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Monthly Archives: April 2014

a shelter in the time of storm

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.

isaiah 25:4

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/

 

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Have the Homeless Become Invisible?

Have the Homeless Become Invisible?

words cannot express my thoughts and feelings after watching this video. it is definitely eye-opening if you aren’t aware of what the homeless see on a daily basis.

Kindness Blog

In this social experiment, unsuspecting people walked by relatives pretending to be homeless. Would they notice their family members? Or have the homeless become invisible? Watch how each person reacts after the big reveal in the video below.

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the smell of a rose

Monday was a fairly normal day for me. Came home from a relaxing few days away with David. Got my paycheck, went to the bank and went to work. My client (a new young lady) was AWOL (can’t give details) so I went shopping for dinner. When I arrived at Walmart, I noticed a smallish figure sitting on the sidewalk against the building. The person (I was unaware of gender at the time) was sitting, hugging their knees to them and their face was almost hidden with the hood of their hoodie up.
An hour later, the same smallish figure was in the same spot as they were when I arrived. After loading my parcels into the car (including milk, meat and frozen foods) I drove around so that I could pull up to talk to the hooded figure.
I rolled down my window and asked if they needed help. I offered to get a few items to provide nourishment. This person asked if I would be willing to purchase a new pair of sweat pants. “I need something clean to wear*.
I said I’ll park the car and would go shopping. To my surprise, this small figure was a woman. At first glance, I thought it was a man because there was an excess amount of facial hair that made one think so. Tracy is 42 and has been on the street for several years. Throughout our time together it never crossed my mind that I had perishable items in the trunk of my car or that David had no clue what I was doing.
Tracy had a friend with her named Carl. He, unlike Tracy, was quiet. As we went about the store, I realized that Tracy had some problems. I don’t know if it was nervous energy or if she had some sort of mental disorder. Whatever it was, she definitely had something going on. Tracy was dirty. Very dirty. And she didn’t exactly smell too good. The smell that came from her was nothing short of sour. At times the smell would waft from her like a heavy vapor. I wished I could bring her home with me and let her take a long shower. Then she could smell good, even for a few days. I resolved that I wouldn’t let her poor hygiene keep me from being a good testimony and I continued to exhibit patience and kindness.

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One thing I felt was God appearing through her was her desire to want to do something for me despite her having nothing. She thanked me many times, adding “God bless you” all the time. My reply was always to let her know that my meeting her was my blessing. I also told her in reply to wanting to do something…. “when you get on your feet, show someone else some kindness”.
First order of things…..get some food. In a gesture that surprised me, Tracy was concerned about getting the least expensive items. She wasn’t concerned about having deli roast beef or pricey cheeses. She was happy with bologna with some cheap mayonnaise, a small loaf of bread from the bakery and a couple bottles of water. I told her to grab a candy bar and when she spotted some little prepackaged cakes, I told her to get one of those too.
The process of finding the sweat pants wasn’t nearly as easy. She wanted the ones that were about $7.00 but we couldn’t find the right size for her. I convinced her to check in the women’s section (she wanted the men’s pants). Every pair I held up for her wasn’t right. Mostly the concern was that the material was too thin. Tracy finally said she would get a pair of the men’s pants in a larger size and she would pull the drawstring tightly. After we found a pair that would be suitable, we made our way to the registers to pay for our purchases.
Purchases completed, Tracy asked if I could get something for Carl. He tried to decline this idea but I insisted on getting something for him from McDonald’s. No matter what I said, he would only ask for some french fries and a milk. I got them for Carl and after asking if Tracy what she wanted, got her something too. While waiting for the order, Carl actually spoke to me. He asked some basic questions about me. The two questions most important…. “Are you a Christian?”  I replied I became a follower of Christ in 1988. Then quietly he queried “do you help a lot of homeless people?” I wished I could tell him I helped everyone I came across that was in need. I didn’t lie. I told Carl I helped whenever I could.
When the  food was ready, I helped Tracy and Carl to a table. Despite how badly Tracy smelled, I reached out to her and gave her a big hug. I held on tightly for a long time, assuring her I wouldn’t forget her. I gave Carl an equally big hug, asking him to take care of Tracy. I left them and as soon as I got into my car, I cried. They were tears for a woman who I wanted to save but didn’t have the means to do so. I cried because I wished I could have done so much more than I did. I cried to God…. I asked for His protection over Carl and Tracy. I went home and as I shed more tears, I told David about these two special friends.
I’d be lying if the smell from Tracy didn’t linger in my head for a bit. But, I knew that in God’s presence, she would smell as sweet as the most precious rose.

