‘not- to-be-missed’ voice with an eloquence and comprehension of the realities of the inner city and poverty that is rarely heard.

 

http://janetmorrison.blogspot.com/2009/06/cost-of-poverty.html

 

Today’s post in particular touched me, because it explains so well the cycle of the emotional cost of poverty on children and on families.  There’s much here I had never put together — it’s well worth a read.  Thank you, Janet, for your extraordinary heart and commitment.

 

KS

 

Dallas International Street Church Gospel Choir April 26, 2009

 

Sunday, April 26, 2009

 

Dallas International Street Church Gospel Choir

 

My friends Sandy and Oliver have given me, over the last 5-1/2 years, literally carloads of clothing, blankets, shoes, and toiletries that I’ve given away to our friends who live on the street and under the bridges in Dallas. They are the most ongoing and prolific donors imaginable for people experiencing homelessness in our city. Oliver, a chef, works many Saturday nights, so Sandy and I go out to dinner then from time to time, and last night was one of those times.

 

When Sandy and I met to go to dinner last evening, she’d brought with her a clothing donation (no surprise) for the Glory Thrift Store at 2704 Second Avenue (75210), the thrift shop of the Dallas International Street Church. “Let’s go down to the Thrift Store right now,” I told her, “and I’ll show you the site for The Garden: South Dallas, Texas, which is nearby!”  She was game.  

[https://theintermittentvolunteer.wordpress.com/2009/04/17/the-garden-south-dallas-texas/]

 

We arrived at the Street Church, and two men I know from Pastor Karen Dudley’s discipleship were standing out front. I’d forgotten about their live televised church service every Saturday at 7:30 P.M., which I’d attended several weeks ago and really enjoyed.  “We missed the bus to the TV show by two minutes,” the guys told me.  “We’ll drive you!” I told them, and we headed over to the Access 34 Television studio.

[http://www.gospelondemand.tv/]

 

Inside the tv studio, we said hi to everyone, and, before the broadcast, Pastor Karen got all of us started singing — the choir, the audience — “When the Saints Go Marching In”.  Every time I’m in the presence of the DISC Gospel Choir, I can’t help singing, clapping, practically shouting along with their joy-filled sound, and last night was no exception.  By the time the broadcast started, everyone in the studio was swept up in the Love and the Spirit carried around the room by the choir’s beautiful voices and the sense of celebration in each face.  By the time they’d stopped singing, they had, as usual, brought me to tears.

 

Next time WFAA Channel 8 has its Gospel Choir Competition, we could all write in and support them in being part of it!

 

KS

 

The Garden: South Dallas, Texas April 17, 2009

Thursday, April 16, 2009


“The earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein;…”  ~~ Psalm 24

The Garden:  South Dallas, Texas

 

Gardeners, Mandy in Front


On the morning of April 2, 2009, I blithely put up a blog post here about gardens (“The Magic of Gardens”.)  I quote myself from that article:  ”The idea [of a community garden] is something that’s beyond my purview to [help] organize … right now,” – and I was convinced of that at the time.  However, by the same afternoon, I had received e-mails from staff members of two of the best nonprofit agencies benefitting people who are homeless in the City of Dallas saying that they were interested in being involved.

 

Janet offered the possible involvement of some volunteers.  Pat informed me that Pastor Karen Dudley, Founder and Senior Pastor of the Dallas International Street Church in South Dallas, had been wanting to start a community garden for years, and, most importantly, that she had access to land where it could be done.                                                                                           [http://www.kdministries.org/]


I realized that perhaps…  a community garden with and for Pastor Karen’s congregation and neighborhood and the street people of Dallas and was an idea whose time may have come.

 

Pastor Karen is a friend and someone I deeply admire (see “Miracle on Second Avenue”), and by the next afternoon, she and I were in the meadow adjacent to her church property, looking at a possible garden site.  A week later, several people met at the Street Church to discuss what was involved in undertaking such a project.  By the end of the meeting, these generous women, including Pastor Karen, had taken out their checkbooks and given us a significant start on a “Seed Money Fund.”  

 

Driving home, I phoned my church, The Episcopal Church of the Incarnation, and asked Outreach Director, Martha Lang, whether they might be willing to contribute to our community garden’s Seed Money Fund.  I sent her a proposal that night and received a reply that she thought they could help.  Miracle of miracles, it is two weeks to the day since “The Magic of Gardens” was written, and… The Garden: South Dallas, Texas (so dubbed by Pastor Karen) seems to be coming to life.

