Daniel and Amanda’s Weblog

March 25, 2008

The great chasm

I used this analogy while talking to my friend Josh about our attempt at bringing homeless people over to our house. The ideas was to go pick up 2 or 3 homeless men or women (or a family) and bring them over to enjoy a pot roast we’d bought for half off. Like before, I assumed I could at least find a couple guys in the Village area, but first tried 3 other places. In the end, I didn’t bring anyone home, so we had a nice dinner with friends and played a game for a bit. Nobody said no, it’s just that I didn’t every find anyone to ask. Here are the reasons.

1. Centennial Park. I drove around looking for someone who was obviously homeless, then I guess my plan was to just go let them know that my wife and I had prepared a meal and we wanted to invite someone who didn’t have plans for dinner over. The only people I saw were two black men, one in mid 40’s probably and the other likely over 60. Though they were dressed poorly and similar to other homeless men I’ve been around, I didn’t want to assume they were homeless, and walk up and offer something to them. Being white, I felt like it could be seen as racial profiling.

2. Campus for Human Development. In Nashville, if you’re homeless and you want a place to stay, you can go to the Campus and try to get a ticket (at least during the colder months of the year). If you get a ticket, you will go to one of the many churches around town who offer their space through a program called Room at the Inn. When I drove up to the Campus, my hope was that I could find 2 or 3 people who didn’t get a ticket for that night and invite them over at least for a hot meal and a shower / new clothes if they so desired. There were probably 100 people standing around as I pulled in. I asked a couple of guys what the process was, and they let me know how the giving of tickets would go down. Then I told a man who worked and lived there what I wanted to do, so he took me inside to the lady behind the counter. She was in charge, I guess. Before I finished telling her what I wanted to do, she was saying how that I should never ever invite a homeless person into my home, because it’s just not safe. When I suggested that I might try to find someone that I already knew, she continued by demanding she would never in good conscience recommend that, even if it was a homeless person I know. My spirits sunk, and I drove on. The tickets had not been given out yet, and I didn’t want to invite anyone who had the possibility of getting in at the Room at the Inn.

3. The Academy. This is an addiction recovery program where men live and learn new skills or trades. I’ve met about 7 of them so far through volunteer eye exams at my clinic. One of them is writing a book about his experience there, and asked for permission to write about me, so I’d already mentioned to him the possibility of coming over for dinner sometime. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the number to the Academy with me, and I drove around for probably 30 minutes unable to find it.

4. Hillsboro Village, where so far we’ve been 100% successful finding guys who wanted a free home cooked meal, was almost completely deserted. I drove home, alone, back to my wife and my friends…people just like me.

There exists this great chasm that seems to exist in order to keep people within their own class (and skin color, and nationality, and religion, and….).

It seems widest where it divides the very rich and the very poor.

It’s filled with fear, with thoughts of safety, with prejudice, with comfort, and with concerns for public image along with desires to impress peers.

Spanning it are just a few bridges like interracial marriages, church congregations of many different classes and colors, and occasional working situations that make truly equal black and white, native American and Asian, male and female, Christian and Muslim.

Its steep cliffs are frightening, enough to constantly deter one from reaching the distant banks…even for someone who truly desires to cross it.

My hope is that I can keep fighting it. To keep valid concerns such as safety in mind, but not let that keep me from doing what I feel is right.

Any thoughts?

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September 25, 2007

Dirty showers

Filed under: christianity,Homelessness,Religion and Philosophy — theburts @ 4:51 pm

Cussing. Lots of cussing, including the big bombs. Drinking. Just a beer each, though. Good food. Pot roast, broccoli casserole, rolls, sweet tea…mmm. Dirty shower. Filth, smell, and dirt running down our shower drain. Relaxing. Sitting on couches, on our rocker chair, chilling to music, enjoying the a/c.

That was our house last night. Amanda and me and Steve and Allen. Two guys I found in Hillsboro Village. Homeless. Amanda and I got a roast at Costco that was too big for us and ended up cooking tons of other food too, so we decided to invite people over. Then we decided to be literal on the Luke 14:12 verse. (On searching for this verse, apparently others in Nashville have done the same!)

