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Author Archives: garden angel

rethinking homelessness

once again, i’ve been mia. i’m just coming off of an intense couple of months where i think my car and my clients saw me a great deal more than my husband did. it ended after a week where i was covering as the administrative assistant in the office while she was on her honeymoon and then going to see my clients, then the following week i’d see my clients and then run off to church to do the administrative duties for vbs (vacation bible school). those two weeks i’d leave the apartment around 8-9 am and sometimes not get home til around 11pm. it’s taken the better part of the last two weeks to recover and i can’t say that i’m at the top of my game yet. sleep is a precious commodity for me right now…i want lots of it.

anyhow, this last week, my eyes have been opened in big ways when it comes to how i help with the homeless. there is an orlando middle school teacher who has voluntarily gone homeless for 30 days. he is doing this for two reasons – the first is to raise awareness. the other reason is to raise money. he is asking for people to donate – any amount – and all the donations will go to benefit local charities in orlando that assist the homeless and to orange county public schools. he keeps nothing. for the full “effect”, he took only the clothes on his back and his id. he also took his iphone and charger so that he could use it to make video blogs each day to talk about his experiences.

thomas started his journey the night of july 4th. he created a facebook page to post his updates and at the present time, there are close to 3000 people following that page. you can check it out here:https://www.facebook.com/hungryandhomeless

each day, thomas somehow teaches me something new. first, i didn’t realize that the stigma of homeless people are addicted to drugs or alcohol is far from the truth these days. many are what’s considered the working poor – those that do have a job, but don’t make enough to support themselves in some sort of stable living quarters. there’s also a great many that are veterans. you’d be surprised at how many i’ve seen in the months of volunteering in orlando. another thing – when the homeless ask for money – it’s usually not for food (there are lots of organizations that feed the homeless), but to get basics – shampoo, toilet paper, sunscreen (it’s definitely needed here) and other basic products. they’ll use it to pay for a night at a cheap motel if they can get enough.

today – i had the chance to put some of what i’m learning into practice. after work, i stopped to pick up a few groceries. when i emerged from the store, there was a young man approaching random people in the parking lot. it is pretty safe to assume that he was seeking assistance. he looked like he had been having a rough time. after loading my purchase in my car, i drove over to where he had just been rejected by another person and lowered the window. i asked him if he would like me to get him something to eat. he hesitated and then politely declined. he then stated, “what i really need is money”. well…..i almost never carry cash and i told him this. but i offered to look, adding that if i did find anything, he’d be lucky. i opened my wallet and began to look through the various compartments. would you know…..folded neatly in my wallet behind some business cards was a $5 dollar bill that i thought i had lost a few weeks ago! i smiled as i handed it over to this young man. he thanked me as i wished him a blessed evening.

but that’s not the end of the story. almost home, i turned onto a side street that would take me to my husband. i noticed two very disheveled men on the opposite side of the road with their bicycles and a bunch of bags that i knew would be their every belonging. i pulled the car into an adjacent lot, parked the car and grabbed a couple of bags i had in the back seat. i put together a small kit of items that would be useful…..some shampoo, some bars of soap and toilet paper. i would normally add other items, but it was all i had left on hand. i drove back to where the two men still sat and again, lowered the window. i yelled out “i don’t have any cash left on my, but i do have some things here that you could use.” the one man came over to the car, took the bag and smiled really big, he thanked me and returned my wish for a blessed evening. i drove away, thinking of how one man’s journey to raise awareness for homelessness has changed how i approach them.

i pray that God protects the three men i met tonight and that they felt God’s presence in our brief encounters.

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Posted by on July 10, 2014 in it's just me, My Walk With God

 

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the bread of life

it’s been a while since my last post. i’ve been so busy with work that at the end of most days, i am ready to just sit and do nothing. i am putting in hours at the office helping with payroll and filing and whatever project my boss would like me to help with. i love the projects….they usually involve research and i love researching. after the office stuff, i might get to go home for about an hour before i have to head back out the door to start picking up my clients.

lately, when i’m volunteering at the food shares with straight street orlando, i’ve been taking some of the leftover rolls and using them for making sandwiches for our church’s street ministry. on sunday after church, we feed the people we’ve picked up that morning a bagged lunch that will have a sandwich, some chips and cookies and something cold to drink. we have a group of women, myself included, that sign up to make 20 lunches each week (two volunteers per week). since i’ve only been back to work since late january, finances are still a bit tight so any resource i can get that will allow me to help others – i’ll take it.

