Feb
18

April 2010 013Direction…For 2 weeks I have spent so much time alone. At first it was easy but just as easy as it started I began to feel an overwhelming feeling that my life was a bit twisted. Bear with me if you will. I always knew who I was. I know my good, great, wonderful qualities as well as my negatives. I’m as everyone else trying to figure each day out! This blog is a reflection of me… I love people. I found this picture in my blog library and I laugh…I listen with my eyes. I have sat like this through so many meetings, classes, counseling sessions,  just looking. I read people really well. I have to due to the street work I have done. I’ve climbed through broken windows, down banks through the woods. I’ve walked streams and closely inched near the river. Looking. I have been in homeless camps snug up against a back road and camps that took a good 10 minutes to reach. Good climbs under bridges suddenly reveals little villages of friends working together to survive. People… People nobody remembers. People due to their addictions and mental illnesses  can no longer feel safe or belong in “normal” society. Jaye’s  friends…

I stepped into the shower this morning thinking about my life. Where it is going. I thought about the 14thstreetbridge…the men. The lives. I’ve met people who if I died today I can say without hesitation have made me a totally different person. If you read my posts you can see the journey I went on willingly but it is time for me to say goodbye.

Calvin                      Bubba               Ed

Tony Boy               Jeff                     Juni

Sue                           Joe Joe             Randy P.

Boone (Tim)        Rodney              Adam

Don                         Bobby

Bruce                     Russell

Jack                        Corky

Names… So many names. But you see to me they aren’t just names. These names mean laughter and sorrow. They are men that opened my eyes to the silence of the streets. The souls that nobody sees. They feel, they are extremely intelligent, they have moms, dads, sisters and brothers. They recall Christmas and their new bicycles. They went to school and had spouses that they married. Their children…names, ages, failures. Prisons and crimes. Some were thieves, crooks of all kinds and some even murdered.  These names were a few of my friends…. “Were?”

This morning while I stood in the shower letting the warm water wash over my back. I thought about what seems a small list to some is a big list to me. In 7 years I have loved each and every name. Held them in my arms. Heard them call me mom and the words I love you poured from their lips. They all, in seven years have died!. Some were found dead. Some I watched die in nursing homes and hospitals. A few even had accidents crossing the street and were hit and killed by a car. They DIED! I have had to deal emotionally with each death and some where along the line my heart stopped crying. “Why it is my job, I can’t let their lives and possibilities of death hurt me.” Lie! It did hurt me. I miss them all so much. They were family. They were my friends. Each one I poured so much of me into them but yet at the same time they poured so much of themselves into me. As tho I have been on a Mission Field for 7 years…it is time for Jaye to go home. Pass the torch to someone else. I can not do this anymore. Emotionally it has taken a toll on me and I know I must go on.

………..Billy, Gutter S., Ron, BinLaden, Randy D., Woody, Louis, Carl, Jake, Talking John, George, Cass, Jonathan, Fred, Tiffany, Jason, Junior, Shaky, Thom, Eric, A F Joe, Cowboy, Sharon, Donnie, Sonny, Homer, David, Larry, Wild Bill, (Big) Mike, Brent, Paul, Chance, Mike (Spin) Thommy, (Street, Cat, Bike, Little) Mary, (Marys) Greg, Robert, Christy, Greg, Capp, Little Roy, Pete (Opilika), Petra, David C., Love, Steve L., (wheelchair) Christy, Clifford, Timmy, Philly, Daffiny, Indian John………

These names are all my friends still alive that I see all over the downtown area daily plus there are more. But, I have to go. I have to take what I have learned and take it with me as I go on. The ones still living are a hand full but when I stopped and remembered how many died in 7 years/// I can not do this anymore. I need rest. My love will never ever die for the homeless or the outcast of society. I understand that. I’ve had just about 70,000 readers during the time I posted on 14thstreetbridge . I would like to believe I touched and changed that many lives. 

I do hope to take these pages and one day write a book.  I now have direction and you will not be hearing the last from me when I push my final period today. I have a new door opening and well, it looks like I will be going through it. I intend to take all that I have learned and build and strengthen lives in my new adventure. I have had fun beyond fun…but the sadness I never allowed myself to feel I am feeling now. Love is painful in death… It is painful. Mission complete and I am satisfied. Thank you for reading and your support. There are years of stories here. Stop back because you never know the lesson I learned from a homeless man that particular day you pushed on a story from the archives  is the simple lesson you can place into your own lives.

I have no regrets…I know I gave 175%. I worked 7 days a week and put in about 10 hours a day…or more. Right now I cry, but when I stand before groups in the future I’ll recall my guys with a little water in my eyes and a whole heck of a lot of pride. Thank you all.

Jul
25

Hey Missy; I asked her this morning…Ya wantta play? She looked at me a bit puzzled and I asked again. “”Ya wantta play under the Second Avenue bridge?” As we drove up Second Avenue I explained to her what I read on the internet this morning. The police are back to what they do best when crime stays inside because of the heat. They pick on and harass homeless people. Last week they locked up 4 from under the Second Avenue bridge for “Loitering!?” I laughed…the cops are good… They can come up with some fantastic reasons to place a homeless person under arrest.

From what I had gathered, there is a small “Tent City” forming under Second Avenue. It really is in a location that is out-of-the-way and not seen by many unless you happen to pull down the Dead End road under the bridge. I hadn’t heard about it so I wanted to check it out.

The complaint had been urinating in public and prostitution. The homeless deny this and so has the church that has been working with them. They feel they should be left alone. I in fact had been called last night from this church to help…I told my husband I don’t think I can.

ME??? Unable to help? I have worked with the homeless for 7 years. I wasn’t even sure why I said what I said. Then I thought about it and tried to explain. Okay…I know the police like to harass the homeless from time to time. But when I heard the homeless denied public bathroom use and prostitution>>> Okay I get that too, but the members from this church was siding with them.

PLEASE! Um is there a bathroom located under the bridge? No! Do the Crack Whores work Third and Second Avenue? Yes! Do I need to name names? Look…The way I do it on the streets is we swing from the same hip. That hip by the way is MY HIP and if I help in any way shape or form I do it with truth! Every single homeless person on the streets that knows me knows I do not lie for you and I do not want you making up a fantastic story for me to swallow! Sorry…not happening. I will not stick my neck out based on a lie. Lets get real…There is prostitution and the homeless do openly use the bathroom. 

On the other hand I do not agree with this Tent City idea. Never have I felt comfortable about the idea some come up with that there should be an area designated solely to the homeless where they can set up tents and nobody can bother them. That to me is insane! Again, let me explain…

Take a group of just 4-5 homeless alcoholics slap full of beer/mouthwash, vodka. In that small number there is very possibly 2 leaders. Over the years without fail I have watched time after time 2 leaders in a group always will end up in a bad situation. They will fight! One guy always has to be the leader… Now a Tent City set-up? I can tell you right now, there will be fighting, stealing, rape, and for sure death! It will NOT work! 

Scattered all over downtown are camps. In those camps you may find 3-4 men. One of those men everyone knows is the leader and they pick personalities that they get along with to share the camp. There is respect this way and if you are asked to leave then you pack up and leave. No fighting! Tent Cities? No way will it work! Sooo how can I help in this situation? I stay out of it. 

We pulled out from under the bridge and drove two blocks to the “Feeding Park.” Another church in the area feed the homeless there every Saturday. Thus…”Feeding Park.” We pulled around the corner and two police officers were standing outside their cars talking in front of the entrance of this park. With a bag of clean white socks in the back seat I asked Missy to pull into the park.

As always, men and women came from every direction wanting a new pair of socks. I asked questions about what was going on under Second Avenue and all the answers were the same. The police were picking on them again. I motioned my head in the direction of the two officers at the entrance and asked why they were there. Each one had the same answer…”Harassing us!” After hugs and smiles we suggested they lay low and it will stop. It is true… it will stop. The police will get tired of it, back off and go onto something else. 

Spotting Paul sitting against the wall of the car wash we pulled in, got out of the car and sat down next to him. Paul is the gentleman in the pictures I posted. 

Sitting there talking to him I felt at home. This is what I do, not fight for a Tent City…

We have known Paul about 4 years. BAD alcoholic! I told him today that I was surprised that he is still alive. He laughed and said he hated to admit it but several others mentioned that same thing to him many times. While we were sitting there a guy rode up on a bike and handed Paul 3 dollars. Breakfast in a can was on my sweet friends mind… however he indulged us and seemed to enjoy the company and laughs.

Paul is 49 and sleeps wherever. He stays alone most of the time and really the only friend we know he will associate with on the streets is David. Our man David spends a lot of time in jail for public intoxication so Paul stays alone much of the time.

Paul, I asked him… “Do you believe in Jesus?” His answer was a bit lengthy but he most definitely believes in Jesus. Every morning he said… when he wakes up…He thanks the Lord. He said Life is the greatest gift God has given to us. He also went on to say that there have been times he has wanted to end his life. But he said that God shows him, if life is so bad that you want to die…it can only get better from here! I let out a sigh from deep inside that I know only God heard and I at that second knew I was blessed to have Paul as my friend! This is what I do…it is where I belong. At the back of a gas station in downtown Columbus Georgia bumping knees with Paul as we sat and talked about hopes and dreams.

Before we left I bent down and wrapped my arms around Pauls tiny frame. His clothes were wet from days of sweat. Yet I felt it was important to hug him with all I had. Smell, sweat, filth…I did not care. Paul needed to know I touched him after we drove away. I looked back and told him one more time that I loved him. He yelled back, “I feel the same way…” 

Who can you hug today? Who needs to hear you tell the whole world of your love for them? Go find a Paul…

Jun
15

OH come on…You have to be kidding me?

I have worked with the homeless in our area for 7 plus years. I have been in every hospital emergency room to the point the staff knows us and always know that we are there to see about someone who looks like they have been drug by the neck through the mud several times. Please, we don’t need the room number…we just follow the smell of alcohol. We’ll find them!

Who needs to walk at the park when you have the hospital parking lots and halls of the hospital to walk down several times a week…

Homer… He has been in a  room at the Medical Center a little over a week now. He is awake which is nice. Often when one of “ours” ends up in the hospital they are in really bad shape and sleep so being able to talk to Homer has been a plus in many ways. It also has been the most upsetting. He has no idea where he is, who we are or why he is on a bed.

Yesterday Missy received a call from the hospital emergency room. The lady on the other end explained to her that they had one of “ours” there. Missy starts thinking… Mike? Shaky? No! HOMER!!!! What? Why is he in the emergency room? He has been in a bed up on 7th… OH it gets better.

They released him Wed. Medically the doctor said he is fine?? So, the hospital took him to one of our local Homeless Shelters. Nice of them except for the fact that this Homeless Shelter is unable to deal with anyone that has no idea who they are or where they are! All the local shelters are like this. So, they call an ambulance after I suppose realising he is a sick man mentally and they take him back to the hospital. Good? Nope, gets better…

This time they just open the door and let him go AGAIN!!!! Now we have no idea where he went but we do know another ambulance took him back to the hospital. I suppose after digging in his medical records they found our number. They call and want us to tell them what to do with him. OH Missy was fit to be tied! She reminded them that his mind has shut down. Yes they say but medically he is fine. What? Mental illness is NOT fine. Especially for a homeless person. He has no idea where he is.

Ah but here is the catch. Missy explains that he receives 1200 dollars a month. “Hold on please while I connect you to another dept.” NOW…that they know he gets money… they plan to hold him until they can get him into a nursing home. Money? Money is the reason you will help this man now?? 

Finally last night Missy located Homers sister. It took 6 days but she now is aware that her brother needs her help. If the staff knows someone is watching the whole game suddenly has new rules. I do not get it. The nurses have been great! I am talking about how our medical facilities are set up. This man can get lost, hurt, die if he is released because there’s nothing wrong with his body. OK, I get that but hey his mind has snapped…remember?

Today…back to the hospital to do battle for another man. Yes he is an alcoholic and yes he came in filthy. He IS homeless. HOWEVER!!!! He is a human being that is lost. A stray dog would not be let out to become stray again so why is Homer? Just a thought.

Jun
12

Missy called…Hard Hat Joe called her. An ambulance came and took Homer to the hospital. No other details! When one of our homeless men get sick and end up in the hospital it gets really complicated. We have no idea which hospital, when they went, why they went, who called the ambulance…nothing! Homers been taken to the emergency room from under the bridge. (His camp) <period>

Thank God for Missy…she has every local hospital phone number in her phone. She really knows them by heart and without asking I already know she is on the hunt to find out which hospital Homer was taken to. Next call to me… nobody has Homer. AGAIN, nothing is simple. Maybe Hard Hat Joe thought Homer was taken to the hospital. Hard Hat usually doesn’t even stay at Homers camp so how did he find out? Was Hard Hat drunk when he called? Questions… Missy and I decided to wait until morning to try the hospitals again. IF… Homer went to one then maybe he just hadn’t been processed through yet.

7:30 Am I am about to head out the door to go to Homers camp and Missy called. Homer is at the Medical Center emergency. By 8 AM we are in the Emergency room looking at a very filthy Homer unable to stay awake. Some of the staff are nice to us while others walk in and out of his room looking at us with this look to say…”Why are you here for “that?” Indicating Homer wouldn’t really be worth anyones trouble to see about. Not that I am saying his looks were rather unbearable to a degree. The smell? Well that is a totally different story. It wasn’t unbearable… it made me gag!

Homer began receiving his SSI check about 10 months ago. 1,200 dollars to be exact. For a homeless alcoholic that is a loaded pistol aimed at his heart. For 10 months solid Homer has eaten very little and stayed totally intoxicated 24/7. He has surrendered to his 4 by 8 spot under the bridge and as far as I know he has gone to take a shower at the shower program for the homeless  “MAYBE” 3 times… As Homer would often say<<<< “Not too good….>>>>

The pictures I have posted on this blog of Homer were the last ones I took about 4 weeks ago. His feet were caked in mud as well as his fingers. He had used the bathroom in his pants, no telling how many times. His hair and beard have never been this long. I told him on this day that he looked like a wild man. He would scare anyone… Homer just laughed and popped open another beer. I told him he was killing himself and his laughter silenced. We all became silent. His only response was, “that’s what I am doing isn’t it?” What could I say…He is on a suicide march and has been for months. Slowly we have watched him die. One pop after another. “Yes Homer, That is what you are doing…”

In the emergency room I found a small bag. In it were the only things Homer owned in the entire world. His Debt card…We had to find his Social Security Debt card. Many know his pin number from making beer runs for him and of course a few for themselves for being the “runner”>>> Part of the deal on the streets… Homer kept it in his pants pocket at all times.