When I said Hi to Allen, he asked me to help him out with a bus ticket, but was happy to accept an offer for a free meal instead. Then we drove around looking for a couple others who might want to take up the offer too. And found Steve, passed out on a bench beside Pancake Pantry. Cussed out Allen when he woke him up and told him not to pull on his clothes or touch his radio. Made sure there were no dogs under all the stuff in my car, which was entirely possible with all the junk in my backseat, then slouched in and we took off. By the time we got there 10 minutes later, Steve was asking “where in the hell” we were.

Both veterans, now homeless. Yet Steve was still proud enough to show me his veterans ID card. Admitted later that the government has completely failed to give him the help he needs, and that “things will never change” even with a change in the administration. Somewhere in their 40’s or 50’s…hard to tell. I haven’t seen Allen before. But Steve is known to be the Hillsboro Village drunk. He’s passed out in front of stores before and they call the police to remove him so they can open for business. I’ve never said Hi to him before. But tonight he was just our guest for dinner. Steve and Allen were hilarious the way they fought with each other playfully, called each other brothers (may have meant in the military, not sure), and told stories of everything from catching a deer doped up and leaned up against a tree after eating three of his marijuana plants to throwing a 6 foot alligator in a game warden’s boat in the Florida swamps. True? Heheh, don’t care, funny :)

While Amanda was setting dinner out (ok, I usually help with the cooking and serving, so don’t think we’re that type of couple or that I’m that type of male, ha) I sat with Steve and Allen. Asked them if they wanted a Budweiser beer (had a couple I needed to discard), to which Allen replied “Do bears live in the forest?”. Then we thoroughly enjoyed our dinner…a huge pot roast that had been cooking for over 24 hours with carrots, onions, and potatoes. And I mentioned the broccoli casserole. Rolls. Several of those things were dumpstered, by the way. Then after eating we sat back down on the couches to relax some more. Steve especially enjoyed the floor rocking chair with music playing from the speakers that are on either side of your head. He said it was better than sex.

Allen tinkered on the guitar, I played my harmonica to the Piano Man, and Steve still rested on the couch, shoes and socks off. Even before we got to the house, he asked if he could take his shoes off. Evidently he has diabetes and his feet are often asleep. He talked to them a couple of times, quietly and to himself, telling them to wake up. Finally Steve said he’d love to take a shower but he didn’t have any fresh clothes. So he’s now wearing one of my t-shirts I got from a dance weekend, and he feels as fresh and clean as I do. He was mumbling to himself the whole time…things like how much dirt and mud was coming off. I could tell he enjoyed it thoroughly. Said it took 3 times to wash all the dirt out of his hair.

Then we listened to some more music, sat around a little more, they thanked Amanda over and over again for the delicious meal, and I took them back home. Their home. Which is somewhere in Nashville, back to an empty bench, or a spot of grass. Steve, still stumbling slowly around with his dumpstered and duck taped yellow radio, and Allen, saying bye to Steve and taking off in a different direction. Both of them probably going to try and get some money to buy some liquor for the night…a lot cheaper sleep medication than Lunesta.

I hope they slept well. I hope they had a wonderful time and felt welcome in our home. I hope that we didn’t encourage bad behavior by giving each of them a beer and not stopping their cussing. I hope that Steve feels fresh and clean this morning and enjoys my All-Balboa Weekend dance shirt. I hope that someone else will give them a cup of cold water and they will feel loved.

I hope that somehow things WILL change for the chronic homeless in the states.

Until then, maybe Jesus is glad that we entertained strangers and invited those who can’t repay us. Or maybe Jesus was there, as in what he said about the least of these. If so, I hope he enjoyed the shower.

-d

* I realize that I tend to write things in story form, and to write with too much creativity and maybe too much emotions. And I feel like I’m not a good enough writer to attempt “I hope” paragraphs like the one in Shawshank Redemption. :) I just wanted to write down memories of last night and share them. Now, I want to discuss the events. Amanda’s going to blog about how difficult it is not to stereotype, and I want to continue talking about things I wonder about last night. Is it ok to share a beer to someone who has a chronic problem with homelessness or even alcoholism. It might seem obvious, but maybe our goal of having someone over one night wasn’t, couldn’t or shouldn’t be to start working on their destructive behaviors. Maybe it’s just to make a friend, to welcome someone into our home as they are, and worry about the problems a little later. I think Amanda was smart in asking me to limit it to one beer each. But I don’t claim to have made the right decision on that. And I want to discuss the logistics of doing this more often. Does it become something we do often? At different houses? Different hosts? Just brainstorming. Please feel free now to add your harsh criticism or comments. ;) Peace.

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