Tuesday, January 22, 2008

15 minutes

i only stopped by for a few minutes.

the water in the shower is broken, turned all the way to hot. the men can't go in to fix it because one woman won't come out. she's barely visible through the steam, lathering away. the heat must feel amazing on such a cold night. others are angry. she keeps lathering. i understand.

folks are wet. the rain is making a mess of things and with the long weekend we aren't seeing the usual donations. a man is drenched, four layers soaked through. we give him a big blanket, it's not enough, we have no dry clothes. some folks start asking around, seeing who's got what. he's big though, this guy. we'll have to see.

he's new and he's angry. he's lost it all behind a relationship. he's never been here before and he can't believe he's here now. his voice is controlled and yet unnerves me. it's his first long night, a dark night of the soul. i wonder if he'll make it, but there's nowhere else to go.

the TV's on the blink. a bad night for no TV. about twenty guys are huddled around the snowy picture while a couple are tinkering behind. a cheer goes up. a horrible picture beats no picture at all. it goes back to snow. motherfucker, one says and stamps his foot.

she comes up to me in her wheelchair. it's raining, she said. can't we stay longer in the rain. it's not my call but i'm working on it i tell her, i am so sorry and i truly am but i've only got so much pull. she turns away, mutters, pissed. it seems like i should be able to fix it. i understand.

they've come to offer a bible study. have you worked with the homeless before, i ask. no, he says, but you know, i've been to prison myself, and looks a bit sheepish. somehow soothed by that i think it'll be okay, just don't push them, i say, folks can come if they want but don't force it. you'll be amazed by the faith here but don't push it on those who aren't interested. i hear you, he says, i am just the instrument. but aren't we all, I think and hope it will be okay.

she's fallen asleep early, lying on the floor in the middle of the din. folks stepping over her occasionally because it's a full house tonight and there's a long way to go. one stumbles into her, she rolls over, automatically grips her bag already nestled in her arms looks up and away and shuts her eyes. i notice her walker folded up next to her. as much as i try and see and know i still can't understand how it's come to this.

36 comments:

liv said...

you do so much that moves me, girl. thanks for bringing these accounts from the field. it makes such a difference to my heart to hear.

wheelsonthebus said...

You bring perspective to my world. But what you bring to theirs is so much greater.

Emily

Jodi said...

you bring major perspective to my world. thank you.

ewe are here said...

I can't understand how it's come to this for so many either. Nothing ever seems to change... it's just not right.

kristen said...

i love you honey, for all the good you do, even if it feels some things are beyond your control.

painted maypole said...

i feel like i say the same thing about all of your posts about life in the shelter, but I really appreciate you sharing these stories with us. Thank you for opening our hearts and our minds to these people, and thank you for all the work you do - both physical and emotional.

While you were in vegas I gave you a little bloggy bling for your life changing words: http://paintedmaypole.blogspot.com/2008/01/i-only-wish-it-were-fiction.html

QT said...

thanks for sharing these snippets, jen. it makes all my cares seem so petty in comparison to not having a bed or a hot shower.

Blog Antagonist said...

I feel the same as painted maypole...that I keep saying the same things over and over. But you are wonderful person to do what you do. I don't think I would last two seconds. And sharing with us is so important. Keep doing it, please.

nengaku said...

There are worse things than being homeless - like being homeless in a world without people like YOU!
Thank you for all you do.
Peace

Aliki2006 said...

Two steps forward, three steps back...it makes me sick to think how little things have changed, too, and how it has come to this.

cce said...

It seems so dark there sometimes, so hopeless. I'm constantly amazed by your optimism. It's a shit storm and you just pull anchor and head right into the wind. You go girl!

flutter said...

I love you.

Redneck Mommy said...

I just found out my childhood best friend is living in a shelter.

Your posts are that more meaningful and crushing now.

thailandchani said...

Ghod, I really hate the fact that people have to live like that!

I really need this break. :)

I'll email you from there. See you in a few weeks.

Mrs. Chicky said...

Wow, this hurt.

I can't even imagine how it feels for you. And I definitely can't imagine how it feels for them.

crazymumma said...

oh the weather. the fucking weather and how it wreaks havoc.

one of the men out there who I talk with always speaks about the good weather. or. the bad weather. And what a difference it makes.

crazymumma said...

oh the weather. the fucking weather and how it wreaks havoc.

one of the men out there who I talk with always speaks about the good weather. or. the bad weather. And what a difference it makes.

mitzh said...

I feel guilty after I read this. Sometimes or most of the times we got caught up in our own little world, that we never seem to care enough to look outside. To know that we are blessed...

Thank you, Jen for being there, for constantly reminding us and for keeping us in reality...

Ally said...

Each paragraph gives us a glimpse into the life of another, and into your heart. Thank you, Jen.

Family Adventure said...

First I got chills from the rain you described, but what really made me feel cold, was the sheer hopelessness of the situation. It really shouldn't have to be like this. It doesn't have to.

Heidi

hele said...

I don't know what to say.

mamatulip said...

Oh, Jen. I truly am at a loss for words.

Oh, The Joys said...

It's a same, this universal snapshot.

Wayfarer Scientista said...

I always worry this time of year - in Alaska the weather is sooo cold and the places for people to go are so few and far inbetween. And Los Anchorage has been voted the most unfriendly city for homeless.

I admire all that you do woman.

Kyla said...

Oh jen.

Mad Hatter said...

With all the talk of recession this week, I can't help but think of you and those flood gates opening ever wider.

Julie Pippert said...

It shames me to know that those who should have the most help often have the least.

And Mad's right: we face this getting worse in so many respects.

Bless you friend. Bless them too.

andrea_frets said...

You paint such a vivid picture within those paragraphs.

Daisy said...

So vivid, so sad, so true.

patches said...

You do wonders, Jen. I know it doesn't seem like enough, but it matters to so many.

Suz said...

I take fearfully hot showers, two a day, as hot as the dial will go. They're short, but really hot. I need my hot showers to get me going, wake me up, clear my head. Those 10 minutes are some of my most favorite in the day.

When I read your first words, about the woman clinging to her hot water despite the anger of others, I got tears in my eyes. It's such a simple thing, a hot, hot shower.

Jennifer said...

You have a way of getting at the soul of all of it -- through the layers and right to the soul.

This:

i hear you, he says, i am just the instrument. but aren't we all, I think and hope it will be okay.

left me breathless.

dawn224 said...

wow. all that in 15 minutes...

Little Monkies said...

i notice her walker folded up next to her. as much as i try and see and know i still can't understand how it's come to this.

Chills.

Thinking of you.

Joker The Lurcher said...

no wonder you are low, jen. you need to take care of your self. if you burn out they will all be worse off

Mommahbear. said...

It's -50 at night with the wind in our city and our centers are full. I'm praying, but chances are someone is going to die on the wrong side of a closed door, this week. I've been giving, but money and blankets and sandwiches don't take the sting out of frostbite or the death out of fifty below. I know how you feel.