Okay, so on to this week's adventures...or misadventures. I read a really cool quote somewhere. It said,
"Coincidence is just God being anonymous." I love that. Okay, so if you are a regular here Inside the Pomegranate, you know that my word for the year is SURRENDER. I'm trying to surrender things to God; meaning, that I'm trying to simplify and give up my control...not force MY will but to try harder and listen to the clues that God sends. Well, this past Monday, God sent me a clue...but I didn't get it. I was so busy trying to stay on schedule that I bypassed it until He had to stop me with a tsunami (literally) until I listened.
This past Monday night, we had our Skid Row outreach scheduled. As always, we gather at church around 7:00 p.m., prep the soups, load the cars and we head downtown. And as usual, my husband and I bring the hot water in two five-gallon thermoses, ready to hydrate the cup of noodles that we serve. Well, it all started on Sunday when I got to church. One of our Parish Council members gave me the bad news. When they opened the storage shed at church, they saw rat droppings on the canopy, and on the thermoses as well. YUCK! So I brought the thermoses home, and gave them a scrubbing with bleach, cleanser, more bleach, hot water, and I cleaned them up. The following evening, I got home from work and started heating the hot water for the thermoses, and loading my car with the clothing I had collected. I noticed that this time around I had quite a bit of women's clothing. Although there are women on the streets, they are outnumbered by men by about 10 to one. Still, there were jeans and shirts and shoes that they could use, and whatever we don't distribute, we take to one of the shelters anyway. So I continued loading. The whole passenger part of the back of my car was full of clothing. Okay, that was done. Back into the house. The water's hot. I bring the thermoses to the kitchen...and poured the first batch of water into the thermos. As the steam clears from my glasses I notice that water is POURING out all over our kitchen floor! I grab the thermos, throw it in the sink. What happened? Well, in checking out the thermos further, I found that the rats had chewed the little rubber faucet thingee ...on both thermoses. Okay, so towels, clean up, I should have gotten the clue - Just call it off, and reschedule. But no. Not me. I'm too busy to realize stuff, right?
So panic. What am I going to do? It's almost 6:00 p.m. Ned's not yet home from work, we have to be down at church by 7:00. I filled up more water pots to boil, tell my mom that Ned will be home soon and have him turn the water off when he gets there. I get in my car and drive off to buy two more thermoses from Smart and Final. I get there, grab there 2 five-gallon thermoses, pay, rush home...Ned's home, the water's ready. It's 6:40. We poured the water in the thermoses, load them in the car, kiss mom goodbye and we're off to church. We're going to make it.
After that, I couldn't help but wonder why. Was something going on in downtown that night that we weren't supposed to be part of? Was there some danger? Or maybe there is something we're supposed to be part of on Thursday? Maybe they'll need us then? I wouldn't know that part. But I was kind of anticipating that I would find out in some way.
Thursday night came. The car was loaded again, the new 10-gallon thermos (with the screw on lid, thank you) was filled and off we went to church. We met up, loaded the cars and headed to downtown. The second stop we make is usually just a quick stop. So much so that we don't usually all get out. There are just a few people there and we do a quick food stop and head off to the next, more populated stop. But this time was different. Very different. This time the stop was a full stop because as we gave out the food to the usual few locals, more people started coming. We opened up completely and started distributing. And then we met Brenda. Brenda, a nurse, introduced herself as one of the case managers at the Women's Shelter that had just opened a few buildings down. She was thrilled that we had the women's clothing because she knew her residents would be able to use it. She asked if we could stop there, but given that we didn't know the number of residents and wanted to avoid not being able to supply all of them, I asked Brenda if she could ask her residents to come out. So for the next half hour or so, we were able to meet, feed and distribute clothing to these very nice women. And amazingly, we had quite a bit of women's clothing to give. We also had the little hotel toiletries that many had collected for us. Brenda and I exchanged information, and in the future, when we have the extra clothing for the women, you can be sure we'll know where to donate.
