Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from Sacramento!

Since my last post, work has had some really stressful days. With it being the holiday season, we are getting a lot of donations (which is great!). All of these donations mean extra traffic on North C Street (where Loaves and Fishes is). This traffic just makes work seem busier even though I rarely deal with the donations. The holiday season is either excellent or very hardening on our guests though. I think this is the hardest part. Some are in really high spirits, and others are depressed that they have no where better to go during this season. That being said, some of the Scrooges have caused some ruckus at the Park in the last couple weeks.

With all of that said, Christmas has been excellent to me out here. Yesterday my roommate Nicole and I went to church with our boss Garren and his wife Linda. They go to the church that has our Monday morning volunteers as 2 of its pastors, so we got to see Brennan and Mark and their families last night as well. Then after service, Nicole & I got to go to Christmas Eve dinner at Garren & Linda's daughter Kim's house. It was a wonderful Christmas dinner. We met the family and enjoyed the food and company. Then we left early so we could get home in time to head to the Cathedral for mass. The Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament is always gorgeous, but last night it was even more beautiful. I think the beauty was in the fact that it was the first time that I'd been there that it didn't feel empty. It's a very large building, and the middle pews are usually the only ones full, but last night the side ones were filling up as well.

Then this morning, I woke up and went downstairs by our tree to get ready to skype home and celebrate (as much as I could) with my family. Nicole was already up making biscuits and gravy. So around 7am Pacific time, I was able to skype the family and open presents together. I got a lot of great gifts, and way more gifts than I'd expected. Then I had to say goodbye so I could eat some biscuits and gravy before heading into work.

I was not looking forward to working on Christmas. I was trying to pretend that I'd enjoy it, but I really enjoy just being lazy around a house all day on Christmas and spending time with family. Today, work reminded me how much everyone at Loaves is a family. It was beautiful! There were many little miracles all around. The biggest miracle I saw today happened while I was on the street talking to Jose. It was my first time to really talk to him, and I enjoyed our conversation. At one point during our conversation, and older Hispanic man came up to ask where Jose got the sleeping pad he was holding. Jose told him that he'd gotten it from SafeHaven, but that there were no more. Then he saw the man look a little down, and Jose asked if he needed one. When the man said yes, Jose handed the man his sleeping pad. To me, that was such a grand gesture for one man sleeping on the ground to make to another. It was a beautiful day at work. Everyone was saying "Merry Christmas" or "Feliz Navidad". We had no fights. No one had to be kicked out. It was amnesty day, so even those who are 86'd were able to join us for the day. It was truly beautiful.

Tonight, Nicole and I are having Christmas Dinner with the founders of Loaves and Fishes. It's nice to know that even though I'm a couple thousand miles from home, I still have family out here and I'm not alone on the holidays. I hope that your Christmas has been as wonderful as mine!

Feliz Navidad!


Friday, December 2, 2011

Miracles During The Holiday Season

After a much needed break back home for Thanksgiving, I have found myself more enthusiastic about work. My first full day back was yesterday.

Before I left for Kansas, Loman (a middle-aged guest) asked me to bring him something back from home. I agreed to, but then couldn't find anything that I thought he could actually use that also showed it was from Kansas. On our drive West, we stopped at a gas station. I knew that a gas station would have a postcard, or snow globe, or something Kansas. Then I saw a KU beanie. It's becoming winter, so I KNEW that Loman could use a beanie. I picked it up for him and then continued the drive, hoping he wasn't a K-State fan. Anyways, so yesterday at work, I was about to head to lunch and saw Loman sitting on his bench. I went into the office, put the beanie in my pocket, and went to sit and talk with him and wait a bit longer before I took lunch. When I gave Loman the beanie, his face lit up and he gave me a big hug. I never expected that a beanie for a team that I guarantee he could care less about would make him so happy. It made my day just to know that such a simple gesture can go so far. He put it on right away, and I haven't seen him without it on since. It really touched my heart just to see someone so happy.

Oh, we also had a horseshoe tournament at the park yesterday. It was fantastic! I helped Green Hat Tim run it even though I didn't know much at all about horseshoes. We had an odd number of guests, so I teamed up with one of them to make sure he could play too. It was great to see 15 guests pair up in teams and compete. Everyone had a great time watching and playing. It really was a miracle to just see so much joy in the park yesterday.

Then we have today. As you may or may not know, I'm not an activist. I don't feel comfortable at protests, and I just don't enjoy feeling uncomfortable. Well, today, SafeGround was holding a press conference to bring attention to the fact that they've been herded along the river, and now the police are trying to evict them from the last place they had to go. My boss really wanted me to go to the press conference with him, but I kept trying to think of ways to get out of it. Eventually he reminded me that Social Justice is one of the pillars of JVC, so I decided to go even though I'd feel uncomfortable. We got to SafeGround, and I walked along the bike path with Green Hat Jackie to see what the camping area looked like. It was amazing to finally see where so many of my friends/guests live. After walking along the bike path, we came down from the levee and started talking to some of our friends.

I talked to this young man Michael. He's 23 and has been hitchhiking for the past 9 months. He's originally from Georgia. He was telling me what it's like to live at SafeGround, especially with the weather conditions that sometimes occur (like our recent extremely windy days). The thing that touched me the most during our conversation wasn't that he's only a year older than me and homeless. It was that he keeps in touch with his parents and can go back to Georgia whenever he pleases, but that he doesn't want to leave until the SafeGround issues are solved for his friends. I'd never really gotten to talk to Michael much, he usually just stops by the park for a short period (which I found out is because he has a dog, Slayer, that isn't fixed and, therefore, can't go in our kennel). I remember the first day I remembered his name, the shock and happiness on his face. Through my conversation with Michael today, I learned so much more about him than I ever had at the park. I couldn't believe that he could go home at any time, but he would prefer to be homeless and stand up with his friends that he's only known for a month or two. Michael gained a lot of respect from me today. It's hard to stand up for something you believe in when you're in a good situation. When standing up for what you believe in puts you in a bad situation, well I know it's not something I could ever do. Michael showed me the strength of real friendship. I will always thank Michael for that.

I hope that during this holiday season, we can all be more like Loman, the horseshoe players, and Michael. Let us appreciate the little things, the time with each other, and our friends. Every person has a lot to appreciate. If anyone can teach you to appreciate life, it's the homeless. Stop and talk to one. Ask him/her their name. Smile and don't look put-off by them. Some of the nicest people in this world don't have a roof to sleep under. One may be living in your neighborhood. Please, take the time to say hello.