Sunday, October 17, 2010
Being back in the mix means I'm back in the mix. It's frayed a bit now, half or at least a third of me is in the jungle but the rest of me is here and here is where I need to do what I can. I've got a new gig, temporarily running a smaller organization trying to bring more housing to those who need it.
So last week I went down into the creeks, the places where folks sleep who can't or don't want to go to a shelter, either because they are full (they are always full) or because they can't handle the rules, or because it's no place like home at all. A friend and I hiked down to a spot where we immediately stood out next to a group of 20 or so folks just packing up for the day. At first there was a lot of staring and then wondering why we weren't showing up like the church folk with socks and coffee. So after a few we start talking, an old timer leading the way. One by one they start to tell us why they aren't in a shelter and why this is all they've got and jiving aside the stories are theirs and ours and different and the same.
Drugs and drink and sick and violence and fear and filth and loneliness and hopelessness and humor and laughter and joy and strength and at the end of it all it's plain old poor. We hear their stories and then we tell them some of ours, that we are working on a project that will put keys in their hands. Not today and not soon enough but keys all the same.
They nod and they listen and invite us to sit. They tell us that sounds real good and how no one has come with lines like this and even if it's a good story why should they believe us and we agree with all of it, we admit the road is long but we have hope, and more than hope we have a plan.
It doesn't have to be like this I tell them and they nod their heads. We wind things up and get up to go when one of the guys reaches out and grabs my hand Don't forget about us he says. And I grab his hand right back and tell him we won't, that it might take us a bit but we'll be coming back. And as we climb the hill my friend and I are quiet, we've both done years in shelters and met thousands of folks and even after all this time and even some time away the problem is right here smacking me in the face. We can do better than this.
We will do better than this.