OH he has been had by many. Every homeless man that stays within 3 miles of Homers camp knows our friend gets money every month. So needless to say he has many “friends” and many of these friends have taken him for several hundreds. When he figures it out he always threw them out of the camp. One day I asked him why he thought he owned that section of dirt under the bridge. I mean, he held power under there. The men would actually get their things and move out if they were caught stealing his beer or money. Homer was furious but I asked him once why? I explained that he needed to remember that stealing was the way of the streets. I went on to remind him that they are all addicts and addicts do whatever…to get their addiction satisfied. Stealing? Top on the list! It did me no good to talk. He still became furious and he kept throwing men out of the camp. Every time I visited I would count bed rolls and ask who was left! He would answer and it always was the same reason… They took a beer without asking. When you get drunk you do get sloppy with your stealing.

I opened his small bag and the smell that hit me made me gag. I told Missy that I needed to do this outside where I had more air. We borrowed some Blue Plastic Gloves from the emergency room and opened the bag next to the car in the parking lot. Homer is left in this life at 62 a pair of blue jeans that no longer were fit for washing… a pair of white, well black socks. A belt that had no buckle and a photo I.D. card in the pocket that should have had his Debt card as well. We saved the I.D. card and the rest of what our friend owned went into the trash! I felt sad.

We went to his camp to get some answers… Rodney and Pete were the only two there and I strongly said I wanted Homers card. Both of these men are very “street”… They will lie and steal. They also will put a knife in you in a heartbeat! What I have on my side is “WE” are “Church” ladies. The 7 plus years we have worked with the homeless— them and us,, have established respect. Respect is one thing, it keeps us safe. Telling us the truth? Rodney and Pete??? Not so sure when they said they didn’t have it. 

They suggested that the street whore has it. She was the last one drinking with Homer before he got sick. GREAT!!!! I have to now find a street whore that I have only heard about, to be told, “I don’t have it!”  Scratch that… I don’t have the time to play the game…Word swept the street fast however. Jake ran into Missy a few days later and knew someone??? was hunting for Homers card. He knew the street whore supposedly has it and she was hanging around Johnny! Johnny was one of those Homer kicked out from under his personal bridge and I think I know where Johnny is staying but again, I don’t have the time to hear “I don’t have it!” Chalk it up as a loss for now and let them enjoy another mans wealth but in time all of that will work itself out.

Here is the deal… The one thing my buddy Homer greatly feared has possibly come upon him. He never wanted to end up like Mouthwash Joe. Joe had a stroke, laid 3 days behind a building and lived the remainder of his time a very miserable cripple in his right mind but unable to speak, eat, drink and walk. Homer “feared” this.

Homer is not crippled and can talk but there is a serious problem. He is extremely confused. He has no idea who we are or where he is. The nurse explained it to us because Homer was awake and he agreed that it was alright for her to discuss what was happening to him with us. Truth is…Homer has no idea what he agreed to but we and the nurse took advantage of the opportunity to find out details. Usually the medical staff can tell us nothing! (NOT family)

He has had no stroke and they think maybe his electrolytes are off which is why he is confused. Only problem? Every day we visit, Homer seems worse…

So we continue to visit and pray. Pray? How. That Homer gets better so he can go back under the bridge and drink more? I only know one way to pray tonight… Father… Your will be done. Amen

I went to walk out of the camp this day and turned around one last time and took this picture of Homer.

Jun
09

Watching Eric reach for his trash can next to his bed while he was trying to get out of his wheelchair seemed just about as much as my emotions could stand. He leaned into it and gagged several times and nothing was coming up. Helpless? Oh you bet I felt helpless. Quickly my mind begins to spin remembering, yes I understand totally the HIV virus…how it spreads. Vomit just would not be one of the risks I would care to let splash on me. God tells me not to put Him to a foolish test and I do that daily without trying. When He reminds me clearly? I listen.

I have over the years worked closely with many diseases the men from the streets carry. Hepatitis is one that is extremely common and the rest? Only God knows. It is funny in an odd kind of way,,, if it was just me? I would handle situations such as Eric’s so differently. But I have so many lives that depend on me to let God work through  for them and I have to stay healthy. Being instructed by God is vital…

Many of you know me and my work. Simply from reading my blog you know that for me NOT to be able to jump up and assist Eric that afternoon was about to pull me in two. I am a hands on type person. If I can not touch I can not walk away and feel complete. Touching is important to healing but how do I do that with a 32-year-old young man with full-blown AIDS trying to release the nausea he was experiencing.

Walk back with me if you will… Let me introduce this treasure of a human being I have graciously had the privilege to get to know and understand these past few months. His name is Eric Shepard. “No “H” Miss Jaye” he likes to jokingly remind me ever since I put his name into the clothes we brought him. Eric arrived in the hospital naked…He lost everything!

He is a Georgia boy through and through. As you can see from his picture, if he was healthier? He is a cutie! To me, his adopted mom? I think Eric is handsome. I wish I knew him when…when he dug his toes in Georgia’s red clay. When He climbed trees and played in the woods in a small southern town tucked in between Atlanta and Columbus called Waverly Hall.

Sitting on his wheelchair that day he felt so sick, digging way deep inside of himself to find the strength to swing his body off the chair onto the bed he began to talk. “Why me? Why me?.” He wasn’t looking to Missy or I for an answer… “Why me God? What have I done that was so wrong?” Tears exploded behind my eyes as my heart broke for my young friend. I wanted to cover my ears so afraid that he may look my way and demand an answer from God…We let silence answer. “I do not know Eric.” WAIT!!! “No Eric, God doesn’t work this way…Dear God give me an answer!!!!” Silence.

Eric grew up during his teen years on the streets around Atlanta while his mom worked as a prostitute. He was introduced to the “ladies of the night” at a very young age… and drugs. But you see…that is not where Eric’s struggles started. He was sexually abused by a family member and when his mom left him, his sister and dad for her “job”… he was alone often. One morning when he was about 8 he went in to wake up his 44-year-old father, he was dead, from a massive heart attack! Mom came back into the picture.

Broken promises, broken dreams. He calls his mother by her first name and has no desire to see her. She has lied to him and broken his heart which has broken his love…Because his mother has been in and out of prison so much he stayed a lot in the tiny town of Waverly Hall escaping with drugs and alcohol. 

I met Eric before his accident. My husband told him one day. “Eric? You are young…get off the streets.” Crack was his drug of choice by now. He too was in and out of jail and girlfriends? They were prostitutes. He was taught well by his mom. Suddenly however it happened, he landed on his back after falling down an old elevator shaft. Two days in the dark the fluid swelled around his spine. By the time he was found the damage was done. The upper part of Eric moves, the bottom? Nothing!

ANGER….Dear God the anger he had. I kept in contact with Eric off and on the past few years. He hated God, then he wanted to come to church. He would hate God again…then want to come to church. I never blamed Eric for his outbursts of anger. I have had my own so I did understand yet I knew there had to be more to him then Anger and Drugs!

I lost contact with him for almost a year then one day he called me. He and his girlfriend had no food. Could we help? So much has happened since that day. Suddenly Eric became a part of my every day!

He contracted HIV over the years…has staph infections on his body the size of a softball or larger which he cannot feel, THANK God! In order to do anything it takes him a good 10 minutes to get from bed to wheelchair because of the bags (yes more than one) he has to carry with him to collect his body fluids. He has had full-blown AIDS lately because he refused his medication to help his body fight infections.

One day this week however he mentions to us that Donna called (Not his moms real name) He was upset because once again she’s been released from prison and called to shower him with “I love you’s” and “I want to come see you’s.” She too has HIV and asked him if he was taking his medication because she is. In Eric’s snotty fashion he told her that he was not! She blew a gasket and asked him why not… Eric I do not believe had an answer.

Wed. when we saw Eric he informed us that he went back on his medication. I don’t think he hates his mom as much as he would like to believe. I honestly feel she and her words were the reason that Eric is going to give the medication another try. Which brought us to the afternoon with Eric grabbing the trash can… He will suffer with nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting for about a month or possibly two until his body accepts these very strong HIV meds.

Is Eric being punished? Absolutely NOT!!!! But how do I convince him of that? He became upset with me the day he was feeling so bad because I helped him pour a can of coke on ice. He snapped at me and it was about the third time he snapped at me and this time I snapped back as I pulled the coke can to my chest! I very firmly told him…”You have to learn to be loved!” I was startled by my own statement and I thought “God? That had to be you… are you going to use my stubbornness to teach Eric how to truly be loved? He understands that I care. He get’s it that we are there to help and be his friend…but are you going to use the compassion you have placed inside of me and teach me that he will smack at this compassion and he will fight it the only way he knows how but if I keep pressing in this same compassion that only comes from you will break Eric and teach him something he never ever learned…How to be loved…” I got it!

I do not claim to have all answers but if I am serving a God that gives AIDS, staph infections, paralysis  to a very young man then I do not want to serve that God… But if I serve a God that takes situations that this fallen world has and creates. Takes them and turns them around like He has so many of my own…THAT Is My God! IF God punishes like Eric thinks???? I would be dead! I must teach him with the help of God…How to be loved. Until then? He will never understand God. He will never KNOW GOD!!!! 

The little boy from the Georgia red clay roads in the tiny town of Waverly Hall that lost so much too soon…will die one day knowing love! I promise.

May
25


Rounding the corner into Thursdays meeting at Burger King I was happy to see Brent sitting at the counter and I looked over at our table…Jake finally popped back up. That was nice to see. He had disappeared a few days. Sometimes I think Jake just likes to remind us that he is a grown man and he doesn’t need to check in. Then he forgets that he is grown and he will call or text on his government phone several times in one day. 

Mike walked in the room behind me and I stopped to pay attention to this new fella that was quietly talking to Brent. Call it eavesdropping but often I have to pay attention in order to know what is going on. That sometimes requires me to listen.

I probably wouldn’t have even slowed down but the man seemed troubled. I looked at his dirty shirt that seemed tucked in; maybe moments earlier behind the dumpster out back. His body was dirty as well as the jeans that delicately balanced on his tiny waist with no belt. One wrong move and the jeans would have slid down. They were too big or he was too thin…odds are? He was way too thin.

 I as always move close to any homeless stranger in order to gain their total attention which I did with my new friend seconds after meeting him. My words…”Hey man, what is it you need?” He turned towards me and smiled which at that point I could smell alcohol. Not that I care, but it is part of how I read someone. Tells me a lot…{he drinks alcohol}! Ok it is 9 am, he is dirty, he smells like alcohol and I look down at his feet and my heart dropped!

He answered my question explaining that he was hungry and wondered if someone could buy him a sandwich. I then said…”Man, where are your shoes?” His face began to look sad when he explained, he did not know… The knuckles on a few of his toes were raw and bleeding. He obviously hit them on the cement in his walk to Burger King that morning. Rats!!! I thought inside of myself. I have no shoes in my truck. I have no shoes period.

I asked him to sit down at a table in another corner of the room so that no one could see him. He was a little nervous because there were a few police officers in the main dining area eating breakfast. He didn’t want to go out to where they were. Like a little school boy he went and sat down right where I told him. I sat down my things at the table where our meeting was being held and went to order my friend breakfast.

OH, not just a sandwich… He ate eggs, pancakes, biscuit, grits and sausage. When I took him his food I told him that he was not to get up until it was all gone. He I suppose thought I was serious because he answered with a “yes ma me !”

I then looked over at Mike and asked him if he would like anything to eat. Michael explains that he had just eaten and wasn’t hungry. I was a little surprised and asked where he ate. He said he got lucky that morning. He found a dumpster that had food still wrapped and nothing had crawled on it. I thought again inside myself that he is one of a kind. Mike is the dumpster food King! He shows all the men on the streets how to get out good food from a dumpster. Many times I will be sitting in a restaurant and I catch Michael sneaking into the dumpster. You have to eat…

This morning while I waited for Missy to pick me up downtown I sat on a curb because the sun was already hot and the benches were sitting in direct sun light. Looking down the sidewalk as I bent down to sit Clifford was coming my way. I hadn’t spoken to Clifford in a few weeks. Partly because I hadn’t run into him and mostly because I still was a bit put out from how he behaved the last time we talked. (That is a whole other story)

Deciding in a few seconds to let him off the hook as he sat down next to me I asked him what he was up to. He asked me, why I was sitting on the curb like a man??? ONLY Clifford would come up with that. He then asked me why I was over at the mission the other day? I explained I stopped in to see a friend that went there on Tuesday. Fair is fair I reasoned in myself after I answered his question and I asked him why he was across the street from the mission at a “crack house?” I never actually called Clifford out on being a crack addict before but today I had it in me to lay my cards out.

He just about slid off the 4 inch curb… At first he didn’t deny it but then he asked me how I knew it was a crack house. I told him that nothing moves on the streets I don’t know about…… Like predictability he told me it wasn’t a crack house but the other “shot-gun” houses were. I never let up, I kept telling him I knew just about every crack house in the downtown area and that nothing moves on the streets I don’t know. He became flustered and nervous. I told him that if I ever saw him over at that house again I was going to get a switch and rip his tail up!

Clifford is older than me…he is 60 something and a complete neat freak. He could pass as a black pimp he’s so meticulously dressed. However… extremely lost. I felt awkward coming down on him so hard but I had an opening with Clifford and I took it. He won’t keep my information to himself which is what I expect and now the men in Clifford’s circle know momma Jaye figured out which crack house they are in and I am watching.

I stay busy…I love every second of it.

