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Monthly Archives: March 2014

Special People

I met a special young man, who I’ll call “Tom”, a couple of days ago. he is a 14 year old gentle giant. I say giant because at the age of 14, he a!ready stands at 6 ft 4 inches tall. I barely make the 5 ft mark. Now imagine taking that tall body and folding it into my little ford escort. He managed but it wasn’t easy, I’m sure.

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This young man will be etched into my mind and heart for a long time. Tom is special. He’s very polite….showing that someone took the time to teach him to use his manners. He’s bright. I had to transport Tom to an appointment in an area I was unfamiliar with. When we were done, Tom was able to tell me how to get back home. I had the GPS on and his directions matched exactly. But Tom is special. Little things and details seemed to surprise him in a way that most would not be bothered with. Not many people think it’s amazing how a box of crackers from the dollar store only cost…. you guessed it….$1.00. Throughout my short time with Tom, there were little things that told me a little about him. There’s something special about him.
And as special as he is, his relatives (who he was visiting during spring break) love him. Little cousins ran circles around his legs and hugged him. They called his name as they grabbed him to love on him. And throughout out it all, Tom softly smiles.
A gentle giant who is special.

 
 

am i cute?

“everyone should strive to be cute”
this comment comes from my young client, the one who owns lots of clothes.

each time i take her out – even when it’s just to the library to study or to downtown orlando to help feed the homeless, she has to make sure that she looks cute. a quick primp in front of the mirror as we head out the door. run fingers over the hair, making sure to smooth out the few stray flyaway strands. apply yet another fresh coat of lip gloss.

“miss lisa, i gotta look cute” she states as she makes that face that teenage girls are famous for. all i can do is laugh at the cuteness. as we arrive at whatever our destination is for that day, there’s that one last check or two for cuteness.

pet_city_1395104428848   i play a game on facebook called pet city. you adopt a virtual pet and take care of it. you can make your pet pretty much anything you want it to be. i created my pet “cindy” to be a bit of a girly girl – a diva. i guess i’ve developed her to be cute. i chose her basic look – one that makes her appear innocent and, yes, cute. her clothes have to right. her hair has to be right. it’s a little fun to make her the way she is, but it’s not real. cindy is a part of a game. it’s not real life. in reality, most of us, unless we’re extremely blessed, won’t have someone to select that perfect look for us. we’re on our own folks.

i believe in trying to look your best – but there’s so much more in life than looking hot or cute or drop dead gorgeous. there is respect and integrity. there’s working hard to be your best at school or work. there are people out there who don’t have what it takes to get that “cute” look. no money to buy makeup, no money to get the hair done at a salon. you’re lucky to have more than one pair of pants and a couple of shirts that don’t have any rips or stains. maybe that one pair of shoes you own don’t quite fit right but at least they don’t have any holes in them.

i’m not really sure where this is supposed to go, but this “you gotta be cute” to get anywhere has been on my mind for most of the last week. so that’s my story and i’m sticking to it.

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clothes

I was talking with my young client (who will be 16 this summer) after I picked her up today. We were heading to her favorite shop to add her allowance to her gift card that she can use for a day of shopping. She was telling me that she has to go through her closet because she has a lot of clothes that she no longer wears and wants to sell them at a trendy shop that trades gently used clothes for other gently used trendy clothes. It’s a great concept if you have the closet space.  During this conversation, she revealed that she owns approximately 48 pairs of jeans. 48 pairs of jeans!!! She said that this doesn’t include shorts or other pants not made of denim. and shirts and dresses and skirts and who knows what else…..

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i am having a hard time wrapping my head around this. Yes, it’s ok to have nice clothes and even trendy clothes at that if that’s what you’re into. but when you have so many clothes that you say it’s not a good idea for a visitor to go in your room because there’s no room in the closet and dresser drawers for all the clothes, then I think it’s definitely a bit much.
Just in jeans alone, there’s enough there to wear something different for a month and a half!! And I know that oftentimes, my young client will change her clothes after school so that’s two outfits a day, not counting pj’s. that’s a lot of clothes my friend. and a lot of laundry. 
we’re going shopping later this week. we have a gift card. we have coupons to save when you spend!!! and we’re shopping for….you guessed it……clothes!!!