When we reached our last stop of the night, we were met with a lot of hungry people. They lined up for soup as we were in full force distributing water bottles and snacks as they waited. The two cars with the clothing where surrounded as needs were met. After about a half an hour, it seemed that most had been fed. We still got a few coming up for food, but most of the clothing and blankets had been distributed and things were winding down. A woman crossed the street toward us. She was friendly. She asked if we might have any clothing for her. And surprisingly, Sedma and Lida were able to find her a pair of pants. There was a dress that would fit her, and you can tell it took her back. She shared that this was just the kind of dress she used to wear. Our ladies told her to take it, with the hope that someday soon she'd be back on her feet again. And then she asked about shoes. Did we have a pair of shoes for her? We didn't. She shared how her feet had been bothering her. She had on a pair of old patent flats that had no support. They were too small and that caused a lot of problems with her heels. She the showed us poor foot. Her heal was cracked and sore and looked so painful. But this woman's disposition didn't reflect that pain. She stayed a while and chatted with us. I could tell that Lida was very moved by this woman's optimism. And before I knew it, Lida was in the car taking her shoes off. Not in front of the woman, but quietly on the side. She didn't want the woman to know she was giving her own shoes to her. She gave them to the woman who was so thrilled to have some supportive walking shoes. We gave her extra soup and water as well. She blessed us and headed back across the street.
Our time on the street came to an end. We received the blessings of our friends, and all that was left over was one small bag which we dropped off at the shelter. Driving back I usually recap the evening. I'm always in amazement as to how God puts us right where we are supposed to be. And I thought about the course of events that led up to Thursday night. How we were not meant to go on Monday but on Thursday. I had wondered why our plans were changed and had searched for the connection. And then it came to me. Yes, we had made new connections. Yes, we did have a disproportionate amount of women's clothing than we usually do and it came to good use. But I think I had it all wrong. I kept thinking the reason was going to be because we were going to be helping someone that really needed us on that night, but the reality is that WE were the ones that needed the help. After going on this ministry for the past six years, it was US that needed the reminder of the human connection, of how we are all sisters and brothers. We needed to be there on Thursday rather than Monday to be filled with compassion once again. We were all moved. Lida's heart was touched by this woman. Our In His Shoes ministry puts us in the shoes of others. As women however, we bond a little differently with the women on the street. Sometimes life throws us some crazy punches even when we have homes, jobs, families and support. Being a woman living on the street without these things makes it a hundred times more difficult. When we are there on the street, it helps us to understand how we are all related and how we all belong to one another. WE were the ones that needed to be right where we were, to accept God's beautiful blessing of love, compassion and sharing that night, to which we are so grateful.
So there you have it. I'm going to try to be a little more in tune to God's will, and not my own, knowing and understanding that there are some plans in the works that I may be standing in the way off. I'm learning.
Before I finish up for today, I wanted to ask for your prayers for a friend of mine that has been diagnosed with Stage 4 esophageal cancer that has spread throughout her body. Her name is Jeri, and her doctors are giving her only two years to live. As grim as her prognosis seems, God is the ultimate healer, and the only one that can know her life. Jeri is a fighter, and is positive in light of the tough road ahead. She has started her chemo. And yesterday, her dearest friend had put out a "shoe your support" request, asking that those of use that were friends of Jeri's drop off a pair of our running shoes with a note to her. The shoes were put, quietly, on Jeri's lawn at midnight last night, so when Jeri woke up this morning, she saw the support of all those whose lives she has touched. Yesterday, I dropped off my shoes and seeing the box of shoes and notes, I was so filled with emotion. Cancer is a terrible thing. I have been blessed to have survived it three times. A group of over a hundred friends and family gather last night and quietly walked to Jeri's home and lined her walkway and her front lawn with the shoes. Over 250 pair will be donated to charity. My heart goes out to Jeri and can do is to pray, and believe. I ask you to please remember Jeri and her family in your prayers. Pray that God give her strength, courage, the willingness to fight and stay positive, and to BELIEVE in her wellness.
her family, especially when it seems there is nothing we can do. The most amazing and powerful thing that we
That's all for now. Wishing you all a blessed week, with no tsunamis in your forecast!