Eric, was down a few days this week as they would say it here in the south… His head was pounding and he lost 5 pounds in 2 days. He is showing more and more signs that he is in full-blown AIDES! We treasure every single day. I am given a chance that not many get. Because of my friends that have no front door I have learned to hold onto and caress every second of every day. It has value and contains tremendous strength…for the good, as well as for the bad!

My man from Burger King watched me as he ate like a scared puppy. Putting food into his mouth his eyes never turned from my direction… I pretended I didn’t notice. When he finished he thanked me again and  I told him that he was more than welcome before he walked out the door.  I prayed he would find shoes.

What great plans do you have for Memorial Day, Eric asked Missy and I today. We have no money to go on a trip  and even if I did I am not sure I would tell Eric the truth. I do plan to cook hot dogs on the grill and I couldn’t even tell him that because I know where he will be…. Sitting in his wheelchair at the nursing home.

I will go see him and I will take him a hot dog but you know what friends…life!!!! how we made it, how it turned out… sometimes it is tough.  

………I wonder if my friend found any shoes……..

Apr
26

Walking into that house that cold cloudy February afternoon at 1006 Apple Drive, I never dreamed my life was about to take on a new meaning, new direction… Because I could see the line of cars parked in front of my house as I inched closer down the street, I knew something was terribly wrong! It was, I didn’t belong there anymore… Opening the front door I could hear voices inside and instantly it seemed, my Uncle was standing in front of me. “Your mom passed away today.” My knees buckled under me and I broke into sobs. Quickly I went to my bed, sat down and thought, “what will happen to me now?” I had no idea that 40 years later I would try to explain how I went from nothing…became a something (to God) and now sit here searching the tiny corners of my mind to explain, why Jaye does what she does.

Some of these words are in my book I have written. I go into greater detail of course… however in order to write my blog today I find myself in need of tracking backwards to a day and time my world began to fall apart. Not easy to recall even to this day. It was difficult to draw the picture of a very frightened child years ago for a reader to “get it.” I suppose it will always feel as though a dew of some “foreign ugly” wraps itself around me when I explain as best I can that we all can at different times of our lives go through one or more of the worst experience any human being could possibly imagine this side of hell! Your mom passed away! Hell!

Often and probably more so lately I have been asked. How do you do what you do? Sometimes I believe people think I always had in my control some sort of mighty super power to keep my shoulders straight, my head up high and speak so confidently to the many many I had to watch walk to deaths door. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

My Dad died in 1967. Way before many of my readers were born. My mom died in 1971. Both died from cancer! Our lives flipped upside down. Instantly! If we were scared, we were scared alone. If we became afraid, we battled that fear alone. If we became sick, again the battle became our own. If we cried…yes friends we cried alone. There was nobody to sweep back our hair, pull us into their tender strength and assure us that everything was going to be alright.

I was alone!

Of course there was the five Mattern children… Struggling with everything we had in us to hang onto what we could to solidify normal, yet due to circumstances beyond our control one by one we lost that control and each of us spiraled into our own journey into success and failure.

To this day I read NOTHING about cancer. It is a subject I avoid. I in fact will not wear a pink ribbon during whatever month it is to bring awareness to cancer! It is a topic of conversation I refuse to talk about yet it is a subject very drilled into my mind that in an odd way I can tell you how it strikes and how it destroys. I often must remind myself that the survival rate for cancer today needs to be applauded. We have come extremely far in cancer research but in my mind I often feel angry due to the fact I can not make what was, to begin again today. Today there is hope! Forty years ago there was none yet that is what lodged itself into my child mind!

The list of men and women in the past 7 years that I personally have known and I have loved beyond anything I could have ever imagined is quite lengthy. The men often would sit down with me. The homeless men… and they mentally would speak of a list they have made, who would die next. 

Of course at first I thought they needed more entertainment yet I myself thought about the same thing…who would die next. One in particular was always at the top of all of our lists yet he is still alive today. Men and women that never actually made the list at all are now gone. So the author and finisher of all of us…the only one who does know the beginning and the end…God, it’s His list and therefore the predictability of the ending is written only by the Master.

So where do or did I come in? OH right, God called me into the ministry! I actually had no desire to be in the ministry. I went through years trying to sort my whole life out which took me down several strange twisted dirt roads. The kind of dirt that suddenly stirs up puffs of red clay on a hot dry August day in Alabama when the soft wind blows. There is no escaping it…it clings to everything and worst of all you begin to taste it in your mouth. I became a suicidal alcoholic drug addict. BUT God!

I came into a relationship with God about 27 years ago and my life began to turn…for the better. I married a man that was called into the ministry and when it came to hospital visits… or funerals? There was no way I was doing either! However here I am 23 years later and I do it all. How did that happen? God…

Somewhere, somehow he took my crooked path and He made it straight. I stare into the eyes of death and I no longer want to run away. I hold the hands of dying men and women, scrap their bloody bodies off of cement and see things I once never imagined I would see. The whole time I feel nothing but love and compassion racing through my entire being for human beings I will love into eternity.

Where I go and what I do is very filthy, but I have never refused to sit on an overturned crate yet. I climbed through the woods smelling the air for a dead body. I’ve had to help so many men put their clothes on either because they were too drunk or sick to dress themselves. I’ve taken blankets and covered men passed out under a bridge in 20 degree weather and I have carried others off the walking bridge in the middle of summer to a shade tree so they won’t cook in the hot summer sun.

I play make believe with Don in a nursing home and sing “Sunshine on my shoulders…” He laughs and I dance….Yesterday we didn’t sing. He won’t be with us much longer. Yet I keep meeting new friends at the nursing home…it won’t ever end.

Then there is Eric…When I closed my eyes last night I saw Eric and he was dead…It made my stomach turn. He has AIDS, staph infections that even made the EMT’s come out of Eric’s apartment the other day gagging. Yet when I see Eric or any others I don’t see the ugly I see the man! The one that cries, the one that knows they have failed, the one that is ashamed because they have let so many down. The ones that call me Mama, Ms. Jaye! 

When I got up to leave Eric the other day I did something and Eric made a comment and said “Are you afraid to touch it?” He wasn’t being smart, he actually wants to know if he’s scaring anyone. I really was being careful about touching his wheelchair. We had just brought it from his apartment. It hadn’t been cleaned. But when we stood to leave I walked over to Eric and bent down, kissed him on his forehead and told him that I love him.

Look if I am getting in all the way I might as well be real and forget it no longer is about me. Never really was. It is about letting God love people through me. God will take care of me. He will take care of Missy. There just is no turning back now…

So How Do I Do IT? God helps Jaye do it. He helps Freddie and Missy do it. He helps us all do it if we let Him. I can not do anything apart from Him! It is He that makes me love what others see as filthy, useless lepers of society. Jesus liked the leper. The truth, so do I. Do any of you honestly have any idea how honored I am to be chosen by God to do what I do? I have seen and heard things that most will never know. The men on the streets tell me things that nobody else knows. We have a bond, a trust and I am extremely careful never to break it. Rule number one that they learned quick was “Don’t lie to me…”  It has worked over the years and now I hear things I wish I never heard. There have been times I raise my hand and remind them…I’m a girl!!!! Please don’t talk like that around me. They say their I’m sorry and the subject changes.

For what it is worth this is my story and I am sticking to it. My life fell apart many years ago now and pieces went everywhere. But God above collected all those fragile slivers and mended me all back together. I do have a way to go but today I regret nothing that I had to go through. Without it I could never do what I do for God. It was what made me who I am and I thank God all the time for allowing me the pain.

Apr
12

Hopefully as I write my blog the pictures I have posted will become clearer to the reader… I do however want to place a warning for anyone that may be weak in stomach or can not handle strong detail I advise for you to please not read.

In an attempt to explain the reality of what happens while most of us are busy with families and life…there is a world that I walk in many times a week. This story I am about to tell is about my young friend “Eric!” I have sat on it for about 3 weeks unable to find the correct beginning. Oh I have always known the middle and I am fairly certain I do know the end but the beginning? If I can not find that the reader may walk away wondering how does a 32-year-old slowly die paralyzed  from the chest down (because he fell down an elevator shaft while stealing copper 5 years ago.) Not only is his battle paralysis but Eric has full-blown AIDS, Staph infections on his legs, ankles, lower part of his back and hips. Holes in his flesh (which he can not feel) the size of solid softballs that are tunneling to one another. The one on his tailbone? You can see his spine. Oh yes, Eric loved to show me until I couldn’t look anymore. Like a little boy I think he always got a kick out of hearing me say in my girl voice, “Oh my Dear God , Eric. YUK!”…. Yes everyone who knows me knows I have pictures. However I will not post them.

“Why Sister Jaye? Why take pictures of that?” My answer is very simple and possibly I am the only one that could understand. I never want to forget the reality of where stumbling through life can take someone before they find GOD!!!!! I can not stop now!!!!!!!!!!

“Eric”

“OOPS Eric, you dropped your cigarette again.” Helping Eric retrieve his cigarette for the third time off of the blood stained sheet he laid across his naked body in his doorway wasn’t as scary this day-I still had on a pair of surgical gloves that I kept on my hands after I had helped Eric collect some laundry he desperately needed washed.

“My hands are numb today Ms. Jaye. I can’t feel anything in them.” Eric assumed it was his medication. Looking into his face that afternoon I knew something else was going on. Because I am not trained in any medical field (other than MOMMY 101) I bump and try… I asked Eric, if he had been smoking any crack. He said no. I didn’t believe him yet the symptoms were not crack or meth so I wasn’t really caring if he had lied to me or not. I then asked him if he could tell if his organs were functioning okay. Heart, lungs? He said yes he felt normal. “Oops, here Eric let me get it. Buddy you are going to burn yourself.” He only laughs. He wouldn’t feel it!

I then moved into more questions. “Eric do you feel suicidal? How are you emotionally?” His reply back was that he was okay. Not suicidal… I didn’t believe him.

I have known Eric for many years. He was a street guy. Young ready to take on the world with a bad drug addiction… slipping from one crack house to the next stealing anything to get his high. Loveable? Oh please he could con your teeth out of your mouth but he is “our” Eric. Then the accident!

Eric was in a dark old closed up warehouse that all my homeless pals liked to stay in. They named it the “yellow sub marine.” When I ever asked one of the guys from the streets  where so and so was and they said “yellow sub marine”  we all knew right where to look.

In the dark Eric fell backwards down the shaft. He laid there 2 days thinking he was going to die. He explained how rats would crawl over him then suddenly a cat came. The cat he said, kept the rats away. I always thought “Oh precious Father… you are good.” 


Finally a homeless man came into the building to drink or drug and he heard Eric. When he finally received help his spine had swollen and therefore he was forever wheelchair bound paralyzed from the chest down.

Anger? Oh please the anger that I have heard from this man. He is angry! Or, maybe bitter would better depict his rage inside. He has cussed God he has thrown fits yet whenever I get around him he becomes a little boy and I become mom! He shows such respect to Missy and I. 

Are you suicidal baby? I ask all the time. Not since that day at the window has he admitted it again.

Eric’s girlfriend Kathy called a few months ago. They have given Eric 6 months she said on the phone. Kathy and Eric have always had a very rocky relationship. Both addicts, and because Kathy was a prostitute…she too has AIDS, Staph and is going blind. They took care of each other.

When Missy and I found out about Eric having 6 months and that Kathy had left again to  live with her sister… we visited Eric more. 

Kathy called one evening and asked us to check on Eric. He had no phone and she felt he may be suicidal. The next day we knocked on Eric’s apartment door, no answer. I went from window to window trying to get his attention. Nothing… I told Missy I was going to try one more window around back and as I walked up to the open window, I yelled his name. He answered. I pulled over a blanket hanging in the window and on a bed was Eric…ALIVE! He covered his face with his hands and began to sob. Through tears and gasps of air he asked me if I was going to come to his funeral when he died. Of course I would I kept telling him… I fell down onto my knees and dropped my head to my arms that rested on the window ledge and cried. Eric’s only words were “Ms. Jaye I have never seen you cry.” My words back to him were, “Eric you are worth crying about!”

For many days after that I was meeting Eric at his window. We talked a lot about his guilt and his shame. He blames himself for his condition. He has cried rivers of tears. I cried with him. See, going inside isn’t smart so we met at the window. He does have AIDS but Missy has a relative that is HIV positive and she is my AIDS expert. The staph is more dangerous to us then the AIDS she says to me constantly. So… we talked to Eric through the window.

“I hate my mom.” Eric explained to me one afternoon. She was a whore, a prostitute and she now sits in prison also with HIV. His words, not mine… I don’t even consider her my mom. She never was there for me. I walked away and thought that this was a bad start in life and he, (Eric) blames himself??

Monday Missy and I went to visit our guy. He thought it was Easter and we explained that it was the day after. Not that it matters to Eric anymore. He is just alive to be completely honest. No TV, maybe a radio…food is impossible for him to keep down and it fills his colostomy bag quickly if he does eat or drink anything.  Diarrhea.

The apartment smells terrible and now that we  were meeting at his front door.. the stench coming out can knock you backwards. I told Eric Monday as he was gathering up some laundry for me to do, well suggested… that he start opening his windows. His only reply was. “It’s pretty bad isn’t it? I have gotten use to it.”

 He sits in his wheelchair just inside the doorway, we stand on the front porch. Again this day Eric started talking about God. He said I don’t believe in prayer. I told him that I understood, He said he had prayed many prayers in his life and none came true. I felt sad! He said I believe in God. I believe in Jesus. I believe there is a heaven and a hell. He said he was ready to die. His biggest frustration is when his body gets really sick they take him to the hospital…pump meds in him and he gets better. He said he was tired and just wanted to die.

Again Eric was explaining all his mistakes as if he deserved where he was in life. If we believe that then we all would be Eric’s. I asked him what happened. I mean… yes Eric you’ve made plenty of bad decisions. We all have but what started the drugs? I work with addicts, I was an addict. Drugs/Alcohol they mask pain. What caused the pain? Suddenly like a flood gate opening Eric spoke loud and strong.

