Today was a cold, clear day on North First. It is the end of the month so we knew that there would be a lot of hungry people waiting when we arrived. I have been so blessed the last two weeks by people who have provided all the food that I felt really excited to cook this week. It was fun to see what the Lord would unfold since that is exactly how it happens. Over the last month, people have blessed us with some turkeys, ground beef, bread, etc. So.... I felt like the Lord was saying... "Use it all up!!" So today we had a wonderful schmorgasborg!! (spelling?) We had turkey soup, hamburger beef stroganoff, stuffing, sweet potatoes, rice, potatoes, various wonderful desserts- much of which showed up by wonderful volunteers!! Needless to say... many people went away filled and happy- As well as warm because many coats, pants, blankets, hats, shoes, etc. were distributed.
As I was driving home today, I was thinking about what I would write about for this blog. I was trying to picture what stood out to me the most and I came up with 2 words.... season.....attitude.
These two words have been rumbling around in my head. The word "season" kept standing out to me because I have heard it said many times, "Sin is good for a season"... but eventually the consequences of your actions set in and it is not so fun. This is my paraphrase. I tried to find it in the bible and could not... but it is an idea that I have heard many times.
"Sin is good for a season..." Last February/March we met a couple who had been living down by the river for a short while. They were young-- 20's, happy, and definitly a "couple". At one point they thought that they were going to be having a baby and were as giddy as any expectant couple. The boyfriend was affectionate and protective of his girlfriend. He seemed proud to be an expectant dad. Each week that we saw them, they would talk a little more, smile, and share about their week. After about a month or so... they didn't seem as happy and the young mom didn't seem to have a growing tummy. Week after week went on and it was obvious that they must have lost the baby. Life down at the river continued on. In the spring when we were taken on a tour by the river, we got to see where they lived. They still had some happiness in their faces, but not nearly as much as when we first met them. The summer blazed by and we would see them off and on... sweaty and dirty, sometimes smiling, sometimes not. They looked different though... rougher... dirtier.... "harder".
The only thing that I could think was..."Life by the river isn't as fun as it once might have seemed." The couple told us how they had rigged up an outdoor shower and that it worked well through the summer... the cool fall air must not have made it as easy or enjoyable. Fast forward to this past month..... I see them each week- he is sullen and seems very angry. She tip toes around him as not to upset him. He snaps at her and she grumbles back. Both are filthy from head to toe. Their clothes, faces, hands, hair, covered with a layer of dirt. Today they stood in line feroshously hungry. They arrived towards the end when we were passing out bowls of thick turkey soup to the people waiting in the food line so that we could see how much more we needed. The girl flipped the top off her bowl and started eating it with her dirty fingers. (The spoons were at the other end of the tables). What a different sight from the happy, smiley, girl that I first met months before. Here she stood, dirty-hungry- sores on her face from the meth...whiskers that the women often get cover her chin- (A lot of times if they are abusing stimulants, it causes adrenal exhaustion which upsets the hormones and causes them to produce too much testosterone leading to a lot of unwanted facial hair.) The boyfriend was equally as dirty.
My heart continues to break each week as I watch this couple turn from two young people that were excited about a new adventure to two dying young people. Their death is a slow death of spirit as well as body. What may have started as an adventure and drug dabbling has turned into an addiction that has them by the throat. It is a vicious cycle...When they do the drugs- they want more... and when they want more...they have to do something to get the money- the drugs are killing their bodies, but their bodies are screaming for the drugs.... Their physical appearance has changed through time as well as their spirits. They come with an aura of "hopelessness"... of just barely getting by...I don't know what will happen to them, but I know where they can go to get a smile, a hug, some warm food, some clothes, and maybe some blankets. I know where they can go to get some hope.... but I don't know if they are ready for that. I continue to pray that they will be ready to turn things around, to start working the other way on the number line. I picture them digging deeper and deeper down like a number line.... counting backwards.... 10.9.8.7.126.96.36.199.2.1.0.-1,-2,-3,-4.......How far down will they get???
On the lighter side... a funny thing happened today. Keith was working the clothes side. He was asking people what they needed and then would call back the sizes, types of clothes, etc. for the volunteers to get from the boxes. At one point he held up an orange tarp that was in a clear bag and asked a gentleman if he needed it. The man replied, "What's that?" Keith laughed and said, "If you don't know what this is you must live in a house hu?" The man answered, "Your right, I don't. I live in a house." Another man close by said, "Ya, he lives in a house. I know what that is and I need it because I live down by the river." The lesson we learned... if you don't know what it is used for... you probably live in a house. lol!!!! (We have a lot of people that come who are able to pay for a hotel room or a small apartment, but do not have enough money to pay for extras like clothes, blankets, food, etc.) We continue with our motto- "Love, Not Judge"
Another positive- There is a couple who we have helped since last winter. The husband has a job now and just comes down towards the end of the month when food gets low at his place. Many of the people we serve have small part time jobs or are on disability... There have been many children this past month though... that is hard to see. It is a joy to be able to put a pair of shoes on a child who is wearing sandals at this time of year as well as a nice warm jacket. There are young moms that are trying to make it the best they can on their own... so many situations.... so many needs.... and One Jesus who knows each one of them by name.
Thank you Jesus for loving us... for providing for us... for allowing us the honor of serving your children with respect and dignity. Whether infant or elderly... Lord Your love is for all!!! Thank You Jesus for bringing us loving hearts to help serve You!! Please protect them throughout their week!!! In Jesus Holy Name, Amen :0)