 
 

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on my mind

i had every intention of writing about something completely different tonight, but i can’t get something off of my mind.

a couple of nights ago, i posted about some people i had the pleasure to meet while helping straight street orlando feed the homeless in downtown orlando. there was one person i saw, but never got the opportunity to speak to. it was a man sleeping on the side of the church where this event takes place. i recall as david and i made our way back to our car, we carefully walked along the sidewalk that runs alongside of the church. from a distance, on first glance, i saw what appeared to be a large sleeping bag with some other things strewn beside it at one end. i quickly realized that it was not just a sleeping bag, but one with a body inside of it. i warned david to watch where he was walking and he was shocked when i told him what i had seen. this is his response, as he posted on facebook that same night:

“Tonight I had one of the greatest surprises of my life.

A bundle of ragtag belongings was actually a man.

Walking away from the Orthodox church behind which believers had been feeding the poor, I was idling past the bundle of belongings carelessly left at the side of the church when my wife pulled me safely leftwards and pointed out that it was, in fact, a man.

He was choosing to sleep on stone flags beside the church in the middle of Orlando. He had picked his spot and lay down to sleep even as dozens of people passed him by on the way home. At least, those of them who had homes.”

homeless

i don’t know where the above photo was taken, but it caught my eye – the person walking past the homeless person who is sleeping is so common to view. once upon a time, i did the same thing. i lived in new jersey most of my life, living a short drive from nyc. in new york city, you see this kind of thing all over. people sleeping in the park, on park benches, under the doorway of a church or business. maybe in an alley, away from the foot traffic of the hustle and bustle of a normal day in manhattan. some have bags holding their meager belongings. some use a newspaper as a blanket or to shield their eyes from the daylight. but no one paid them any attention other than to glance over and maybe make some silent comment to themselves. i no longer can do that. instead, i cry out silently, asking for God to protect them. i wish i were rich because i wouldn’t use that money for lavish things – i’d be using it to help the homeless. i know i can’t help everyone, but i wish i could.

a good friend shared a song that she knew would touch me at the core of my soul because of my desire to help the homeless. i want to share that song with you. i pray that the message touches you as much as it did me.

Think of Me by Lisa Chan

http://youtu.be/2Ck4r6MaG7s

 

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home sweet home

“home sweet home”…..for some of us, there are no truer words. for others, that phrase is something that is just out of their reach…..

last night, i went to downtown orlando to meet with other volunteers that would be “working” with straight street orlando, a nonprofit group that feeds the homeless behind a church twice a week. i typically will go on tuesday evenings with one of the teens i’m mentoring, but last night, i took david with me. while the other volunteers are passing out drinks and meals prepared by some of the volunteers, i will go around and fellowship with those being ministered to – asking what their name is, are they from orlando and how long have they been there. i shake lots of hands and give lots of smiles and a bunch of hugs. i let them know that i am happy to have met them. i am trying to let them see Christ through me as i show them i care. i “love on them”, as my pastor would say. 🙂

i have talked to many people since i started going to straight street, but last night was the first time that i was moved to tears. as the founder of straight street was giving a short message from God, i was sitting near a young couple who sat very close to each other and were holding hands – very tightly. every so often, you’d see one of them look at the other with tenderness and love. as i watched them, my heart began to break. i couldn’t seem to look away – until the tears started to fall. by this time, pj was offering up prayer and i was grateful for the moment – this allowed the tears to fall without much notice. i grabbed david’s hand – he would understand. since coming to america, david has become very aware of the homelessness – especially in the central florida area. when pj was done, i wiped the tears from my eyes and told david i wanted to get a photo of the young couple that touched my heart and was determined to meet them and talk to them. i went over to them and introduced myself and my husband and asked if we could take their photo. i explained i would be writing about the homeless situation in my blog and wanted to share their story. they agreed to have their picture taken and to letting me share it, along with their story.