When I was 5!! I was startled… When I was 5 my mom started abusing me. She took me in a room naked and started playing with my pee pee. She then tied me up and others came in. He went on to explain that there were several times of this during his childhood. Then there was another male relative that sexually abused him as well.

My throat choked back the knot inside knowing if I let it go I would have sobbed uncontrollably. All I quietly could say was Baby? Don’t you see? That, is where it all started… How can God punish you for where “THAT” took you? Besides God doesn’t punish like man would have you believe. 

When we drove away that day I wasn’t sure my little buddy understood but I knew the next day I was bringing back his laundry and I planned to spend more time helping him understand the God I know is love. He is a God full of grace. We are saved by grace…Jesus. Love! I told my husband that night. If our God allows this type of suffering not only with Eric but millions all around the world. HEAVEN must be astounding! I do believe in a God that heals but I also know so many that suffer. What do you tell a child prostitute on far away soils? That they are bad! Or a woman being raped because of a ruler of that country believes he can… She is bad? A baby dies from starvation in Africa. Do you tell the parents they didn’t believe or have enough faith? What do you tell me when I woke up one day at 13 an orphan… that God wants to punish me for several years? What are we telling people? Why does Eric think that he deserves to die in such a retched way because at 14 he started drugs to numb the confusion he began to feel as a young man because of what adults did to him as a child? I HATE religion. Doctrines of man who doom so many to hell because “they” are okay!

Yesterday Missy and I stopped back by Eric’s place. We knocked on his window…no answer. Maybe he went somewhere, but really neither one of us believed that. We tried the door. He always left it unlocked if he was out in his wheelchair. The door was locked! Missy and I knocked harder and kept calling his name, no answer. I walked over to a side window and yelled his name again louder…I heard a moan. 

Missy was about to say something and I told her to hold up! Again I yelled his name and louder I heard moans. They didn’t stop. I told Missy to call 911 and I ran to Eric’s and my window. It was unlocked! I pushed it up and Missy went through it after putting on gloves.

I ran into the apartment after Missy unlocked the door and what we saw would have made a grown man cry! All 125 pounds of Eric laid sideways on the floor at the foot of his bed. His wheelchair was still positioned facing his nightstand indicating to me, that he had been in bed. But something went terribly wrong…

I looked back over at Missy and Eric; still moaning he had reached up and was gripping her gloved hand. His speech was slurred, garbage, trash and a plastic shelf was all around him and on him. His body was completely naked. I only thought inside of myself, My Dear God, we need your help and we need your strength!”

Grabbing trash and the broken plastic shelf I quickly started removing the things off of his body. As I was doing this I noticed blood was dried in his nose, in his mouth, on his body and in fact his face was bruised and swollen. The hair! I stood waiting to hear sirens and we calmly kept trying to get him to HOLD ON! The Hair! With Eric’s right hand he kept pulling his hair out of his head. His one eye was open the size of a fifty cent piece. The other? It was swollen shut. The one piece of the puzzle we weren’t exactly sure about at the time was the electrical cord that was wrapped around his neck. Sirens!!!!

I ran to the road to flag down the Emergency personnel and briefed them on what they were about to see. AIDS, Staph, Paralyzed, Colostomy bag that needed changed and could be melting. (leaking) He was dying and you will need a mask… the apartment? Gentlemen, it is unfit for even an animal.

Eric is resting in the hospital, his vital signs are poor… Today they are giving him 2 bags of blood. The emergency room nurse told us it appears he had an “accidental” overdose. Missy and I looked at one another and know it was no accident. Eric wants to die. The swollen bloody face I believe he did to himself along with the scratches all over his forehead. The electrical cord was a last-ditch attempt to finally be free from his HELL!

Eric is mumble talking to us. He knows who we are and he also knows if he lives, he will be going into a nursing home to die. He will not go into eternity in a filthy disgusting apartment.

After we left the hospital we went back over to his apartment to locate a few pictures Eric asked us to find of him and Kathy. In seconds we spotted them on a stand and carefully placed them in a bag. Just as I was about to leave I looked down on the floor and saw a Bible. I stopped and picked it up and opened the inside where someone would sign their name. It said Eric… I placed it gently next to the pictures in my bag and closed the door. This is all Eric owns. Nothing great and nothing grand. A few pictures and a Bible.

But you know what? Eric has no idea he has something that is richer than money? He has taught me so much. He taught me how to drop below this carnal emotion we call flesh and feel a love I have never felt before. That love makes you cry from a place so deep inside that I have never been before. When I think about Eric’s and my first meeting at his window…when my knees buckled under me and I dropped my head and cried I found a love inside I never knew I had. God? Oh for sure it was God…He cried through me and even that first window meeting when I had to leave and I could hear Eric’s cries coming from inside as I climbed through the briers to the front of the apartment I knew Eric was feeling it too. 

I have often over the past few weeks told Eric that I was going to miss him. He told me that he was going to miss me too. I will miss Eric, yes I know we will have eternity together but this young tough 32-year-old has taken my heart. He is rich!

Missy and I will follow Eric if he makes it into a nursing home. We will visit just as we have all the rest. “Why God, why do we always seem to get assigned to the ones walking to the end?” Folks I do not know the answer but it really isn’t that bad. You see LOVE will give you the ability to go the distance.

Tomorrow I will get over to the Nursing Home to visit Don. We’re hoping Eric will be able to go there as well. It is where we said goodbye to Joe Joe. My mind shifts now and wonders how Don will be when we see him. A few days ago…He had just gotten back from the fair. He ate a whole bunch of hot dogs, cotton candy and candy apples. He wasn’t feeling great when we saw him. He had gotten the flu at the fair. Like my husband said, “At least in his mind, he is having a good time.” I love my job!


Mar
24

Simply… was just thinking about something this morning. 

Three years ago I ran a program at World Vision Ministries inc. We fed breakfast to…30-50 men/women 5 days a week, I had chapel service every morning before breakfast. I ran a shower program which gave certain homeless men the privilege to have their own locker to keep personal items in, a shower, clean clothes, tents, sleeping bags… etc. We took homeless men/women to doctor appointments, the VA to catch a bus regularly to the VA hospital. On and On… We held church service 3 times a week and I had an addiction recovery class 2 nights a week.

We have prayed endless hours for broken hearts and broken dreams. Looked under bushes, behind and in buildings for many men that disappeared for days. Made hospital visits and picked many if not hundreds up from emergency rooms because they knew no matter what hour of the day or night we would come.

I could not count the arguments I have had with homeless men bigger than a bus only to walk away smiling and hugging knowing we truly became family. The love and respect we shared can not be explained…

I have stepped over men who knew they could pass out or fall asleep at my office door because it was safe and nobody would have them arrested. 

I have spent hours sitting at my desk listening to men argue and much deeper…I have heard men cry sobs of tears because they could not get free from their addictions. They never knew momma Jaye was behind the blind at the window praying and crying with them.

Those stories and many more ended when we had to close our doors. Why? Because of money. Oh we had plenty of food, clothes, supplies donated every day. Money to pay rent, utilities? No, not many gave regularly and the few that did…when our doors closed? So did their check books yet we haven’t stopped.

New stories are made yet we still struggle financially. Why? People don’t give.  My husband and I are about to embark on the biggest financial decision we have ever made. The program for the women leaving jail. I also still have a need to work with the men on the streets/prostitutes. Pray for us, pray for yourselves and see if God would not have you come along side of us and partner to continue the wonderful work we do on the streets and “Brown Stone”! The name of my new program for women leaving jail/prison or an addiction program whom will live 12 months free in order to become successful, finally in society.

I will do my best to keep everyone updated on the progress. It will take God and we all know God works through people. Open your hearts and don’t shut your bowls of mercy because you don’t understand. Just know, I do and the work will continue on.

Feb
15

Twenty one mile per hour winds…the temperature would be down in the teens by morning. “Dear Lord, please watch over our homeless friends as they sleep tonight. Not only keep them safe, but please Father…keep them alive.”

Since we began to do what we do with the homeless 7-8 years ago now, we become very aware of the outside temperatures. Hot/Cold…it makes no real big difference to me but to many of my friends sleeping under bridges tucked up against an open river, a bush large enough to camouflage a man under a blanket or a broken window in a dilapidated building large enough for a man to crawl through it causes those of us working the streets to drop slowly on our knees and ask on their behalf for protection from the shadows that move through the night of possibly someone strung out on some “junk crack” or a night like Saturday night hearing the howling of the north wind beating on my home that men and women need that “miracle of warmth” tonight as they lay down to sleep.

Many many times the men have told me…”I prayed last night Miss Jaye… it was cold, I prayed for God to bring me through the night.” Never in a bragging way do they tell me about their prayer as I have heard many Christians do. “See, my prayer was answered…I am here.” Pat me on my back!

No, they whisper the prayer they prayed through blue lips unable to lift a cup of coffee up to just simply drink due to uncontrollable shaking that began 9 hours earlier. I personally have taken a homeless mans hands into mine and rubbed color back into them. I’ve helped them strip off wet clothes just to save their lives and after warm ones were put back on I have laid out a blanket on a cement floor and told them to go to sleep. I could not begin to count the number of men I found asleep on one of our church pews…

Winter!

Sunday morning I stepped out onto my car port to throw something in the trash. I was in a race. Run out, run in… dang cold!!!! As I turned I happened to glance up my driveway. A figure stood near my mailbox and as I looked the person saw me, pulled their hood farther over the front of their face and kind of slipped behind a tree that has no leaves.

To be honest, it startled me for a few seconds. I don’t live in the greatest of neighborhoods but still it is very unusual to see someone standing by the curb. Especially in 18 degree windy weather.

One of the other great things about learning the ways of the streets is learning clothes and walks. Every day I drive through town I pass mostly men walking and from a distance I can tell from the walk and clothes who it is. As I get closer they shoot up a hand and yell…”Miss Jaye.” They don’t normally need anything. They just like to see someone who isn’t yelling ugly obscenities or tossing trash out at them. Yes, this happens regularly to a homeless person. I’ve been walking with them and been mistaken as homeless and have experienced it first hand.

As I stood by my back door for maybe 10 seconds this person at my mailbox moved… In the slight shift I knew in an instant it was Michael. I yelled up the driveway at him… “Michael!!! What are you doing out here where it is cold? Get into the house and get warm.” He looked up at me at that point and started slowly towards me. He broke my heart because the only thing I could see were his eyes and I knew how long it took him to get to my house. He was cold.

Mike stays in a camp about 5-6 miles down the road under a bridge. You have to understand I live just outside of city limits. Just about every homeless man in this area know where my house is. I find dirty laundry at my back door or they may find clothes, blankets, food I may need and also leave it at my door. This day Mike, needed heat.

As I closed my back door I told Mike to make himself at home and I silently prayed inside myself…”Thank you Father for my heat…Not for me…but for Michael!” He was cold, and he knew if he made it to my house I would make him come in. I became a little weepy when I saw what God was doing.

Mike sat on a dining room chair and began to tell me that he woke up about 2am because it was so cold. He couldn’t go back to sleep… He then told me that he thought if he started walking, anywhere, he might get warmer. Didn’t work. He only stayed as cold as he was under his blankets so he started walking to my house. He didn’t finish I am sure because he was embarrassed to say he walked to my house because he was desperate to get warm and he knew I would let him come in. I reminded him that next time…ring the doorbell, OKAY? Okay, Miss Jaye… was his reply.

My husband Freddie was in his office studying for morning service and I had just woke up my son Josh so he could get ready for church. I told Mike I would be back in about 20 minutes I had to run and pick someone up for church. As I drove away I started laughing out loud. I hadn’t mentioned to my son or husband that Mike was in the living room. Would they be shocked to see a homeless man in our living room? Oh my poor family I thought as I drove on, they have adapted so well to me. NO, they wouldn’t be shocked at all!!!

Before any of you freak out on me…I know many homeless people. There are several I wouldn’t take my eyes off of if they were in my home. Michael? He is like my brother…I have known him several years now. I trust him with my life.

There are times in all of our lives I believe that God helps us bring those things that have become out of perspective; in our lives, back into perspective. Like with a Mike… Don, Larry, David…….. Paul>>>> Often He says to me, “Look, listen… Can you hear their heart beat? It is mine. Can you feel the wind of their breath? It is mine. Can you feel the warmth of their dirty skin? Yes, it is mine. Can you imagine the nights the wind howls and cold  has lost its meaning? It is I in them and they in Me…

Mike ate Sunday dinner with us that day. His hands shook so bad my son Josh offered this dirty, cold, homeless man of God a straw so he could drink. Mike looked up at me and said… “Miss Jaye I don’t know when I ate at a table last… my grandma would have been proud of this meal…Thank you.” I just seem to be unable to get them to understand…No, Michael, I thank you.

Jan
26

Silence filled Joes room almost a year ago. Much of the conversation that was had just seemed a bit lopsided… We spoke, and Joe looked.

 Of course for many months because of his stroke we were unable to hear what flooded our dear friends mind yet even with his silence we understood those last few weeks that our Joe was finished. He no longer wished, hoped, desired to live. Who actually could blame him. Joe, in his own way made a decision to die and for whatever reason clung to the only way that was in his power…he decided to starve himself to death.

He refused water and food.

The staff reached out to us for help. “He won’t take anything by mouth, please ask him to eat.” We stood by his bed and at first begged and pleaded with Joseph to eat. Giving us his “Joe Grin” we finally understood it was no use. The man had pride and even though he lived as a homeless man on many streets in America for 30 some years, Joe had dignity and “he” had made a decision on how it was going to end.

We no longer begged or pleaded with him to conform to what seemed like a reasonable request…”LIVE darn it…” Yet we couldn’t help quietly whispering to ourselves as we walked down the long hall to the lobby as we left, “live for what?” Joe wants to die and we had to accept his silent request.

That was a year ago for Joe, Tony, Bubba, Tony Boy and Bruce. Two years ago for Tim. Three years ago for Calvin and Jeff. Oh how the list could go on and with each name I sometimes sit and wonder if enough was said…Today Don lays in the hospital and we talk about calves outside his 6th floor hospital window. We also talk about saying goodbye.