 

Generosity of Friends


 

~~  Our Seed Money Fund is up to $550.00, raised from the Garden Committee and Church of the Incarnation.  $300 of this money will go to purchase organic soil from a Dallas company;  the rest will go for concrete blocks to construct the four raised beds for the first phase of The Garden.  (The soil on the land is not tillable.)

~~  We are incredibly blessed to have a work force of homeless individuals coming for a Garden-Raising Day (remember old-time barn raisings?) the first week in May to clean up the land and construct the beds.  This has been arranged by The Stewpot of First Presbyterian Church in Dallas, and the group will work alongside Pastor Karen’s congregation (most of whom have also come from the streets of Dallas).  Our nonprofit friends are also providing work gloves and some tools!

~~  The Garden is being planned to be wheelchair accessible:  one of our Garden Committee members, also an experienced gardener, uses a wheelchair, and she will advise us.  Many individuals experiencing homelessness, whom we hope will come and work with us, use one as well.

~~  We have received invaluable input, research, information, donation of materials and enthusiastic support both from our Garden Committee members and from friends.  All of this is much appreciated.

 

What Do We Need?


 

~~  To increase our Seed Money Fund in order to buy hoses to reach The Garden and soaker hoses for the beds to save water, to put a second level of concrete blocks on a few of our beds to make them higher for those in wheelchairs, to afford to construct additional raised beds beyond the four that our budget allows for now

NO DONATION IS TOO SMALL (unless you want change for a penny!)

~~  Donation of new or used fencing to enclose The Garden in stages to ward off theft or vandalism

~~  Donations of healthy plants or seeds from other gardeners (we’d love to try some heirloom seeds)

~~  Gardening tools of all kinds, garden carts or wheelbarrows for transporting soil and plant materials, or anything else you can think of!

 

Who Is the ‘Community’ in ‘Community Garden’?


‘Who Is the Community’ in the ‘Community Garden’ called The Garden: South Dallas, Texas?  It is Pastor Karen’s church congregation and the friends and neighbors who live around the church (a neighborhood which would benefit greatly from fresh produce, as there are few supermarkets nearby), but also the true and full sense of community for The Garden: South Dallas, Texas, extends beyond geographical borders to include the entire homeless community of Dallas.  One may not typically think of people spread across the city in different geographical locations as such, but a community it is – 

it is a spiritual network of human beings spread across Dallas, the members of which sometimes stay in shelters, sometimes in alleys or behind dumpsters, sometimes under bridges in cardboard homes.


If you wonder whether this is a community, ask a person who is homeless on the streets of downtown whether they know a person who lives under a particular freeway overpass in a cardboard home several miles away. Percentage-wise, I’m guessing they are more likely to know that individual than many of us would be likely to know someone on our own block in the suburbs.

 

Our mission, our vision, our commitment, then, is a little different from that of the typical community garden, and also includes the desire to bring together people from disparate parts of the city with differing backgrounds to help us all come to know each other and to realize:  we are the same — not ‘us and them.’  So come and work with us!


Possibilities for the Future

 

~~  We would like for The Garden to include benches, picnic tables, and walking paths for the enjoyment of  gardeners, congregants, friends, and neighborhood families.  Our dream is that it can become a beautiful and peaceful refuge for the community, with flowers, berries, fruit trees and herbs as well as vegetables.

 

~~  In time, we would love to have a produce stand out front that the gardeners can operate as a small business.  

~~  We hope that a second phase of The Garden can contain raised beds for neighborhood families to rent for a nominal fee and manage on their own, such as is done in the East Dallas Community Garden and others.  Our first four beds will serve the Street Church, the neighborhood, and the homeless community at large across the city.

~~  Perhaps in the future our gardeners can attend Master Classes in gardening at a community college, or go to work for landscaping companies or garden centers.  Thus The Garden could come to help with job skills training.

 

For Now, a Hope for Healing

 

In a time of ’food insecurity’, growing what can sustain you has real power in and of itself.  Along with this, perhaps someone who is in transition in their lives will come to dig or weed or plant in The Garden and remember…  she or he had a garden as a child with their family, and it was a good thing.  A healing reconnection to the past could be made by someone who has been alienated from his or her loved ones.  Perhaps someone will realize, after feeling for a very long time that he or she can do nothing right in society’s eyes or their own… they have a skill, a gift and can make a contribution.  Few things are more powerful than feeling that we matter and that we have something to give.