 

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can i trust you?

trust….according to the dictionary trust is reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc. of a person or thing; confidence.

trust….it takes years to get and seconds to lose.
I’m the type who trusts very easily but at the same time I’m cautious. I’ll trust you from day one, but if you break that trust, you have a lot to prove to get it back.

Over the years, I have done my share of breaking someone’s trust on me. I’m not proud of that fact, but I’m honest enough to admit it to the world. On the flip side, people have betrayed me. It’s hard to swallow, whether you are the one that betrays that trust or the one whose trust has been broken.

How do you trust when you’ve been burned so many times? How can you believe that your friend or loved one truly means what they say when they have done something that breaks your heart. Do you continue to tell that close friend your innermost thoughts? Do you believe your spouse after they’ve broken the marriage vows? Heck…do you trust yourself to keep your promises?

wpid-trust.jpeg

I’ve slowly begun to realize that I really can’t trust people the way I always have. And at the same time, I’ve come to the strong realization that there is one I can trust to NEVER hurt me, there is one that will NEVER break a promise or share my heart. That one person who I can place my complete trust in is Jesus. He keeps His promises. He has been there with me even if I turn away from Him in a moment of rebellion. The Bible tells me that if I “trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” I have to put my full trust in my Savior. He won’t hurt me. He’ll instead guide me and protect me.

Who do you trust?

 
 

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a slice of pizza

tonight, i attended an orientation for the z88.3 dream team. we’re a group of volunteers for our local Christian radio station. we help out at various events in the central florida area, answer phones during their share-athons, and other activities as needed. you can attend the orientation as often as they offer it – so there were people there that have been doing this for years. i joined the dream team back in november of 2013 when i was part of the phone crew for the fall fundraiser. this station is fully listener supported and commercial free. i have been a faithful listener for 8 of the 9 years i’ve been in orlando.

anyhow, they served us pizza and cookies. being a little bit of a pizza snob – growing up in the new york/new jersey area, you get some of the best pizza on the face of the earth and it’s a bit difficult to find really good pizza in orlando – i had to admit that the pizza they brought in was pretty good.

as i was noshing on a slice of pizza and enjoying the fellowship with the other dream team members, i couldn’t help but stop for a moment and think about the men and women in the central florida area who would be wondering if they were going to get anything to eat tonight. the weather had been pretty bad today and i didn’t know if the group i volunteer with most tuesdays would still have their weekly food share in downtown orlando. would these special friends get to eat? would someone see them and have compassion, either buying them a meal or sandwich, give them a little money to get a bite to eat or maybe give them whatever food they happened to have on them at the time? or would they have to forage through the many trash cans that line the sidewalks in the city? would they wait behind a local eatery, hoping to find some scraps that were tossed away but yet still edible? here i was, sitting inside a warm, dry building….eating some pizza that was warm and flavorful, ending the meal with a nice little treat of soft cookies. looking back, i wish i had thought to ask if i could grab some of the remaining slices to keep in the refrigerator until i went to see my friends on friday evening. ask if i could have the leftover cookies to share. they say that hindsight is 20/20.

i’ll be going to a food share on friday evening. i’ll take a couple of bags of fruit that i’ll pick up from the local produce market. i know that the recipients will be thankful. but i bet they would love to have that wonderful slice of pizza.

 

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light at the end of the tunnel

here’s an update to my last post……

you may recall that i shared that i’m coming to a crossroad regarding my future with my current position as a youth advocate. i’ve been dealing with the fact that i may have to look for different employment due to not making enough money to make ends meet. it doesn’t matter that it’s a job that i love. nor does it matter that it’s a job that, according to everyone who knows me even a little, comes naturally to me. to have to give up working with teenagers (and their families) is one that has caused me great heartache in the last couple of weeks, but i could not put off having a difficult conversation with my director.

as i do every monday morning, i went into the office to complete my many forms that document my visits and activities with my clients. i dot the “i’s” and cross the “t’s”. i make sure everything is signed and dated and all numbers for hours, mileage and receipts add up properly. once i’ve done that and turned it over to the administrative assistant and get my paycheck, i wait for my turn to have my weekly progress update meeting with my director. we discuss the previous week’s progress with each client i have been assigned to. the ups and downs. the good and the bad. my observations and my conversations. i’m given constructive criticism – mainly ideas how to improve on what i’m already doing as well as to make an idea work for the best possible outcome when utilized. when my director was happy at what i’d presented, i took a deep breath and told her we needed to talk – to really talk.