As a writer I have come to understand that words are precious. They many times to me…are a song that soars into the highs and lows that no man has yet been able to hit with their natural voice by singing. Words command the orchestra  to lift the instrument of a heart to play a sound unable to be heard with the natural ear. Words…

I stood by Joes bed so many days touching his arm with my hand quietly telling him that “I will miss you…” The water that filled our eyes began to sing the song only God can sing inside of our hearts yet I sit here thinking… did I say enough? Do we ever? I now stand next to Don… “I’m going to miss you Don..” he smiles.

This morning I thought about the words I miss you. They are fragile words. They cause two people to remember a time that they alone only know yet so often pain jerks somewhere deep inside because we recall a name and know we are the only one that misses the what was…

When I speak the words to Don. When I said the words to Joe and before I hung up the phone that day with Jeff, I said the words…I miss you. Whenever someone says them to me it always takes me to a time that only them and I have shared and it; simple words, wrap around my heart and make it feel warm just one more time. It brings a smile to my face and for a few minutes that seem like a forever causes the next 20 steps just a little easier. I miss you…

I don’t know if much of what I just said has any meaning to my readers. I’m not really sure if it even matters however somewhere inside myself I can not help but wonder…have  I said enough? 

Joe and I talked about heaven. I reminded him who was already there and to remember to tell Jesus not to forget about me. I have sat next to Don…we talk about heaven, we talk about who he will see. I remind him to remind Jesus to not forget about me… And Don??? “I will miss you, I am so glad to be given the chance to know you… to laugh and cry with you. Don’t forget me Don… I love you.”

Words! They are a song if we simply remember to take the time to be quiet and allow the Author Himself, the Giver of life to sing them into another’s life by feeling with our hearts, crying our own tears and whispering into someones ear before the final day says goodbye…”I miss you..” 

Dec
24

Twas the night before Christmas…

“Christine!!!!” I yelled out my truck window this morning. When she heard her name she looked my way and broke out into a big toothless smile as I turned the truck off.

I passed her on the bridge as I was crossing into Columbus this morning. On the streets she is known as “Two Step.” For whatever reason she takes to steps forward and one step back. How she does it and sway from side to side is beyond me however she does get to where she needs to go.

Christine is from New York but likes the south because the winters are easier she says in her New York draw… Our girl is homeless, mentally ill and has health problems in her legs which is why I suppose she takes her two steps forward and one step back. “Two Step!”

I reached over and grabbed the necklace and perfume I pulled from a box of goodies my sister Chris sent from Pennsylvania. I had set them aside for just her and I was hoping I would find her today.

Standing in the road I held the perfume out to her and said in a cheerful tone…”Merry Christmas Christine!” Her eyes lit up like the stars in the sky on a clear southern night and danced as small tears rolled across the beauty of blue God graced her with. Her exact words… “Oh, thank you…perfume! I will smell nice.”

If that second could have been frozen into a time where I could have shown the world over and over what the thought of “smelling nice” could really mean I would have given my next breath in order for everyone to see.

I then told her that I had something else. I opened my small plastic bag and pulled out a necklace. Together we straightened it out and as I held it up she looked up to where it hung off my fingers said…”Oh! That is beautiful!” I gently placed it over her head and let it fall across her old worn sweatshirt stained from sleeping on the ground and food. She looked down at her Christmas gift and only said, “Beautiful!”

I asked her how she had been and she told me the other day she went to “the park” to eat. [“The park” is a park in town where the homeless go at a certain time on Saturdays and a church brings them food.] She explained that while eating someone found out it was her birthday. Her voice picked up speed and she started to stutter. My heart began to beat to the rhythm of her words as she explained someone gave her a “beautiful” piece of cake. 

Desperately trying to describe the colors on the icing she fumbled and stammered explaining purple…

My heart began to melt as blue, pink, like blue, sorta lavender slipped from her rose shaped lips. I finally said, “purple?” She said, “Yes, yes purple.” She further went on telling me how blessed she was to get the piece of cake for her birthday and then she glanced and touched her necklace once again. “Now this.” She said. “I am blessed.”

I asked her where she was staying. She said in “The park” when it is warm, but because the nights are getting colder now she walks across the bridge into Phenix City and sleeps in the laundry mat at night. 

I drove into Columbus tonight and stopped at a red light. Dressed with a Santa hat on his head a friend of mine walked up to my truck…James wished me a Merry Christmas as the light turned green. He is homeless and I wondered where he would sleep tonight as I drove away.

I circled back around by the “Y” and could see Timmy still on his bench…again wondering when he was going to head off to his “spot!” I made my right to head back across the river to go home and on the far end I could make out that “Two Step” was heading back home. (To the laundry mat)

Seeing ahead of her I noticed 4 men were walking towards her. Being Christmas Eve the streets are empty and I intently watched in the darkness that shadowed over Christine because of a broken street light that the men would simply pass her by.

As I turned to my right I sighed after seeing the men kept walking and Christine never looked up. She was alright.

“Not a creature was stirring…not even a mouse.” Where is Christine’s family tonight? When she was a little girl and recited “Twas the Night Before Christmas” did she ever dream she would be a mentally ill woman living on the streets in a southern town calling a park and laundry mat home?

Did she think her days would consist of walking cement staring at the ground? Did she think she was blessed to smell pretty, have a “beautiful” necklace around her neck and be able to eat a piece of cake a stranger handed her because it was her birthday?

It is Christmas Eve, I’m sure by now Timmy made it to his spot, James tossed his head from side to side showing off his Santa hat all the way down Broad and Christine… has she gone to sleep?

My friends from the streets won’t dream “visions of sugar plums” tonight. They sleep with one eye open hoping nobody will put a knife in their backs and Christine? Well her chances of being raped sky-rocket on the streets. The men take advantage of her mental illness…to me that is rape.

 I looked at my Christmas tree and gifts underneath after I got home. I heard Christmas songs coming out of the radio in the kitchen and wondered what blessed really means? No quick answers came to me and I suppose I will have to get back to you on that. Maybe it means different things to us all…

But you know what? I think Christine comes pretty close to what God says. It’s a box of perfume and a necklace from Pennsylvania. A piece of cake she thinks someone brought just for her. It’s me bowing my head praying Christine sleeps sweetly tonight and that nobody touches her in a foul way…

I received a gift from my friend today. It was watching her beautiful blue eyes moisten with tears of gratitude.

Merry Christmas Christine!!!!

Dec
10

I am asked often, “Why do you and Missy go to the gym 30 minutes early?” If they only knew…

We park about half a city block from the gym door. Getting from our cars and inside the gym is an adventure. Take for instance yesterday morning. We get out when suddenly I hear our names being called from across the street. We turn in the direction of the voice and it is Clifford needing a ski cap. Oh, if it was only that easy.

I open my cover on the back of my pick-up truck and reach in to grab the ski cap and turn just as Clifford leans over the tailgate wanting to know if he can have a coat; recently a guy and his wife blessed us with about 6 brand new winter coats… I look up at Clifford and say something about what was wrong with the one he was wearing? Nothing of course but he wanted another color.

People think women are picky about their clothes…you have no idea how picky a homeless man is when it comes to “mismatch style”/// anyway, after trying on a few coats we finally settled on a grey and I told Clifford it went well with his brown skin. “Sold!” I thought that if I had only thought of that 15 minutes ago. Could have saved some time here.

The alacarte of questions is long and could fill a book. Depending on the man and how close we are we can be asked for 55 cents from one to a dollar from the next one. A pair of gloves could be a need when over to the side I focus on a fella that seems too shy to ask as I hand out a pair to him as well… he thanks me as he quickly moves on. Never dull.

Often we play the game “don’t look.” If our fellas sitting on park benches that line the sidewalk to the entrance of the gym have their backs to us we play “Don’t look at them!” Sometimes it works because at 10 in the morning they are already too drunk to even notice us, other times they’re still working their hustle and haven’t made enough for even 1 beer. Those are the difficult journeys from car to entrance…

The list of wants and needs get fired off…politely mind you. Mike, I need a dollar. Timmy… 55 cents. Donnie wants to call his brother Jack. Shaky Roy is usually calling out loudly “Baby Girl” if he is drunk and if sober??? He is extremely quiet and sick. Clifford loves to laugh and have a good time but Walter wastes time needing pathetic hugs to just make himself feel like he has done something. Don’t run across Street Mary, she will talk your ear off for hours if you let her while Christine slowly shuffles by barely saying a hello. Bob and (white) Steven act like they like us and we do the same. While  (black) Steven I shoot up a high-five and practice my strut…

Missy and I ran into a fella that was on the streets today at McDonald’s. He was there with his wife and son. He is doing well he said. Quit drinking and no longer wants to go back to the streets. I hold my breath…Woody has been on and off the streets for 7 years.

Today as Woody and I talked we recalled many of the men. I asked him if he knew “mouthwash” Joe, Tony Boy, Bubba, (Black) Tony had died this year? He was shocked. I asked if he knew Don Juan was in a nursing home not ever expected to come out again? He again appeared sad as he softly said he didn’t know that… I told him, “Be good Woody…” as I walked away I found myself so thankful he didn’t know any of this. The little world I travel in called “having homeless friends” is only why I know. Nobody else really knows my friends die pretty much alone every year. I know, and God knows… ahhh but life goes on.

Tonight Missy was pulling into the gym parking lot to where I left my truck earlier this morning. I noticed as we drove up the street that the gym was closed, all the cars had left and there sat my little white truck. All the men on the streets know the back doesn’t lock and inside under the cover of the bed are coats, hats, gloves, blankets, some jeans and sweatshirts. I honestly can’t tell you what all I do have in there. But you know what? Never ever have any of our fellas ever opened that cover up and taken a single thing out without asking first. NEVER! It is left alone on the streets near them often.

As we drove closer to the parking lot Missy and I noticed Mike and John walking across the parking lot passing my truck. I wanted to tell Missy to “Hit the Gas!!!!” I knew that these guys were not going to just let me get out of Missy’s car and into my truck. I was right!!!

Mike and John only wanted a smile, a laugh and even a quick hug. John asked if I had any food and I felt awful that I had nothing. I knew earlier a group were feeding men up at a park but John didn’t make it. He barely was making it across the pavement.

I felt sad as I pulled off. That time of the evening they were heading towards their “spots” (bushes, old buildings/houses, under bridges or porches on the back of buildings downtown) to go to sleep for the day. Tomorrow will be a repeat of their today. Mike told me as I  was about to roll up my window that the police just took Donnie to jail. I smiled and told him that he just got out yesterday when John interrupted and asked me to pray for Daffney. (Johns girlfriend) He hasn’t seen her in two weeks and is worried. I told John I would as I finished rolling up the window and drove away.

My mind played over and over how concerned John was about his Daffney. I am too, she is very special to me. I found myself shooting up Second Ave. looking in areas she might be knowing I honestly had no clue which crack house she would maybe hit or even if I was on the right side of town.

The wind has started to blow harder tonight and the tempreture has dropped to 48. When I brought my few bags of groceries into the house I mentioned to my son that it’s going to be a  cold night tonight under the bridge… thoughts of the men… they never go away.

Nov
18

“Can I talk to you?” Carl asked me with a slight shake in his voice. He mentioned to me that he understood fully the work I do at the jail and also with the homeless men that silently walk the streets of our fine city. He appreciates the extension of love we share and support to hold onto hope that seems to slip through dirty fingers faster than the seconds a beam of light bounces off the ground from the sun. “Can I talk to you?”

Carl had my attention that day we sat talking because I quickly found myself somewhat troubled by his voice as well as his words.  Carl needed to talk to me? Carl is a minister. A minister from all exterior appearances seems to be doing rather well… His ministry is well, his personal life seems in tact yet my friend who always has a spark of joy in his every word woven with warmth and wit seemed very troubled.

I dropped my hat of common thread we both share and took a breath knowing that something was wrong. I asked him what it was.

There is no way possible to take a 60 minute conversation word for word so please indulge me with recalling and saying my friend’s heart…

Where is the church Jaye? I mean, where has it gone. Stuttering and stumbling over words that seemed to have never been rehearsed or even penned for a sermon I prayed “Please God, give him the ability to say on.”

He explained that the other night he went to a church service of a friend. At that service were other ministers he hadn’t seen in years. They asked how he was doing and made small talk about their congregations and the great work God seems to be doing.

Tears moistened my friends eyes as he went on and explained that he lied. He told his friends that he was doing well and that he was content with where God seemed to have him at the moment. I sat a bit uneasy now only due to the fact I had no idea what may be said next, yet my attention was on very high alert and interest peaked.

He said that he lied and as the service began the pastor started out by talking about prayers that had been prayed and ended with the praise reports of “answered prayers.” Carl said he sat quietly looking around at the excitement of the congregation. The young and old stirred in the pews as hope began to build from another mans hope, believing God in prayer.

However my sweet friend emotionally painted a picture with his words as he continued on explaining that as he sat in his spot on the pew with fellow ministers he began to wonder what would happen if he stood and walked to the front of the church. He said Jaye, “Do you have any idea what I might have wanted to say?” Tears now raced down my face as I shuttered, thinking where is my friend? His pain was beyond explanation. No smile, no joy no warmth…Carl wasn’t home.

I swallowed the knot that wouldn’t release from the middle of my throat and told Carl, I did not know what he had wanted to say…

He said I wanted to say loudly and boldly in front of strangers as well as ministers I have known for years that I sat outside in the parking lot for 15 minutes trying to decide if I should leave. I didn’t feel as if I belonged there. I came inside and lied to friends; after perfecting the fake smile on my face in the rearview mirror, that I am fine.

I am hurting and have been hurting for months. Nobody knows. I have felt safer that way. In the church if you tell or allow someone to know your flaws or that you are weak they begin their long list”s” of how we can fix so and so. Oh… but it does get better…scripture becomes the weapon of choice and now all you have to do is accept that it is so and all your troubles will go away.

He said that he wanted to stand there and further say that he lately sits in his office with his pistol in his hands. My heart jumped into his and I wept. Oh dear God I thought…”Where has the church gone?” Carl said that he emotionally can take no more but, the holidays will be difficult for so many reasons… however Thanksgiving and Christmas is one reason why he hasn’t lifted the gun up in his hand. He didn’t want the holidays difficult for his family and friends. “Besides Jaye, I really don’t want to die, I just want to stop hurting.”