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meet albert and sara. he is 23 and she is 25. married three years. he is a navy vet, being discharged july of 2013. albert has a wonderful smile and a great attitude. sara is a bit quieter, but is very sweet. they’ve been on the streets – this time – for three weeks. albert stated they had been staying at his biological father’s house (i never asked why he kept referring to him as that) until he kicked them out. oh sure – they can still use his address for mail and for applications asking for a physical address, but they cannot live there. the night before we met, they had to move from the place they were sleeping to higher ground because we had heavy rains on monday night and there was flooding in many areas – including parts of orlando. albert told me that he has experienced homelessness since coming out of the navy last year. and he can’t seem to find a job. he wants to work. he is willing to do what it takes so that he can provide a home for he and his wife. while talking with them, i was made aware of a painful fact that shook me to the core. while there are plenty of shelters for individuals and for families with children, there are none in the downtown orlando area for married couples that have no children. the closest shelters for couples without children is somewhere between 7 and 15 miles away, depending where you go. traveling back and forth to a shelter that is that far can’t be easy when you don’t have the money to make that round trip on a daily basis. albert isn’t bitter. he IS on the other hand, grateful for making sure that he and sara are always fed, stating that “God is taking care of us”. i had a hard time walking away, but i wanted to spend time loving on others. i had blessing bags to give out and i’d already spotted a few i wanted to share them with. so i moved on.

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this is joseph. while he didn’t share his story, his face captured my heart and i asked him if we could take his picture and share it. he said yes and we just talked for a few minutes.

orlando is said to have approximately 15,000 people that are homeless. 15,000!!! that number is staggering in my mind!! oh sure – florida is the sunshine state but open your eyes folks….it’s also in hurricane alley. we do get rain. and believe it or not, it can get cold here during the winter and sometimes the early spring months. and you know what? people want to go somewhere safe. they want a pillow under their head and a mattress of some sort to lie their weary bodies down on. they want to know that they are sheltered from the elements – rain, cold, bugs, etc….there’s even the danger of people taking advantage of their situation. there are assaults, rapes, and yes, murders. i’d read last night a homeless man that straight street had ministered to one night  was stabbed to death not too far from where the feeding takes place. apparently there had been a fight between this man that was referred to as “barney” and another homeless man. this happened a few years ago – it probably made the news but i don’t watch the news. i’ve met a woman who had a baby two months ago. her son robert was a preemie and weighed a little under 5 pounds at birth. when i met her, robert was 6 weeks old and at his checkup weighed 7 pounds, i picked this tiny baby up and cradled him in my arms. he was so small. as i sat on the bench by his parents, i cried out in my heart. i kept asking God over and over to protect little robert. this isn’t supposed to be how life gets started. robert should be sleeping in a crib surrounded by little toys. he shouldn’t have to be made to brave the elements – especially since he was born so small. i don’t know the story of why his parents are homeless or how long they’ve been on the streets. from their appearance i wouldn’t be surprised if they’ve been there for quite some time. but i won’t say that it’s fact as i don’t judge a book by its cover. they may not be handling their own situation well and are just trying to cope with no home while caring for a tiny infant.

throughout the evening i passed out blessing bags til they ran out. introduced myself to many and let them know how happy i was to have met them. i met one man whose name i cannot recall that accepted my offer of a hug and i was the one to walk away feeling blessed. i met another man who declined a blessing bag. when i asked if he wanted a hug, he replied, “i could really use one right now”. so i reached out and hugged his weary body. this was the first time that i was close to a person that smelled of alcohol that didn’t make me want to turn away. it was as if God took my usual reaction to the smell of alcohol away so that i could be what i needed to be for this man. he told me he’s from north carolina and wanted to go back. he couldn’t find an agency to help him fulfill that one wish. he stated he can’t get help from his family back there because they don’t have the resources to get him home. he shared he’s having medical problems. i don’t know why, but i offered another hug, and this time i held on tightly for an extra moment or two. before i walked away, i reached out and touched his face. i can still see the sadness in his eyes.