there is a woman at work whose church has a group that now does food shares twice a month where i go on tuesdays and they had a lot of leftover bread – i asked if i could have some – i’d use it for sandwiches for my church’s street ministry as well as give it those that would want some. the bread i received was some good stuff – hearty white, rye, multi-grain as well as some large sandwich sized rolls – the kind you’d put a big burger on.

yesterday, i had the chance to be home by 8pm. when i took my last two clients home (who are brothers) i was talking to their father and learned that other than items in the freezer for dinners, they were lacking some of the staples – bread, eggs, milk, along with a few other things. he gets a check for disability – he’s a double amputee below the knee with a slew of other health problems. it’s a single parent household with no other sources of income. i care about these kids…..they managed to grow on me in a short amount of time despite my reluctance to work with them. so my first instinct – grab a piece of paper and ask for a list. the father is illiterate so he told me what he needed and i wrote it down. not a huge list. stuff to make lunches for the boys. some cereal and coffee. milk and eggs. and a little sugar-free ice cream. after piling the boys back into the car (the one is 13 and stands 6’2″) i called david and told him i’d be late and why. then off to walmart we went. went to the deli for lunch meat. grabbed enough eggs to last more than a couple of days. milk – check! coffee – check!  after a few minutes of hard searching, finally found the ice cream!! woot!! we returned back at the boys’ house and unloaded our packages. i also had this huge bag of bread in the trunk. i flung it over my shoulder and carried it into the house like i was santa 🙂 i started pulling different varieties of bread and was told which was good and which one was not wanted. when i was done, i was surprised – the dad reached out and gave me a hug as he thanked me. bigger surprise – the boys gave me hugs too!! the older one – the one who is 6’2″ – he said “miss lisa…it’s hard to hug you – you’re so little!” i laughed and stepped to the top of the ramp set up for his dad to get into the house on his power chair. i said “is this easier? i’m now up higher so you can hug me easier!” he laughed and gave me another hug. i told each of the boys to be good for their dad as i left.

later that night, i saw that the older boy sent me a message, “i forgot to say thank you”. i kept that message in my heart the rest of the night.

Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life….John 6:35

 
 

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listen to me

what do you do when you are talking to someone and you come to the realization that you haven’t been heard?

i have been going through a lot lately and to be honest, i have been having a hard time finding joy in much right now. i have a lot of years of practice at hiding things – i can appear to be happy and most would never know the truth. but there are a few individuals that can spot my true feelings and, if they take the time to do so, will try to coax those feelings from me. last night was one of those times.

someone that has known me for more than a minute came over to talk to me last night. they commented that they haven’t seen a real smile from me in a while. initially i was reluctant to respond, but i also knew that if this person was going to take the time to notice, maybe they would take the time to listen. so as i’ve done many times over the years, i slowly let my guard down. as the tears began to fall, i began to open up.

let me explain something first….it isn’t always easy for me to tell people the things that are hidden deep within my soul. going back to when i was a small girl, i was the one expected to listen to others’ problems, but no one really did the same for me. so instead, i retreated into the special world of books and poetry. when things became especially difficult, i’d either head outside to the back yard where “my tree” was, it was in the farthest corner of the yard and it was mine. it was in plain sight of the back of the house, but everyone knew when i was under my tree, it meant i wanted to be left alone. if the weather wasn’t conducive for me to go there, i’d go to the farthest corner down in the basement for solitude. when i went there, it wasn’t always so obvious where i was and one had to really look to find me. when i was in my safe places, i could let my guard down and cry. i could talk to God in a way that only little girls could because i knew He would listen.

it has only been during certain times in my adult life that someone has come into my life and has somehow managed to read me like a book just from one look at my face. i could probably count on less than one hand the number of times that has happened. the person i was talking to last night is one of them. or so i thought.

anyhow, i began to pour out my heartache. i still left a couple of things so painful hidden only because i still haven’t figured out how i’m supposed to even talk about them. my listener was quiet, only asking questions if i paused for a long period. sometimes they didn’t say anything but waited. after sometime, my listener began to talk about only one aspect of the things that were so painful for me. and that seemed to be the main focus. i kept trying to say that that one thing was important, but there was so much more, which i’d already shared. i couldn’t seem to get the point across that there were multiple things that were causing my joy to disappear from my being. it didn’t take long for me to realize that my listener really wasn’t listening. the more i tried to steer the conversation in a different direction and put more focus on the rest of what i’d shared, the more it seemed i was not being heard. i’m glad i wasn’t asked if i felt better after talking with my listener, because i don’t know if i could have lied to this person and said i did. this was someone you just don’t do that with. so i left with the feeling of being in the same place as i was prior to the conversation.

so – i have to ask….are you really listening?

 
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Posted by on May 6, 2014 in it's just me, My Walk With God

 

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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?

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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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