My mouth became numb and I hoped that my tears said what was in my mind. I felt for several seconds I was sitting talking to Job (from the Bible) His comforters said nothing as he mourned and for the first time I understood the why…

Half embarrassed and half shaken I asked Carl what brought this all on. He explained in detail about a situation which I promised I would never repeat; about the crush and blow that fell his way, it broke him apart. As his explanation escaped from a secret place deep inside himself  some understanding settled around my mind…but death Carl?

He continued on ignoring my last question as if the dam had opened and this may be the only chance he had to allow someone safe hold his pain, even if it was brief. My friend made a statement that burnt a hole straight through me. “Why Jaye, was I able to go into that service, sit there and listen. Greet my old friends and walk out without not 1 person knowing I may end my life that tonight? He said he went home and cried and felt more alone than ever.

I could only say “I am so sorry.” Carl then said he wondered how we as ministers for God Almighty assigned to hear the masters voice for His people and not 1 heard God say anything about me… I could only cry.

He wonders how many people have come through his own doors, needing help in such a desperate way and that he never saw. We both hung our heads in shame. Where has the church gone? Do we find out someone we have been entrusted with the Masters care has ended their life through a phone call or obituary?

On he went…”Will God in heaven bring a man to the brink of insanity or the edge of death in order for him to see and feel again?” My Lord; I thought, is it possible. Is it so possible that we work and strive so aimlessly that we lose our own way and call it you? All I could do for hours was cry. “Where has the church gone Jaye?” Carl jolted me out of my thoughts with that question again.

For many days now I have thought about my conversation with my friend. I have bowed my knee low understanding possibly for the first time we as Christians way more often than not play with what we perceive as God. Is it to have great gain not so much as financially but is it for selfishness to prove we have obtained? What would be the worth in that to say I hear God and my friend is dead?

Carl for now holds onto the fact it is the Holidays. We are in constant contact and have discussed ways of help as he walks through his own “Shadow of death.” Yet I can not help but wonder are we really our brothers keeper or a baby sitter that when they go away for the day we quickly shoot a prayer towards heaven and ask God to help them as we change the channel on the TV.

Thanksgiving is this week. Christmas in a month. Shoppers are hitting the stores, gifts need to be bought and family and friends make plans to enjoy…they should yet I can not escape from the picture Carl painted for me that day with his words and tears.

He said I will sit at my table and smile come Thanksgiving. I will laugh and enjoy… Christmas I will be there to celebrate the “Reason for the Season” but I know that all I will want for Christmas is to smile just one more time. To feel hope one more time. To shake and rattle every package like a mad man in hopes that someone heard God and gave me my life again.

Carl is doing OK. We give it codes so to speak. How are you Carl? OK… that’s at the bottom, fine is in the middle somewhere and good, well good is what we hope Carl will find from God this year at Christmas.

We talk as much as he wants and he is getting help but it was a very long journey for him to get here and we both know it will take some time to get back. I ask however for all my readers that as you sit at your tables this holiday season to please pray for Carl and for me, that no one will walk past us both ever again and not hear the master say, “Go ask them if they are really, ok.”

Oct
27

Rain will move in tonight and tomorrows high is expected only to reach the mid to upper 60’s. To many of my dear readers that live in the north that seems wonderful… to me, it is a great concern.

Sudden drop in temperature can cause a homeless mans heart to stop. No warm clothes or blankets… well, not real good when they are used to passing out anywhere after a heavy day of drinking which seems to be the norm for our men under a bridge here in my area.

Walking into camp the other afternoon Jake looked up at me from his box he uses as his chair and said, “Ms. Jaye? You have to get him out from under here. He is going to get hurt or die.” I asked him who he was referring to because he motioned to where Johnny and Homer were sleeping. He spoke in a panicked voice as Johnny sat up and greeted me and said “Homer…Ms. Jaye he is going to die if he doesn’t get out of here.”

Asking more questions it seems that the Social Security check that my sweet Homer has been receiving each month has helped none. It has enabled him to stay drunk, way drunk! for a month and a half.

He has eaten very little and hasn’t showered in about 2 months…

Jake has no idea the concern we have had for Homer. We check on him several times a week and find him extremely drunk every single day.

Today when I was about to enter into camp I met up with Jake. As we were walking down the path I asked him how Homer was doing? “Drunk” was his answer.

Homer didn’t make it to the meeting this morning and as Jake, David and Paul came in I looked for our guy. Nobody knew where he was. “Bridge Call” was in order…

Stepping across the planks of boards and old boxes laid out flat that cover mud (their bridge) I stood under the canopy of cement and could hear cars passing overhead.

A new guy was in camp which always makes me cautious. Today I went alone but no matter, if there is someone new that I have never seen out on the streets I always stand where I can face their direction. Just an instinctive way I do things to protect my own safety.

Turns out his name is Tommy and he was fine…

Laying on Johnny’s spot was Chance. I hadn’t seen him since mid summer. Chance lives in fantasy world about the military service. He would have you believe he was a Green Beret. Will go as far to convince you he was a physician.

I do know he spends much of his time in the local mental hospital and after talking to his sister a few years ago by phone, he has never been in the service let alone a physician. However… we had a nice 30 min. of make-believe conversation while Homer sat on his spot unable to stand because his pants were full of diarrhea and urine.

Where do we go from here? God only knows because we have tried to say words that could lead to a way out for Homer every way possible. They fall on the ground. He is unable to hear which is sad and frustrating. I have the way out… it may take some serious suffering to get free from the alcohol. A suffering he wants no part of therefore it is not obtainable.

Homer asked me one day last week. “Why?” “Why what?” I asked him back. Crying, which he does a lot, he said, “why do I do what I do?” I am not exactly sure how I said this but I tried to get him to understand, until he sobered up, he will never find the why…

Sadness swept over his already solemn face. He stopped crying and only responded with, “yep you are right.” End of conversation.

So often; I and many of the men like Homer have danced. We dance on the edge of life and death. Suddenly the death march begins to play and we slowly sway to the sound of an unknown force pulling and pushing us as we move awkwardly on the dirt and trash under the bridge, seeing who will give out first and sit down.

With Homer, our dance has been ending quicker than I would like. The force beating me to be able to inch my dear friend to the side of life artfully convinces him to give up our dance and sit down. The devil does not play fair… I on the other hand reach for my partner and beg him to stand and dance one more time as I hear the song softly, slowly creep its way into camp. The drum of the death march pounds out a rhythm I know so well. I yell inside to God as I cover my ears and eyes praying for it to go away. It isn’t coming for me… it no longer listens to me… it is coming for my friend.

I finished my military conversation with Dr. Chance and walked over to Jake (who does not drink) still sitting on his box and asked him to please make sure that Homer stays covered up tonight.

I glanced over to Homers spot as he laid his head down and told him goodnight. It was only 3 o’clock in the afternoon which means nothing to my friend anymore. He told me goodnight as he closed his eyes. I told him as I turned to walk back across the mens bridge made out of scraps, “Sweet dreams Homer.” He never said a word.

Oct
12

OK, gentlemen> I have to get going… Jake pictured here to the left looked at John and Homer and said, “did you hear what she called us?”

The others sitting at the table at my office in the Downtown Burger King… weren’t really listening. I heard however and I asked what was wrong with what I had just said? Jake responded with something about I called them gentlemen!

My mind quickly raced through the information I have gathered over the years with my homeless friends trying to understand if what I had said may have been an offence or not.

In seconds I reasoned that he was just simply letting me know that he appreciated being called something nice instead of a “homeless alcoholic, good for nothing, bum!!!”

I am a believer in how words spoken can be powerful. They can build a heart to explore all that God and life has to offer or they can rip a human soul apart and send a person to a prison of worthlessness. I see enough worthlessness every single day I drive through town. I expect my words to have value to a man or woman who seems to have “forgotten which direction was I suppose to go?” That is scary!

Tuesday mornings addiction recovery class was small. I had met Jake once before but this Tuesday Homer brought along a new friend named John.

John has lived on the streets for 12 years. Once while sitting there listening to the stories these two characters were recalling I felt sorry for the people I know that have never sat down and listened to a homeless man talk. Educational to say the very least but probably more than the knowledge you can gather of how “homelessness” works and functions in larger cities such as Atlanta, New York, New Orleans…Chicago, you find out why homeless at all?

Do I think a story here and there has been stretched like a good fish story? Ummm, maybe. But what I have learned is why do they want to lie? I mean I am nobody, and I am certainly nobody to impress with a<<< I was beaten and left for dead under a bridge in Atlanta Georgia>>> No, I normally hear I was popped 3 times and when I was able to stand again I threw one that connected and we called it quits.

Most if not many of my guys do not want to beat to kill! They throw a punch to survive, they steal a sleeping bag to stay warm and they shuffle into a homeless camp at night to talk before they put their heads down on the top of their arms as they close their eyes to sleep.

My homeless camp is the downtown Burger King and about 98% homeless men and women in the Columbus, Phenix City area know, Mama Jaye is there to talk.

When the men first sat down after spilling much of their coffee…not use to drinking at a table, seriously. The word regret was spoken by somebody. Now you must understand how our meetings go. Many subjects get knocked about when suddenly a word or subject will pop out at me and even if 10 minutes has passed by one of those “stories…” I take it back to the “pop!”

This Tuesday morning silence was spoken after that word was said and I quickly looked at Jake and asked him, “What do you regret?” He paused a few minutes after saying that there were so many things…

I helped him along with another question. “Jake? What goes over and over in your mind when it is just you and yourself?” After another long 2 minutes he lowered his head and cleared his voice and said…”I should have been there.”

Because of the seriousness in his voice I softened my words to allow him the comfort of telling us more. Jake then told us the day his wife died. After several minutes of personal details John interrupted and said…”My wife died too…cervical cancer. It took me 2 years to get over it. She was just 58.” Homer began to cry when he mentioned the time many years ago about a woman he met. Her name was April. She was pregnant when he met and fell in love with her. April also got cancer; while pregnant, and refused cancer treatment because of her unborn child. She died a short while after her baby was born…the child lived.

To women this may sound like a time to just have a boo hoo time. The men left much behind after realising there was nothing left for them after the deaths…they walked away and into the streets and never looked back.

John spoke up rather loudly and said, “If you divorce or break up with someone you can go see them…you can call. I can never call again. I will never hear her voice.” Jake simply shook his head agreeing with Johns words. Homer cried.

The words that didn’t get told that day may sound a little like this and if the guys were here with me as I type I do believe they would agree. “Say what you need to say while you still can.”

Way too often we assume that someone knows. No, not really. Do they wish they said more? Do they wish they held more? Do they wish they got angry less and smiled more? I am sure they would say yes to all of this but maybe more than words… do they wish they could turn back the hand of time? silence>>>>

I do have the privilege that many do not have and that is to meet some of the most interesting human beings on the face of this earth we all live on. I hear their lives spoken in rustic, edgy words. Those words wrap my heart with the hope that maybe… possibly… they may heal. It causes mine to feel soft amidst the slang and hardness I many times listen to, but that is OK! I can not think of a better exchange.

Oct
03

Way too often I have to write so many sad, unsettling stories about the men and the streets. Truth is… it is not a life that many can adapt to and those that can; well, they get caught up in a time warp of devastation that seems to hold them captive until they die.

On the other hand…these men are my friends and with any friendship there is a building time of communication that you share lives. In that sharing you find out so so much. You cry and you also laugh. The men are hilarious!!!

Once in a while when they get drunk I find myself laughing my head off from their behavior or how they can recall a story. If I’m not careful a “religious” spirit creeps up on me and whispers at me…”you shouldn’t let them think what they are saying while drunk is funny!” Says who??? I’m a Christian, so are they. I’m sober, they are drunk. It’s the only difference and they are comedians on one beer or 6…

On this particular day pictured above, Donnie had just been released from jail his umpteenth time this year. He had found these glasses before he went to jail. Problem was they had no arms.

While in jail he ingeniously twisted plastic and somehow created what is seen above.

To top it off, while walking from the jail to Broadway downtown he found 2 harmonicas in boxes. (Shaky) Roy jumped into the picture when I asked Donnie to pose. Roy was beaten the night before for no reason and was sporting a black eye.

To many they may say “pitiful,” to us this is so “typical.”

Roy shows the rawness of finding a place to sleep on the streets can look like the next day. Donnie on this day depicts the reality of getting through any bad situation…laugh!

I could not do what we do day after day, week after week without being able to see the tenderness laughter can bring to such a catastrophic existence called the “streets” of America. I love these guys!

Pastor Freddie with Roy and Donnie. They had just finished praying.

Sep
23

                                                                                 Missy”, Homer asked…”I turn 62 in a few weeks. Will you help me get my SSI started?” Homer as well as every single homeless man who has ever crossed our paths knows one thing that is certain and sure and that is Missy Hall will go the extra hundred miles to help anyone out with ID’s, birth certificates, bus passes as well as socks. If it has to do with turning on a new food stamp card… our girl Missy stops what she’s doing on the streets. Whips out her cell as if she was pulling a pistol on a mugger and starts to push buttons. Always fun to watch.

OK back to my story about Homer and his SSI and turning 62. A few months back I took my lap top under my arm and headed to our office at Burger King in downtown Columbus Ga. Our office is the back table in the room off the main dining area. A cup of coffee and nobody says a thing.

Homer met us that day and Missy filled out his application. Because of Homers alcoholism it is difficult for him to read and follow simple instructions therefore he becomes confused and nervous. That’s where we come in. Repeating simple questions over and over with total patience and laughter we finished a 45 min. questionnaire in about an hour and a half.

My motto has been and probably always will be…”do what you have to do but have some great fun while you’re doing it.” Believe you me it has worked time and time again especially when I have literally wanted to wring one of the guys necks. I’ll say something funny and they’ll crack up and we get the job done.

A few weeks after completing the on-line interview we received a letter stating Homer was approved and would get his first check September 22nd.

