RSS

Category Archives: it’s just me

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.

 
1 Comment

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

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

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?

 
1 Comment

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

 

Tags: , , ,

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/

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

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.

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

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).

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

it’s all in the bag

image

while looking at the photos I had taken with my phone at the last two food shares in downtown Orlando, I noticed something that I hadn’t really paid attention to before. all the people there waiting to be fed had bags slightly under the bench they sat on, with it placed just so that their feet were touching part of them.

image

some had one large bag while others had several smaller bags. there were lots of backpacks and a couple of suitcases. those that were fortunate to own a bike had a place to put their bags. others weren’t so lucky and had to bear their loads in their arms, and/or on their backs.
what’s inside? contained within the bags were, for the most part, their every possession that was a necessary part of their lives. chances are, you wouldn’t find large makeup kits or a stack of CDs and DVDs. what you’ll probably find are clothes – what little they own; toiletries – when they are able to get their hands on some; and probably some nonperishable food – granola bars, some easy open canned food that don’t require heating  and other things that they are fortunate to get at food shares and possibly a food bank. for those who are suffering from various forms of mental disorders, there could be items that one might find extremely odd, but something most needed for their reality.

image

some will hold on to their belongings tightly, (understandably) afraid someone will come and take all that they own. I’m sure that a large number carry many of the plastic shopping bags given when you go to Walmart or Target or your local convenience shop. those will be used to carry food. the food given at the many food shares they can find, hoping that there’s enough to go around where they could score seconds and maybe even thirds. those extra portions can be at least 2-3 meals in case there’s no handouts the next day.
I’m thinking of a sweet friend who is facing life on the streets. she, and her family have been hit with one stroke of bad luck after another and all of the bad luck is starting to cave in on them. it’s bad enough to face this as an adult, but she has two children to take care of. No matter what she and her husband try to do, it just gets worse. if she lived in the same state as I do, I could find a way to help. I don’t have room for 4 more people in my little apartment, but i know enough that might be able to help or at least point the way to get help. of course there’s no guarantees, but I would do my darnedest to make sure that their lives weren’t reduced to a few bags.

 

Tags: , , ,

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.

cute 1

//

 

Tags: , , ,