yesterday we had a downpour in orlando. there was thunder and the skies just let loose buckets upon buckets of rain.
i was with my clients to do community service as we typically do on tuesday evenings. after arriving a bit early, the kids met up with some of the other clients and were talking and throwing around a football when we heard that first clap of thunder. a couple of the kids didn’t like it – saying they didn’t feel safe, but most of them just stopped for a brief moment before resuming their play.
before long, the first drops of rain began to fall. other volunteers began to arrive as the rain began to fall heavier by the moment. pj, the director of straight street orlando arrived and i was not surprised that he wanted to carry on as normal to tend to our friends. so we braved the rain and made our way to the back lot of the church where we set up. not surprising was the lack of people there – both the homeless and the volunteers.
someone found a tarp that was held up by some of the volunteers while the rest huddled underneath the tarp and began to dish out meals into take out containers, placing them into plastic shopping bags. then someone would dash out into the rain and find a friend to hand out a meal to. i went around with a bag filled with fresh oranges, handing them out to our friends. it was the least i could do.
(this is a photo posted on straight street orlando’s facebook page from last night)
in the meantime, umbrellas and such became pretty useless. a hoodie my one client borrowed from me was soaked and very heavy so she took it off and i got the pleasure of hanging onto it, feeling it grow heavier by the minute as the rain continued to cascade over us. i had a large umbrella – it was pointless. my shoes were so wet that my feet were sliding in them – i finally took them off – it was easier to walk barefooted than to slide around in my shoes. my clothes – well – i don’t think there was one dry spot on them. even with an umbrella to “shield” me, water just ran down my back. as i stood leaning up against the window ledge with water pouring down my back, thoughts of warm, dry shelter crossed my mind. but not for me.
(an image i found on the web)
i had a dry car to go to. eventually i would arrive home where i could change into dry clothing and wrap a blanket around me until i was no longer cold. but what about the friends we minister to here in downtown orlando? chances are, on a night like this was, if they were able to get to the nearest homeless shelter, there wouldn’t be any room because others got there well in advance of this storm. where were they going to go? when i eventually did leave, i saw people huddled in doorways of the church where we always meet. their backs were turned to try to shield them from the deluge falling around them. there were people gathered together on the steps outside of the church in the front. there they found some respite but it was windy so i would imagine it wasn’t totally secure from the weather. as i sat in my car with my clients, trying to warm up as fast as we could with the heater turned up high, all i could think about was how there were probably thousands who would be wishing deep down inside for a small corner to sit down in that was dry.
we went to get something to eat in the hopes that it would warm us up a little. we looked like drowned rats. while paying for our meal, an elderly man asked me if i had a dollar. as soon as i received my change, i immediately put it into the cup he held out and smiled at him. while the kids and i were enjoying our fried chicken and potato wedges, a young lady asked if i could help get her something to eat. i quickly fished out a five dollar bill and told her to get herself a meal. when we were leaving, another man approached me, holding a sign asking for help. i was out of small bills, but i did have a box with some leftovers. i told him to take the box, explaining what was inside. he thanked me several times. i just told him to enjoy and to have a blessed night.
i wish i had enough money to tend to everyone that night. feed them a meal. offer love in a world that has none to offer. and most of all, last night, i wish i could have offered them a shelter in the time of storm.
to learn more about straight street orlando, visit them at their facebook page:
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Straight-Street-Orlando/122504469134 or their website at http://www.straightstorlando.com/