Oh how we have been very concerned. His monthly check is a very large amount and for sure we have watched men die having much less in their pockets by going on drinking binges.

Homer has counted the days off since he heard the news the check was as sure as here. I on the other hand started planting seeds. “Homer, you know you can get off the streets with that kind of money. Ahhh, We need to start looking around at what a place for you might cost.” Oh I talked about it often which in turn stirred a smile and a tiny glimmer of hope.

Last winter Homer almost died a few times. Once he ended up in the hospital. I have walked paths through woods and sat in the police station while an officer checked for any John Does, all the while… hunting for our Homer.

I told my buddy this week that I do not want to do that this year. My emotions can not go through digging in the back of buildings and smelling the air for any sign of a dead body. So Tuesday, he, Missy and I went apt. hunting.

We really got nowhere. The options we had just didn’t seem like Homer was comfortable with.

Many people do not understand how someone who has lived under a bridge in filth just wouldn’t jump at the chance to get in an apartment and be excited about it.

Change… Homeless people adapt! Plain and simple. Living out of a plastic bag becomes comfortable and even normal. Using simple things like deodorant, toothbrush, toilet paper, a chair become a blur of what reality is. To them it is forgotten and no longer exists.

After a very frustrating Tuesday we dropped Homer off and tried one last place which after talking to a few people seemed promising. This morning we caught back up with our man and told him about it.

He said he was on his way to see if his check came in and we would try to connect later this afternoon to maybe go look at this apartment. That was at 10:30.

At 1:30 this afternoon Missy and I pulled up to his bridge and sitting at the top of the hill that leads down to his camp was Homer sitting on the lid of a sewer cap that sits about a foot off the ground. He smiled and walked to the car.

His hands were trembling; because he hadn’t had a drink all day, when he held out his check and placed it in my hand. He wanted to get it cashed and to go look at those apartments. OH boy was I one happy person.

In less than an hour we cashed his check, went and looked at the apartment and Missy and I were driving to get him a money order for his first month rent while he filled out paperwork. He pays 450 a month for a very nice, small 1 bedroom furnished apartment with a kitchen and bathroom.

This includes water, electric, heat, air, plus cable TV. After he filled out the papers I suggested he go get a few beers and chill out while we went and bought simple toiletries that this man hadn’t used in years.

Tonight I went back to visit him to see how he was adjusting. I took towels and made his bed with the sheets Missy came back with. Homer cried when he saw his clean bed. I cried…

Today was a full day and actually very overwhelming for our dear sweet Homer.

Too much change, too quickly can often panic a homeless person. My husband always says that sometimes you have to move the piano an inch at a time to get it across the room. Today Homer moved about a foot so it’s time for him to adjust.

Tomorrow we’re going to take him shopping for some new clothes and shoes and he’ll still have money to buy some food.

Tonight he was telling Freddie something about going to the blood bank. Freddie stopped him and reminded him that he doesn’t have to go to the blood bank anymore. Homer stopped talking, looked at Freddie for a few seconds before he started to laugh and cry at the same time. His poor emotions are so raw… We’ll help him through.

Later this evening I drove past his apartment one last time before heading home and I glanced over at his door. There in a small group were a few people sitting in chairs and I looked closer and saw Homer sitting on the ground next to a chair.

I smiled and told Freddie, that it is just going to take some time for him to adjust…he doesn’t have to sit on the ground and he doesn’t even know it yet. Homelessness runs deep!

This morning I was up and early, eager to see how Homer fared through the night. I also had to find him a radio.

Pulling up in front of his apartment after finding the radio he wanted at Big Lots I could see through his shade that his kitchen light was on. I knocked on the door just as I heard the manager called to me from across the parking lot.

I waited while I heard my friend on the inside of the door fumble with the lock as the manager moved closer.

The door opened and I smiled real big as I told Homer I found a radio. He seemed excited but I quickly could tell he had not stopped drinking since I left him last night. His apartment air blew at me and I felt like I was standing under the Dillingham Street Bridge. He never changed his clothes.

I turned around and looked at the manager who now was behind me and he quietly spoke as he explained that he was having to make Homer move out. My emotions rushed from every single part of my being. I fought back tears as I stood there for 5 minutes hearing about last night. Homer was drunk and details don’t need to be explained…My buddy behaved like a homeless alcoholic and never knew he had his apartment to go into.

I thanked the man as I turned to see Homer still standing in the doorway with his TV playing in the background. He had on no shoes and he reminded me of a time when I received a call from my son’s school saying “You have to come pick up your son, he’s been expelled!” That sheepish look of one of my boys, knowing they were in trouble, but not really sure why.

I gently told him to get on his shoes. He only said…”I blew it didn’t I? I have to leave?” I told him yes, he had to leave. He took a small Wal Mart bag and began to put the few items he had into it as tears fell down his cheeks. He then looked at me and asked what he had done.

As I drove him back to his bridge he cried more as I tried to explain the details of his night before. He knew it was all true and only responded with… what is wrong with me, I had it so good.

That drive this morning only took about 5 minutes but seemed like an hour. I told him we did it backwards. First sober, then an apartment. I made sure he knew that I loved him and that I wasn’t done… we were still in his life and we were going to help him.

My husband found him later and they sat on a park bench trying to see where we all should go from here. He has money now for re-hab but as of today that doesn’t seem promising. He hasn’t stopped drinking all day.

We aren’t done with Homer, he is an alcoholic and he needs us in his life. We’re the only sanity he has. My heart breaks for him and my hope suddenly seems shattered, but God is still God.

Winter is coming and under a bridge it can get very very cold. I don’t want to see him on the streets, I don’t want to look for him behind buildings or lost off some trail in the woods. But it is my job isn’t it???

Sep
14

Walking into ICU Tuesday I patiently waited for the 2 o’clock visitation. I love watching people and so with my 10 minutes to spare I listened to conversations of other visitors and tried to piece their tragedies together from their words as to “why”… they were in the same waiting area as myself.

I assume they were at best family. Some looked worn as they ate out of boxes. Others seemed refreshed like they managed to slip away and grab some sleep along with a change of clothes.

I couldn’t help but think that all these people that surround me “know” what is wrong with whoever it is they are there to see. Me, Missy…they tell us nothing. We aren’t family. Frustrating.

Tuesday I was there to see Don alone. He had been in ICU about a week. The nursing home told Missy that he “crashed.” “Crashed?” I asked her. What is “Crashed?” Again just being allowed to be told simple basics, he was found unresponsive. Again I thought to myself “how could you tell?” He had been basically unresponsive for months…must be bad.

At 2:05 I went to the big double doors and picked up the phone hanging on the wall, when the doors swung open. Hanging up quickly I darted inside just as the doors swung shut.

I turned to my right, walking quickly so not to look into anyones room. I hate ICU. Tubes, machines, beeps… All rooms are behind glass with big sliding glass doors that stay always open. Nobody ever is awake and if they are their eyes try to connect to yours if you happen to glance their way. I always feel bad knowing if our eyes meet I see disappointment cast over them because (I guess) I’m not someone they know. I walk fast.

I turned left and passed 2 rooms and as I neared Dons room I could see he wasn’t the person in the bed. I kept walking and ended back at the big doors. Without a break in my step I hit the button on the wall that opens the doors and I flew out towards the elevator thinking…”did he die?”

In a second to second panic I stopped in the lobby downstairs and asked the man at the desk if the hospital had a Donald Brassell? Holding my breath as he typed his name onto the computer he looked up at me… He’s in 813.

Feeling foolish and still a bit shaken I went back down the long hall to the elevator and pushed the button again for the 8th floor.

His oxygen is no longer on but tubes…tubes are everywhere. He’s asleep… I stayed maybe 5 minutes and went home.

The only thing I managed to get out of a nurse when he was in ICU were his kidneys aren’t functioning properly. The reason for the swelling in his arms and legs.

Again today when we went to visit Don in 813 Missy and I walked to his door and could tell he wasn’t any longer in the room. I was much more calmer this time with Missy by my side and we stopped at the nurses desk. Again holding my breath and waiting for an answer we asked where he was? 827 she says.

I shake my head as we walk away wishing we had the respect that “the family” would get. If they change rooms or if someones condition changes, family is notified. We receive no calls. We are not family.

I have known Don for 7 years. He has had no contact with his family for several years. They knew he lived under a transmission shop. That was about it!

We fed Don. We cried/laughed with Don. I washed his clothes and took him bags of cat food for his many stray cats. We are all very close to the man. We know what he likes, what he doesn’t like. I have sat for hours listening to his stories. I miss him not being under the transmission shop. But… we are not family.

Missy and I stood and looked at Don as he slept in 327. It’s a private room. I looked at Missy and asked her if she would mind if we sat for a while with him. She pulled out a chair, we sat down.

After maybe 10 minutes, I saw his eyes open and I jumped up and raced to the side of his bed. I picked up the purple bear Missy and I brought him. I explained that we wanted him to have it. He closed his eyes and went back to sleep.

Tears began to fill my eyes. I know my buddy Don may not be there tomorrow. I took that soft bear and I rubbed it on his arm, face and neck. He lays in so much stillness that by all appearances the look seems cold and hard.

Don isn’t hard. He’s so soft, so gentle. I wanted him not to feel a needle poking into his skin. Or someone having to shift and turn him. I wanted him to feel something soft and nice…Did he feel the sweep across his skin of something clean? I hope so, I sure hope so…

Aug
31

Take a look at myself, Oh God not yet… looking at the reality may make me insane. That’s only the reality of who i have become~ i don’t even want to see the whole picture. But i know that’s where i’m heading… to a 3′ D of me…

