10 November 2010

Three Years and Going Strong

This is a re-post from my earlier blog.  Recently it was read as Ani's Bubble on The Next Step with Fr, Vazken  podcast.  I thought I'd move it over here to give it a new home:

Last night's homeless outreach to Skid Row was no different than any other month over the past three years that we've been feeding and clothing the needy on the streets of Los Angeles.  Here's how it works: Our usual three cars pull up to a populated street at about 8:00 p.m.  Trunks pop open to reveal clothing collected throughout the month, soup, water bottles and snacks, Bibles in English and Spanish.  By now, our friends that live on the streets know us.  They know that the orange car has the food.  They know that the girl with the infectious laugh will find something for them to wear or keep warm with.  They know that if they come up and talk to us, we'll listen.  And they know that we'll try to help if we can.
Over the course of three years we've seen and heard a lot.  Our hearts have broken when we listened to an elderly Italian woman tell us her story of how she had ended up homeless and living in a box on the corner of Los Angeles and Fifth.  "I was like you," she said.  "I was the one giving food to the homeless."  It grabs you in the gut.  The saying, "There, but for the Grace of God, go I," comes into play, and you realize how fragile life is.  How important family and friends are.  How we are all THERE on the street if it wasn't for the support systems that we have, be they friends, family, faith, etc.  And because of that, you want to be there for them.
We've experienced miracles:  We were passing out our usual fare of soup and snacks one evening when a man approached and asked if we had any salad.  We thought this was funny at the time.  "No," we said, "sorry, but we have soup...would you like some?"  "No thank you," he answered, "but would you have a sandwich?  I'd really love a sandwich."  "Sorry...this is all we have, but you're welcome to it."  The man left.  Two minutes later a car pulled up.  This couple had gone to Starbucks at closing and asked for food donations to distribute to the homeless.  Seeing us, they pulled over and asked if we could tell them some of our stops.  We asked what it was that they were distributing.  "We have some salads, and we have sandwiches."  My friend Suzie and I just looked at each other dumbfounded.  Could their timing have been more perfect?  We called over the man that had asked for the special order and he was all smiles.  So was this God's miracle?  No.  But what happened next was.  Our friend took the salad and the sandwich, raise it up, closed his eyes and thanked God for the blessing.  That was the miracle.  He knew what he wanted, and God knew what he needed.  It was provided for him, and he - despite all his hardships, his lack of a home, a place to sleep, clothing to wear - knew that his needs were met through God and he was grateful.
I had a man come up to me last night and give me a $2 donation.  This was probably all the money he had.  He was transplanted to Los Angeles from Chicago.  He had come here to see if he could make a go of it.  It hadn't worked out and he found himself on the street.  Our new volunteers got to witness this man's generosity.  He gave them the donation, but they didn't want to take it.  Clearly, he was in need.  When I walked by, they handed it to me.  I thanked him and asked him his name.  "John.  My name is John."  I offered him soup, water?  Maybe a tshirt?  "No, I'm fine.  I'm good.  I just wanted to make a donation.  Where are you all from?"  I told him we were from In His Shoes, the outreach organization of our church.  He said, "Well, it's good what you're doing.  A lot of people complain about the homeless...but you are out here doing something about it.  God bless you.  Thank you."
This is not uncommon.  Our evenings on Skid Row are filled with grateful smiles, warm hugs and blessings.  And I always come home not feeling like we've done something great, but feeling like I've received something amazing.  I think those of us that are "regulars" know what I mean.  We're hooked.   We get so much more than we give.  We get to experience genuineness at it's most basic level, smiles, tears, hugs, emotion, humanity.  And we get to share in the LOVE that is so unconditionally given to us by God.
If you're interested in joining our team for our homeless outreach, please shoot me an email with your contact info to anush@pomegranateandeye.com

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