 

E-Mail:  thegardensouthdallas@earthlink.net

Karen Shafer

 

P.S.  Within 48 hours of writing “The Magic of Gardens”, I received this e-mail from my grandson, Louis, who is six (Cora is his cousin, also six):

“i herd about the homeless garden wen you get started can we help? and is cora helpeng.  love, louis.”

Good news travels fast!!!

 

“…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

 

Link:  Dallas Homeless Network Blog [http://dallashomelessnetwork.blogspot.com/2009/04/garden-for-homeless-community.html]

 

The Magic of Gardens April 2, 2009

 

Thursday, April 2, 2009

 

The Magic of Gardens

(Someone, Please Steal This Idea!)

 

I love to garden in the winter, and in our North Texas climate, that is probably a good thing.  One has to get an early start on the Texas heat, and it’s always tricky striking a balance between getting a jump on the drought and blistering sun with plants that are liable to bolt, and trying to ‘cheat’ our freeze date of March 17 by planting tender things like potatoes early — then remembering to cover them if we get a late freeze.  There was one year when my kids were little — by the first of April, I had a burgeoning garden over which I was blissfully prideful, only to watch a late freeze take it down in mid-April!

 

This year, my son-law-law and grandson beat me to the punch.  They had their onions in by mid-February, and now theirs are way ahead of mine.  Still, by the second week in March, I could see the beginnings in my small vegetable patch of sugar-pod peas, carrots, Swiss chard, onions, tomatoes inter planted with nasturtiums, Italian parsley, radishes and bibb lettuce — all planted with the help of my three grandchildren.  And in the perennial bed, lavender, rosemary, lamb’s ear, echinacea, artemisia and perennial marigold had over-wintered successfully and were leafing out.

 

Then my granddaughter found some potato plants growing out of small pieces of potato skin in the compost pile, and she pulled them out.  One already had teensy baby potatoes growing on the roots, not an eighth of an inch long.  She and I were pretty thrilled with this discovery and stuck the plants into the dirt at the end of the veggie patch.  Four out of five are still going strong!  

 

Today, she and I found a cloves of garlic sprouting in a basket in the kitchen, took them outside and stuck them in the ground.  Later, we were thinning the lettuce plants, and she asked, “Do we take these and put them somewhere else?”  “We can eat them if we want to, since we didn’t have salad for dinner.”  Her eyes widened with tremendous excitement after a lifetime of being told she absolutely could not eat plants she picked up in her nature studies!  We were washing dirt off lettuce sprouts and popping them in our mouths for the next half hour.

 

And what of my rather fatal tendency to research seed catalogs in the dead of winter, make detailed lists, shop for seeds, plan, diagram, plant, and chart a garden fervently in late winter / early spring, set up elaborate systems of hose hookups for watering…  then get busy with other things and skip the rather vital part of actually doing the watering for several days at a time in a climate where three days without water is a death knell to many plants?  Hallelujah!  My grand kids as almost-first-graders are responsible enough now to head straight out to the garden, grab the hose, and give things a good soaking themselves.

 

When my girls were small, Steve, their dad (an expert gardener who puts me in the shade) kept a really marvelous and large organic garden.  We literally had three or four varieties of fresh vegetables for dinner most nights during peak season.  One mild winter day, my daughters and I went out to sit in the garden plot and ‘watch nature.’  All the vegetables from the previous fall had long been harvested and consumed.  Then one of us noticed some carroty-looking sprouts coming out of the ground and pulled them up.  There were several sweet, cold carrots that had managed to winter over!  We wiped the dirt off and ate them on the spot.  My girls are twenty-eight and thirty-one now, and we still talk about that day and how good those carrots tasted.

 

These days, as soon in the afternoon as I get a chance, I head out to the garden.  It is such a tonic.  There is something healing about being there that helps me leave everything behind — something that goes beyond words.  

 

Recently, while I was out there deadheading winter growth off of some perennials, I began to think of the healing effects of being in the garden, ‘watching the lettuce grow,’ and I thought how great it would be for people in homeless shelters to be able to plant and manage a community garden, while they are in the process of transitioning from the street into housing.  My fantasy spun off into all the elements required to grow strong plants:  getting the proper soil balance and consistency, providing the right combination of water and sun to help a particular plant thrive, finding a healthy harmony between management and ‘letting things be’ — just like the right balance of elements for a happy and successful human life.  Gardening seems to be art as well as science.

