05 October 2011

A Song, a Dance, and a Blessing

This past Monday evening was our monthly homeless outreach to the Skid Row area of downtown Los Angeles.  I think we're in our fourth year of the project now: feeding and clothing our friends that are down on their luck.  Over the course of the past year, we've noticed more and more people living on the streets.

Each of us that attends has our own stories to tell of our experiences.  Since we are spread out between the three cars that we take, we each hear the stories of those that wish to tell it; that is, if we wish to listen. 

On a dark street, we were passing out soup.  We had a lot of clothing this time thankfully, so we were able to provide warmth right before the cold weather.  It's raining today, and I'm thinking of our friends out on the street.  I hope they are staying dry.  As I was handing out water and snacks, this very nice looking older gentleman came up to me.  I asked him if he could use some snacks, maybe some soup, dry, for the next day.  He was appreciative, taking the soup and snacks in a bag for later.  He gave me a sweet smile and said, "I am an artist.  You should check out my YouTube video.  Singing.  That's the talent that God has given me."  I was interested and asked his name.  "My name is Octive Fellow Soul."  He spelled Octive for me.  : )   He told me he was homeless and trying to get discovered.  He told me to check it out again.  "My name is Octive, I'm a fellow, and I have soul!"  And he turned a corner and was gone.  So I came home and checked it out, and to my surprise, there were several videos of this Octive.  All taken by people who he had come across in the street, from L.A. to New York.  All taken by people whose lives he had touched to the point that, like me, they wanted to put it up on the web and share it with others.  Watching this video brings me joy.  Here is a man who is given a talent and despite the bad breaks in life, despite the fact that he has no home, he is staying positive doing what he loves best.  Singing, entertaining.  So here is my friend Octive (as seen on YouTube) singing Goody Goody. 

The evening wore on.  People were truly grateful for us being there.  At one stop, Suzie helped a woman who was challenged trying to keep herself clean while living on the street.  She was self-conscious and concerned about her hygiene.  I imagined the difficulty of that -  going from having a bathroom and a shower in my home, to living on the street where the only place you could go to bathe would be the local shelter. 

Our final site was the most crowded.  Imagine pulling up to a street where people are living on the sidewalk, some in tents, others in boxes, still others on just the concrete itself.  There are people that know the ropes, and there are those that are learning.  As soon as we pull up, the people come up to the cars.  We yell out, "HOT SOUP!  WATER!", the tailgate opens, the thermoses come out, and people line up.  I end up handing out snacks and water to those that are waiting, while the others serve the soup, or fit people with clothing and shoes, blankets, etc.

I noticed this one man sitting on the sidewalk.  He was wearing some shorts and a tshirt.  He had no shoes.  He was barefoot, but was airing out his socks.  He sat there staring into space.  When I approached him with some hot soup and water, he seemed confused.  He didn't speak English and tried to tell me something in what sounded like Korean.  I didn't understand but motioned to the clothing car where he could get clothing.  He brightened up as if he remembered something he could say to me in English..."Ayana kissue"   He was smiling!  I want to kiss you?  Is this what he was saying?   He was smiling and started following me to the car.  Okay Awkward...I jokingly turned to him and said,   "Uh, no thanks!"   He sat back down to his soup.  A few minutes went by and I went to get him a pair of socks.   I put it down next to him.  The light went on.  He nodded.

Over the next 15 -20 minutes, we tended to many many people.  The clothing car was super busy as people were in need of warmer clothing now.   By the time were were about to leave that site, I looked at my friend on the sidewalk.  Was it the same man?  There he was....Dancing!  He was so happy!  He had received a pair of jeans, socks, a pair of nice black shoes, and a new shirt.  Not able to contain his happiness, he was dancing in place, showing us his new outfit. 

There are many stories like this.  So many lives that are in need.  And so many that just need a connection.  Someone to talk to.  Someone to share their talents with.  Someone who will listen.  We've been doing this for years now and it never gets old.   The need is so great, and not only for the homeless but for us who need to be there because it helps us to walk in their shoes.  We don't approach our homeless brothers and sisters out of pity, but as a sense of family and of community.  We are all related in this family called humankind. 

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