david was so moved by the things he heard and saw last night that he wrote a poem:

Glory of Cities

You love us when we’re fighting. We were proud
to fight for those who’d never know our name.
You cheer like fury when you’re in the crowd
and we parade before you, hale or lame.
But when we come back home, behind the lines
you draw (and we once drew), we don’t exist.
As once we did, you fail to see the signs;
and though one flag by all of us is kissed,
we forage for our food in dark back yards
where churches give us all that they can get,
or offer crumbs of comfort now and then;
we learn to struggle wounded through the shards
of shrapnel flung by cities which regret
we live in them – as though we were not men.

collage

 

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blessing bags

tonight david and I put together some blessing bags.

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inside a blessing bag are assorted travel sized toiletries such as shampoo, toothpaste and mouthwash. add a toothbrush, some lotion and soap and you’ve got a little kit to help clean up. when we have them, we’ll add razors, band aids; we’ll even put in a wash cloth and a pair of socks. we can only add items such as the razors and socks when people donate them. all of the supplies used are donated. some items we have in great abundance – such as soap and mouthwash. things like toothpaste and socks and band aids….not so many. add a note of encouragement or a Gospel tract and you’re all set!! We add the tracts and I’ll write “blessing bag” with a little smiley face on the outside of the bag. then we’ll hand them out the homeless and those we feel have needs.
we put together 20 of the small bags since we lack several items that could make up the full sized large bag. Tuesday night david and I will take these bags down to downtown Orlando where an organization feeds the homeless every Tuesday night. we thought we could go there and offer fellowship as well as feed them. while we do this, we can randomly hand out the blessing bags. just have to hope and pray that the rain ends by morning.

 
 

looking through the window

tonight i went to the mall at millenia in orlando for the first time. i already knew that it is a very upscale mall but boy was i in for a big shock!! i was with a young lady i’m mentoring and we wanted to get a little something sweet after spending some time across the road at the local animal shelter, so we went to the mall to see what we could find. after wandering around the food court, we made our way to the haagen daz ice cream stand. after checking out the flavors available, my friend inquired about the price for a small cup of ice cream. well – needless to say – we did not get ice cream. for a tiny little cup of ice cream that probably holds two small scoops, they charge $6.49!! for a tiny bit of ice cream!! for less than $1 more, i can go to the store and get two half gallon cartons of breyer’s ice cream – if it’s buy one get one then i can buy two for half of what haagen daz charges for that tiny cup. yes – haagen daz ice cream is some of the best on the market, but i cannot justify that price. i guess the price reflects what you find in that mall.

after walking away shocked, my friend and i settled on mrs. fields – got a couple of brownies and cookies (buy 3 get one free). i’d have preferred the ice cream but who can say no to fresh-baked cookies? we sat down and ate half of our sweets – saving the rest for later and chatted about upcoming activities we could do together. we both agreed that you could tell who could truly afford to be at that mall. my feeling is that you need to have money just to walk through the door.

we did a little window shopping – that’s all i could afford to do there. with store names like chanel, michael kors, cartier, and tiffany’s, you definitely need to have a bit of money to shop there. they even had a store selling prescription glasses and designer sunglasses with names such as cartier and chanel and touting price tags of over $2,000, you have to have money to shop there. i saw names that i know would be found on rodeo drive. it was nice to dream a little as i viewed things that the “beautiful people” could afford to buy, but alas, i will be one of those that looks through the window, wishing i didn’t flinch at paying $6.49 for a tiny cup of ice cream.

 

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