 

I thought of the sheer magic of sticking a seed into the ground and seeing it transform itself into a flower, herb or vegetable that can be enjoyed for its beauty or brought to the dinner table (or eaten on the spot, like my girls and their carrots, and mine and my granddaughter’s lettuce sprouts!)  I thought of how people in shelter settings could learn to work together — and of how the healing power of being in a garden would facilitate that. 

 

Then I pictured a stall at the Farmer’s Market in downtown, where the good people of Dallas were lined up to support formerly homeless individuals who had grown prize-winning organic produce and were offering it for sale.  All of the things that had gotten them to that point with a garden would be part and parcel of a skill set that could help them toward self-sufficiency in their lives:  cooperation, organization, planning and executing a project, seeing it through to completion, a bit of ‘prayer and magic’ for an auspicious result, and earning some cash off it all to boot.

 

The idea is something that’s beyond my purview to organize and pull off right now.  But I wish someone would steal it and run with it — maybe someone at the Bridge or other shelter facility or non-profit agency downtown.  If it happens, I’ll come and help with the weeding, and I’ll be the first in line at the Farmer’s Market stall, cash in hand!

 

KS

 

With No Conditions March 21, 2009

 

Saturday, March 21, 2009

 

I clipped this out of The Angelus, my church’s newsletter, several years ago.  Knowing it’s Lent now rather than Advent, still it can speak to us poignantly.  KS

 

With No Conditions

 

“The day after Thanksgiving the New York Times told [the story] of a 33-year-old local cab driver…  About five years ago, this cabby ‘prayed to God for guidance on how to help the forgotten people of the streets who exist in life’s shadows.’ As he recalls it, God replied:  ‘Make eight pounds of spaghetti, throw it in a pot, give it out on 103rd Street and Broadway with no conditions, and people will come.’  He did, they came, and now he goes from door to door giving people food to eat.  


I am not asking you to stuff the Big Apple with spaghetti, but a New York cabby can bring light into your Advent night.  He prayed to a God who was there;  he listened;  he gave the simple gift God asked of him;  he gave ‘with no conditions’;  and people responded.  Here is your Advent: 

 

Make the Christ who has become a reality, a living light, in your life and in some other life.  Give of yourself… to one dark soul… with no conditions.”


               ~~Written by Walter J. Burghardt (from The Angelus, Newsletter of Church of the Incarnation [Episcopal])


 

Dallas International Street Church February 12, 2009

Thursday, February 12, 2009

 

Dallas International Street Church

 

Last Saturday, I had the privilege of eating lunch with Pastor Karen Dudley, founder and head pastor of the Dallas International Street Church on Second Avenue in Dallas and some other friends of people who are homeless in Dallas.  The church had just been shut down by the Dallas Fire Department for the second time in two months.

http://www.pegasusnews.com/news/2009/feb/10/dallas-international-street-church-protesting-fire/

http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/news/city/dallas/stories/020509dnmethomeless.201ef9b7.html

 

Previously, in early December, 2008, the Street Church had a number of fire code violations which were corrected.  The church got its ‘green tag’ and reopened at the end of December, which meant by the fire department’s standards, it was up to code at that time.  I visited the church for the first time during that closure, and wrote about the experience on this blog:  

https://theintermittentvolunteer.wordpress.com/2008/12/12/miracle-on-second-avenue/

 

Rumors abound as to the reasons for this closing, so I’ll not add further fuel to that fire here, but rather will stick to what I know, which is this:  no one in town is doing what Pastor Karen is doing.  She is taking in and giving refuge and care to people who literally have no other options.  The population she serves and the neighborhood where she serves them are both extremely vulnerable.  And… she does what she does with unconditional love the equal of which it would be hard to find anywhere in this city.

 

Last Saturday night I also had the pleasure of attending the taping of Pastor Karen’s worship service at Access 34 Television.  It was the second time I’d heard the Dallas International Street Church gospel choir — they are terrific!  I hope they produce a CD soon — I’ll be the first in line to buy it.  I suggested this to the choir director, and he said, “First, we have to get the church reopened.  Then we need a keyboard that doesn’t short out when we’re playing it!”  

 

Anyone have an extra keyboard lying around in the garage you’d like to donate???  If so, I promise you’ll be proud of the choir it backs up!