i shared my feelings about the position i’d interviewed for a month ago and was honest in stating that at this current time, the pay increase and guaranteed hours that go along with it were no longer just a small part of the desire to get that job. i was forthcoming about my current situation and with a heavy heart admitted that looking for something else may have to be strongly considered. i stated that leaving the organization was not something i wanted to do – in fact – it was causing me much anguish and heartache every time i thought about it. i told her for the first time, i felt i was in a job that was perfectly meant for me and i could no longer imagine myself doing anything else. i got a surprise. my director has made an offer that i never saw coming.

she is going to make a proposal to our other local office, the one i’d be working out of should i get the other position i’m waiting on. i’d still be in my current position as a youth advocate where i am now, but i would also work part time as a family partner out of the other office, getting 3-4 families to work with. she also offered to give me some in-office hours, helping with the front desk and other administrative duties. further, should the other office turn down her proposal, she’s going to give me additional clients, with one that just got referred to the program. AND two of the clients that i’ve taken over to work with until they are discharged from the program in a few weeks….i have the option of asking for them to get an extension (actually it would be yet another one) and keep them a little longer. she wants to do what she can to help because she’s admitted she would hate to see me have to leave.

i will admit – i had to restrain myself from first jumping up and down for joy, clapping my hands in excitement and keep from crying in relief. when i came home and shared this news with david, i repeated what had taken place during the conversation with my director and myself. between the work he’s doing, comments he made just recently about his own feelings with his work and its impact on our little home and the efforts of my boss to help me stay with the organization while bringing in more income to my household, the light at the end of the tunnel doesn’t seem quite so far away.

 
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Posted by on April 7, 2014 in A Very Amateur Photographer

 

where’s the money tree?

i am coming to a crossroad and i have a difficult decision to make soon. it unfortunately involves my current job.

i love what i do. i’m what’s referred to as a youth advocate. another word for a mentor. i work with the youth that are either in the mental health system, the juvenile justice system or both. my role is to help the youth gain a voice and advocate for themselves. i’m there to show them how to make positive choices that will make their future better. teach them how to make positive changes in their behavior so that they can strive to be a better person. encourage the baby steps they make toward those positive goals and when they take that backward step, show them that it’s ok to make a mistake once in a while. teach them how to learn from those mistakes so that they are much less inclined to head in that negative direction again. if school is part of the problem, work with them to change study habits and come up with education plans that will put them on the right track towards reaching their career goals that they’ve shared. there’s these things and so much more.

while working with the youth, i’m also working with the family. if the youth’s problems are affecting the family, then by making positive changes and positive choices, then at some point, the family begins to work more positively. sometimes there needs to be a little parental coaching. point out observations between the parent and child. suggest looking at things with a new perspective. remind them that behaviors and attitudes are in the progress of changing. remind them that positive reinforcement by the parent can make a big difference for their child. with praise and encouragement, cycles can be broken.

but there’s one big problem. it doesn’t pay enough. my position pays at different rates depending on what i am doing. if i’m with one client, i get one rate. if i am with more than one, i get another rate – per client. then there’s another rate if i am doing my paperwork, attending a training session, attending a staff meeting, or attending a live webinar. with gas prices as they are, what we are reimbursed for mileage doesn’t quite foot the bill. my clients live on the other side of the county i live in so my commute just to pick any of them up is 45 minutes to an hour, depending on traffic. then you’ve got driving time to get to the various activities you take them to – whether it’s to the library for study time, the park for a little recreation or a workshop held at the office for our clients. for my one client, the closest thing we do is the library – it’s 2 miles from her home. but everything else is at least 25-30 minutes away. even having a little ford escort, i still burn gas.

my monthly expenses are rent, car insurance, renter’s insurance, electric bill and phone. add gas for my own personal errands and activities (are you kidding), and groceries for me and david and you wind up in a deficit before you even start.

there’s a position i’ve interviewed for within the same organization i work for now. it’s guaranteed 40 hours with the same pay rate across the board – no variances depending on what you do. there’s a bit of a difference in what i’d be doing, but i’d welcome the challenges that this new position would bring.

the problem i have is this…..how to tell my boss that while i love my job, i can’t afford to continue to do it. how to tell her that the position i’m being considered for would be very welcomed as the pay is (unfortunately) part of the attraction to it. how to tell her that i may have to start looking for something else. these decisions and more weigh so heavily on my mind.

oh to find a million dollars under a rock so that i can continue to do what i love. better yet, just plant a money tree outside of my patio door and i’ll be fine (as long as i don’t kill it).

 

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