 

Here’s a message from Pastor Karen’s website:  http://www.kdministries.org/

 

“The time is now. If you can help in any way, please contact me, Pastor Karen Dudley, Dallas International Street Church, 2706 2nd Ave., Dallas, Texas 75210  Phone: 214-928-9595”

 

KS

 

Reggie’s Story October 6, 2008

Monday, October 6, 2008

       Reggie Crawford, with whom I’m privileged to work when I volunteer at The Bridge homeless assistance center,  is one of the most inspiring and compassionate individuals I’ve met in a while.  I appreciate that Reggie and Street Zine have given me permission to reprint his story here.  KS

 

STEP Transformed Plan A & B Into G For Me

By Reggie Crawford

 

Like most people, I just wanted to live a normal life expecting nothing flashy, extravagant or extraordinary. 

 

My life started out very simple; I guess you could call me a military brat. My father was in the military for over thirty years, and my mother taught high school and did most of the kid raising of myself and six siblings. My mom was a very determined and strong woman who I think was my greatest influence because she always believed in me.

 

I went to college majoring in music education and business marketing. Upon graduation I quickly found a job as a music teacher which I hated. I was not mentally prepared for this work and I had no patience which is something you really need when you teach middle school kids. The bad notes were killing me! 

 

I quickly found that I needed another plan so I resorted to plan B, which was to join the military. There have been times in my life when I made some brilliant decisions and this was one of them.  While in college, I was in ROTC and already had a four year commitment. At that time, the Army had a one year delay entry program and I looked forward to and could not wait to enter the military.

 

I loved the Army, as a brand new second lieutenant; I was on my way up. Both of my parents were very proud; I had a new car, new house, lots of new friends, and a new attitude that spelled super arrogant. Some called it cocky, conceited, or even egotistic; but I will call it for what it really was, bone head.  In my mind, I really thought I was an icon, my family thought I was crazy, which was not far from the truth. 

 

My drive helped me get promotions and medals but after several years in the service I decided to give civilian life another try.  You have to remember that up to this point all I had known was military life. I was scared to death, but I still had plan B so if things did not work out in civilian life I could always return back to military life.

 

I went to work as a sales representative with a major company and continued to move up to a management position. After several years in sales I changed careers again and went to work as a loan manager at a major bank. I loved my civilian jobs and I loved my life. I guess you could say that I had the American dream; married with two great kids, a nice house and a dog named Human who I suspected hated me. 

 

I remember an unknown author who said “the only sure thing we know about life is that change will happen, be it good or bad.” Needless to say my change was really, really bad. My eighteen year marriage fell apart, I had several bad investments, and finally a job lay off.

 

The good life as I had known it was gone and I had helped the process by abusing drugs and alcohol which pretty much guarantees a meltdown in life. Here I was, without a wife, kids and job which presented me with the abnormal life of homelessness.  The self-centered, smug, and stuck up self was replaced by shame, embarrassment and guilt. Here I was sleeping on the streets, standing in line for meals, and hoping I could get myself out of this situation before I got myself killed.  Oh yeah, remember plan B? Now, I am too old to return to the military.

 

After one year and five months of living a homeless life, I realized that I really needed help. I’ll call it a ‘lifeline’ because I was drowning mentally and spiritually.  I decided to enter a program at The Stewpot called STEP (Stewpot Transitional Employment Program). This program was God sent for me; the people actually cared about my well being. Some of the people I met while in the STEP program have become true friends.  It is also while participating in this program that I learned about another plan.  I will call it plan G, God’s plan. 

 

Plan G is the reason I decided to write my story. I truly believe that God orchestrated this path for me, not because I am a bad person, but because I needed to be humbled.  I now understand that life is full of ups and downs, twist and turns and things that don’t always go as planned, but through God’s grace and faith nothing is too big to overcome. This journey has been the best thing that has ever happened to me.

 

Today, I am working as the dining room coordinator at the Second Chance Café, located at The Bridge. This gives me the opportunity to work with some of the best volunteers in the City of Dallas. My job is to make sure that the dining room runs smoothly while the meals are being served to the homeless population accessing services at The Bridge.

 

I thank everyone who has helped me along the way, but first and foremost, I thank God for his/her grace and understanding.

 

Reprinted from the October 2008 issue of Street Zine [http://thestewpot.org/streetzine.asp].

 

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/

 

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

 

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!

 

In the Midst of Them August 27, 2008

Regarding people who are homeless in Dallas…

 

“We are called to serve them. They are the least of these in our community, and Jesus has taken up residence with them, according to the gospel, and he is to be found in their midst. We exist to serve Christ, and according to Matthew 25, that’s where Christ is, so we serve them.”

 

                                                    ~~Dr. Joe Clifford, Senior Pastor                                                                                                                             First Presbyterian Church, Dallas, Texas                                                                                                             Dallas Observer, December 13, 2007

 

                                                                                                                      

 

The Dalai Lama: Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech June 3, 2008

Filed under: Buddhism,healing,inspiration,Leadership,peace,Vocation — Karen Shafer @ 8:33 pm

 

Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech

~~by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama

 

As a Buddhist monk, my concern extends to all members of the human family and, indeed, to all sentient beings who suffer. I believe all suffering is caused by ignorance. People inflict pain on others in the selfish pursuit of their happiness or satisfaction. Yet true happiness comes from a sense of brotherhood and sisterhood. We need to cultivate a universal responsibility for one another and the planet we share. Although I have found my own Buddhist religion helpful in generating love and compassion, even for those we consider our enemies, I am convinced that everyone can develop a good heart and a sense of universal responsibility with or without religion.

With the ever growing impact of science on our lives, religion and spirituality have a greater role to play reminding us of our humanity. There is no contradiction between the two. Each gives us valuable insights into the other. Both science and the teachings of the Buddha tell us of the fundamental unity of all things. This understanding is crucial if we are to take positive and decisive action on the pressing global concern with the environment.

I believe all religions pursue the same goals, that of cultivating human goodness and bringing happiness to all human beings. Though the means might appear different the ends are the same.

As we enter the final decade of this century I am optimistic that the ancient values that have sustained mankind are today reaffirming themselves to prepare us for a kinder, happier twenty-first century.

I pray for all of us, oppressor and friend, that together we succeed in building a better world through human understanding and love, and that in doing so we may reduce the pain and suffering of all sentient beings.

(University Aula, Oslo, 10 December 1989)

 

Harmony May 29, 2008

Filed under: Christianity,healing,inspiration,peace,Vocation — Karen Shafer @ 4:52 pm

 

      “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit;  and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord;  and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone.”

                                                                                                                   ~~1 Corinthians 12: 4-6

 

[taken from Daily Word, published by Unity, May, 2008]

 

Services Provided by The Bridge May 3, 2008

Dear Readers,

Here’s a link to the website of a group of people who have generously allowed me to work with them on Friday nights at the Day Resource Center for the last couple of years while they serve dinner and give away clothing.  They provided me with a way to give away the clothing I like collecting, which opportunity I lost when the homeless camps were razed by the city in 2005.

The post gives a list of the services to be provided by the new homeless assistance center, The Bridge, when it opens in May.

http://www.ourcalling.org/2008/04/25/the-new-center-will-provide-what/#comments

KS

 

 

Love In Action April 16, 2008

Filed under: healing,inspiration,peace,Vocation — Karen Shafer @ 1:13 pm

       “…love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing compared with love in dreams. Love in dreams is greedy for immediate action, rapidly performed and in the sight of all. Men will give even their lives if only the ordeal does not last long but is soon over, with all looking on and applauding as though on a stage. But active love is labor and fortitude…” (Father Zossima)

                                                                                     ~~Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

 

Street Voices: Sherry Parker, Poet April 4, 2008

Filed under: homelessness,hunger,inspiration,Street Voices,Vocation — Karen Shafer @ 9:53 pm

Tonight, I sat on the parking lot of the Day Resource Center and took dictation of this poem from gifted poet, Sherry Parker. Sherry, much like myself, doesn’t really ‘do’ technology. With her permission, I publish it here. Many thanks to our friend, Reagan, for arranging my meeting with Sherry tonight and for recognizing her talent.

Sherry has lived on the street for twenty years. What she wishes me to say about her is that she’s “not running on empty.”

KS

Always and Forever
by Sherry Parker
April 13, 1981

I.
Expecting to arrive,
I got there — never,
Not remembering back
Or looking forward either.
And now that I’m here,
I wonder whether
I expect to be here forever.

II.
I had a good time,
Waiting to turn twenty.
Having passed my purity,
Still, I learned plenty.
Passing by my hopes and dreams,
Somehow left me empty,
Searching for security.

Expecting forevers,
I’m enjoying the ride,
Biding my time,
Expecting to hide.
Walking thin lines
And laughing inside.
To live and accept
Is so much better.

Expecting forevers,
I’ll get there somehow.
I don’t know where or when,
But I surely do know how.
I’m biding my time
And laughing inside.
To live and accept
Is always better.

[copyright Sherry Parker]

 

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

 

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)

 

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