Between me and you, let me say thank – you. Thank-You God for where i sit today. A little better than where i sat yesterday. i’ve been so far gone. You know, living a lie ~ and wanting only to keep on living the lie to keep me from seeing the truth. So far down only death is what i wanted, and every time “life” came thru my “lie” i only pushed that much harder. God i’ve called you out. i’ve cursed your name. i wanted in my sick mind to go toe to toe with you knowing i would lose. i wanted you to take me down. prove to me you were ugly and never loved me, yet here today i am sitting at this jail table seeing you loved me. You have remained God even when i became less than human.

~~~~~~Piece by piece i pray, You’ll reveal my weakness while on my knees i pray your character will be revealed. Who am i? that you call me by name? Who am i that you love me still the same? This is me- in 3′ D- show me you- shining through.~~~~~~ I want to fall in love with you, Rachel

I visited Rachel Sunday in the jail. Being on the ministers list I am able to go up into her cell block and have personal conversation for an hour.

Normally I share a message to the group of ladies but this Sunday afternoon was difficult, it was different. I walked through the second locked door after it popped and Rachel fell into my arms.

Word travels quickly on the streets as well as jail… before I entered the room most of the women knew I had a personal message for Rachel and it wasn’t in words, it was in my hug to let her know I was glad that she was alive.

There are several tables and stools cemented to the floor in each block of the Muscogee County Jail. At first my girl sat on the floor next to me. One of the ladies noticed and stood to give Rachel their seat so she could sit across from me. Rachel sat down.

For an hour I shared much of my own testimony. Trying with every breath that connected to my words to gently blow life back into so many shattered lives.

Several times I locked my eyes onto Rachel’s hoping to allow her to hear my heart. A heart that has wept for her while she ran away from hope for 5 months. Motel to motel, man to man, drug to drug…escaping reality. Desperately trying to end her life.

She told me to keep her story going… she said it makes her feel like this time has not been wasted. She gave me several days of notes to share with readers of my blog which I placed at the beginning. This particular day was day 7… I am sure the first day her mind cleared well enough to take thought with pen in hand and communicate it onto paper.

If I may at this point maybe explain a little behind what she wrote from bits of information I received from others.

One evening before her arrest Rachel loaded a needle full of dope. She walked outside into the night and looked up into the sky only to see stars dancing in the darkness.

She stood there looking up and began to scream at God! She challenged Him if you will; to kill her. Not wanting to live anymore the way that she had… she was finished and “alone”~ she wanted to die!

I imagine the sound of her tears caught heavens attention as she raised the needle and shoved it into her arm. Expecting death~ heaven heard as my God stood to look her way. Not anger nor contempt roared through the sky that night to wipe Rachel out. Only love.

A love my girl understood the day she sat in jail and wrote that short note on day 7. That love reaches to places that man is not willing to reach. A love that is obtainable if we allow the masters hand to guide our own. A love that helps me to see a shattered human being wanting to die. That love is why I do what I do.

What she asks me to share I will… I will in order to wake up people to the reality of the world beyond our perfect lives and pretty houses. It is a world where death is welcomed on a hot summer night because everything has flipped upside down and we find no answers. We turn around and see no one!

Yet in all that emptiness, God heard from heaven the challenge Rachel made to her maker to prove himself to her…to even us, that He isn’t what is always preached behind podiums across this world every Sunday… but He is a God that loves us in spite of who we become sometimes.

I have a lot of responsibility I have accepted from God concerning Rachel and her life. What I am asked to do I do for not only my girl but for every single other man who slips up on the edge of the bridge in the middle of the night or the lady sitting on the edge of her bed holding a pistol on her lap. I am asked to see…

I am hoping that part of Rachel’s recovery can happen with the help of my words on a blog. It is important to her people know.

Maybe by allowing people into her world that she can finally find her own spot here in this life to laugh again. A place that is safe from all the demons of her past… never to be scared again but to feel loved!

Aug
23

Driving to the gym I heard God speak to my heart the other day. Give Timmy a kiss for me and tell him , “I love him…”

I thought inside of myself that that thought had to be God. I mean I was driving and thinking about the men on the streets like I always do but I wasn’t thinking about Timmy. My man Timmy is quiet, he says very little and asks for less…

The clothes you see he has on in this picture are the clothes he has worn for about a year and a half. He eats what he can from handouts because he won’t go to food programs around town. He won’t shower or change clothes for the same reason. These programs are in walking distance from where he sits every day yet he won’t go. But that is Timmy!

Why some men behave and pick up these habits I can not explain. One of those “It is what it is moments.” I have learned not to question it or try to change it… I accept it as it is and they like that about me. So we mesh!

A few times Timmys pants have gotten so worn on the backside from sitting on cement all day that he shyly has asked me if I had a pair of jeans that he could have. When he asks me for anything I honestly get excited because he requires little from anyone.

I always notice the jeans I give him he will roll up and tie in the string that he rolled a small blanket up with and he will carry it for weeks and again I wonder why he won’t find a bush to get behind and change instead of walking around in the filthy worn out jeans he has on. As always I simply shake my head and don’t question the why. I have never been a homeless man on the streets so there is no possible way for me to understand so again I just accept.

I told the Lord that morning, after remembering how filthy Timmy is… that if it really was Him speaking to my heart that he had to remind me when I got to the gym.

As I was still driving I can openly say my mind did think about how dirty he is. His skin shines from the oil and filth that is layered because other than rain drops he hasn’t gotten wet. His jeans are stiff, full of holes and look like slick polyester because again…the same reason. Filth!

As quickly as I thought those thoughts I thought about Jesus. Would he pass a man/woman by because of what they smelled like or even appeared like on the outside? No the reasonings sounded off in my head as I continued on down the road and forgot the subject.

Pulling into the gym I said good morning to Missy who was already out of her car waiting on me. We headed off for the gym door and I suddenly started looking for Timmy. “It WAS God!” He wasn’t on his usual bench as we walked down the sidewalk and I again figured it was only me talking to me.

Glancing farther down the sidewalk past the gym I saw his silhouette on a bench. I told Missy who was already heading up the walk to the doors of the gym to hold up, I turned and walked toward Timmy.

Standing in front of him we exchanged our usual good mornings and I looked down at him and said “Timmy?, take off your hat.” He looked at me funny and calling me Miss Jaye he asked me to repeat my question. Again I said…”Take your hat off of your head.” He did as I asked and I bent over him and kissed his forehead and pulled back inches until we were looking eye to eye. “God wants me to tell you Timmy, that he loves you…” His eyes watered up and the only words he spoke were “This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” He thanked me and while I walked away I thought, no Timmy, THANK YOU!

I saw him again when we left the gym and he asked me, “Miss Jaye? Can you bring me a scrambled egg sandwich?” I smiled at him and asked what he wanted on it… “Mayo” he replied as I opened my truck door. Again, I shake my head and thought “yuk” but I have learned to accept it is what it is and I smiled as I drove away.

That afternoon I got busy. I forgot about Timmys sandwich again the following day. Sunday morning I woke up and sat up in bed. Timmys sandwich!!!!!

After getting ready for church I fixed his sandwiches and told my husband I had to find Timmy. Because it was Sunday morning I had no idea where he would be. For 7 years I have never figured out his “Cat Hole”, (where he sleeps) so I didn’t know where he may be.

See, they sit in front of the gym Monday-Saturday to panhandle. Sundays the gym is closed and they drift around… I pulled out of my driveway and asked God to help me find Timmy.

My first thought was the gym but I fought the idea as I drove because IT WAS SUNDAY!!!! He wouldn’t be there. I went to the gym anyway.

I turned down the street and noticed how empty the benches were. The men were still under bushes and bridges. Some might be still asleep in old buildings scattered around downtown but nobody was at the gym.

A tree was blocking one bench and I saw movement as I neared the tree in my truck. Timmy!!!! It was Timmy all by himself sitting on a bench. I pulled into a parking space and honked. He turned around and smiled at me like I have never seen him smile before. He walked up to my window.

I handed him his brown lunch bag as I had done hundreds of times before with my sons as they headed out the door for school. This time it was Timmys bag, his egg sandwiches.

As he walked back to his bench I yelled out to him…”I put mayo on them.” He again smiled and said, “Thank you Miss Jaye… Are you going to church?” I nodded. He asked me to remember him, say a prayer. Again he turned to head off for his bench.

I did pray for my friend that morning at church. I in fact asked the entire church to pray for Timmy. When I said  amen I silently thanked the Lord for allowing me to give His kiss for Him…

“This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Where does it come from people? I mean, Timmys a homeless alcoholic. He lost his wife in a house fire and has lived on the streets since. He is filthy, lonely and scared yet… “This is the day that the Lord has made…Let us be glad in it!”

Maybe we all should bow our heads and pray.

Aug
19

Missy called…”I’m at the house Rachel’s staying at…there’s police everywhere. She’s lied…” Missy continued to tell me. She told the police she is Melina Hampton. Melina is Rachel’s sisters name. Her sister that died a few years ago from huffing computer cleaner. She adopted the name after she broke probation because she knew the birthdate and social easier than an imaginary name. Running from the police can be an adventure.

We knew all this for months. Melina died in the state of New York and when the local police run a name they run it in the state of their jurisdiction. Therefore the few times Rach has been in a car that was stopped she was always left alone. No warrants for a Melina.

Missy asked what she should do. Our girl was still walking around but was not permitted to leave until the investigation was over. She was Melina but drugs were found under the mattress she was sleeping on. To make matters worse, she and her pimp boyfriend were “Shake and Baking.” Manufacturing Meth! They had it all and Rachel was only visiting, so she said…

Missy told Rachel to come clean and being high Rachel just cried. Missy also told her that if the police questioned “HER”, she was not going to lie. My lady hung her head and said she understood. She also told her that no matter what happens… we weren’t leaving her. We would be by her side the whole time. Again Rachel cried.

I was sitting here at my house while all this was going on and praying and hoping somehow the police would figure out who she was before she got away again. I didn’t want Rachel to be exposed by Missy in front of her so I told Missy to sit tight. I prayed.

Last week we were with Rachel at the emergency room. She had shot up (banged) a wild mix of meth in her arm and her arm was extremely swollen and hot. She called us because she was scared.

Before she was seen at the hospital, her boyfriend/pimp took her home and found some antibiotics for her to take. Does that surprise me???

That afternoon in emergency Rachel looked more fragile than I had ever seen her. Her clothes as small as they were were hanging off of her body. She couldn’t keep her thoughts straight and didn’t want us to leave.

I had to save Rachel’s life by making “one” phone call. A phone call I do not regret making but a call I honestly wish could have been dialed by someone else’s hand. She had to be exposed before she got away… I text Missys husband, who is a Columbus police officer. “There is a bust going down right now on a street to the right off Macon Rd. just past the cemetery. Contact someone there and tell them Melina is Rachel.”

He text and said he was on his way there and I quickly text back…Missy is there, don’t let her see you and to please make sure Rachel doesn’t either.

You must understand. I am a minister. Anyone that works with me understands we don’t ask if you’ve been in prison or not. We don’t care if you’re an addict. “IF” by chance I find out anyone has a warrant I keep my mouth SHUT!!! HOWEVER…if it is a sex, murder or any violent crime I have been known to turn them in. Those are my rules, I stick by them. The people on the streets know if I am asked anything by the police, I will not and anyone working with me, will not lie.

Missy knows Rachel’s dying but also you have to understand these people become family. Rach is like my daughter, she calls me mom. Missy has become a big sister and they tell each other everything. I knew Missy, because of her tender heart… she couldn’t bust Rachel unless she was flat-out asked and nobody was asking.

Being mom…I could.

Donald called back and said he saw Missy, Missy didn’t see him and he was able to talk to an officer around the corner who was on his way to the bust. Seconds after I hung up talking to Donald, Missy text me and asked if she should go rat out Rachel.

I called Missy…I told her it was over, they know who she is now and I wanted her to leave. I did NOT want Missy to see Rachel coming out in cuffs. Missy asked me quickly how they found out who she was. I told her it was me, I hung up and cried.

Today my heart is broken. I KNOW!!!! I did the correct thing. No doubt! Our lady would have died, but I often wonder why God? Why couldn’t it have been another way. I put Rachel away for a long long time. I want to hug her like I did at the hospital and again tell her it won’t be this way forever… does she remember what I said?

Last night her one phone call after she was booked she called Missy. She told her she was arrested for probation violation, manufacturing and possession. She began to cry when she said…”I am going to prison a long time.” Missy said she stopped crying and quietly said she was glad the running is over.

Rachel also asked Missy to call Billy, her ex husband who has custody of their children in Florida; because of her lifestyle, and to tell him to love on the kids. Billy is a great guy. Rachel is so proud of how he’s taken care of the kids and she visits them as often as staying clean allowed. They know their mom is a drug addict and prostitute but they also know she won’t ever disrupt their lives, so to speak, by being around.

She cried last night on the phone with Missy…for her children.

Being a minister at the jail I can visit Rachel by phone and camera 5 days a week. I can ask to go to her cell block Sunday. Right now, I am hoping she won’t be in the one I go to. I say that for her, and I say it for me. Emotionally, neither one of us could handle that.

In the days to come I will explain to her that it was me who blew the whistle on her. When she is strong enough and clear minded. My Rachel won’t be mad but I owe her the truth none the less. She told me once, you won’t call the police unless you think I am in danger>>> I told her she was right. She said she understood.

This has been a wild ride with Rachel the past 5 months. I have been in more shady, dirt, roach infested motels in this area than I care to admit. I have entered into the drug world and learned things I never dreamed I would ever know.

I finally know what crack smells like when it burns, and how it ruins someone beautiful!

I know pimps by name, know phone numbers and address’. I also know that because of who I am and the work I do, phones get answered and motel doors open to let me in. Funny! They know I am their friend, but I’m not going to lie.

They all have their rules and I have mine. I refuse to cross an imaginary line yet all the time they cross it to come closer to my side. That can only be God. I know it and I believe they do too.

I am a friend to the sinner. I have sat on a prostitutes bed and laughed. I also have cried rivers of tears. I have beat the streets looking and asking, “Have you seen Rachel?” Now I no longer have to look. My one call, put her somewhere safe. Tonight she is alive.

“Maybe God wanted to see if I could do it…” I told my husband. “Maybe as much as I love that crazy girl, and knowing she possibly could hate me forever… could I save her life in such a way as this?”

“Maybe” my husband said. “She is now able to see another day…” I know he is right, I just wish there was another way. I will miss her when she goes away. I will miss her bad!

Aug
08

Matthew 9:12&13

They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick…but go ye and learn what that meaneth.

For 27 years now I have tried to learn the meaning to not only this scripture but thousands of others… Have I or do I believe I have learned all there is to the mysteries and revelations of my God? On the contrary, I have learned very little.

“I feel lost.” Leaning slightly forward with my eyes fixed on his lips I politely asked him to repeat himself. Again Don said, “I feel lost.” Realizing that todays visit with Don at the nursing home was different then it had been since he ended up in the hospital 3-4 months ago.

Even though his body still didn’t want to move when he wanted it to; his eyes…his eyes seemed to show life in them once again. I found a chair, pulled it next to his bed and sat down.

Missy squatted next to me in order to also look into his eyes. Silence spoke for both of us or maybe you can say God, we knew he finally had understanding who we were. He also had understanding of so much more.

For 30 minutes or more we talked to our friend. We laughed with him and we all cried.

I took the opportunity to explain to Don what happened to him. He remembered being hit and we saw no need to explain who it was or why. To be totally honest we aren’t really sure about details. Word travels quickly on the streets and we heard several different stories. A few of the mens names were mentioned yet none of the stories seemed to fit. Only Don knows, or knew, but he was drunk and now….well now he can’t exactly remember.

I asked my friend if he would drink another beer? He never answered, he began to sob. Often when I talk to the guys when they end up in such dire straight situations I try to help them say what they quietly have laid there and thought about for days.

To some it may seem they don’t understand or even comprehend you are even in the room however I always approach them as if they understand everything no matter what the situation appears like. It works.

When Don finished crying I asked him if he had been thinking about the “What IF’s!!!” What if I never became an alcoholic? What if I never became homeless? What if someone had loved me a long long time ago? My friend cried more. I understood.

Once I asked him not to cry anymore… My heart was breaking. We all have “What IF’s” in our lives. My friends choices ruined his health and now is at the mercy of someone changing his diaper. Please Don don’t cry. He spoke to us through more tears and said he has to cry. Missy fell apart. I told him to cry until he could cry no more and with my one hand I held his good hand and with my other I wiped his tears.

After he was able to speak again he told us something we never knew. Writing this now brings tears into my eyes and I feel so humbled before Don, My God and mankind… He told Missy and I that every time he sees us he knows everything will be alright. He then began to cry more. I squeezed his hand and told him that I loved him and he told me that he loved me.

We quietly left the nursing home after Don closed his eyes to rest and I suggested to Missy we needed a milkshake…she agreed.

Drinking comfort food at our Burger King we talked about how love for human beings has left the church; not as a whole, but to a very large degree. I understand that God has put a call on my life to do what I do and I love every single heartbreaking second of it. I told Missy if I had a plane ticket in my hand and knew I was going to have that 30 minute conversation with Don would I give the ticket away???? Would I walk away from Don???? I would have torn up the ticket in order to hear my friend cry today.

 I know that God has called Christians to love…without it, there would be no cross for my Jesus to suffer and die on for “me” For Don… For Joe Joe, For Tony Boy, For Jeff, For Boone, For Calvin, For Tony, For Sue, For Bubba, For Bruce…Oh Lord how my list could go on of the men we talked to, prayed with, cried with…Our friends, family. The men and women we watched die no longer knowing where their family had gone. We became family.

Love… Jesus stopped for anyone that had a need. You do not have to have a call on your life-like mine in order to bend down. All any of us need is Jesus in our life. He makes it so we can not look away.

Yesterday when I was at the jail I explained to my ladies that I wasn’t up there to teach them as much as I wanted them to teach me… Their heads tilted as if I spoke something they had never heard.

Yes, I know how to speak to a crowd. I have traveled around the South East and even been to Central America teaching in many churches. But nothing gives me more strength to do what I do then to humbly sit back and allow life  show me there’s another way, another story, another hope stitched to the side of doubt that I must learn.

I want to die… I want to die… Hold on, just hold on and don’t let go. Another story for another day.

Getting out of Missy’s car today she made me smile. She said,  “It hurts, it is not fun to do this part of ministry… but I wouldn’t trade today with Don for anything.” Thank God for my friend.

Have I gotten some understanding of  “learn what that meaneth…” I believe I have. I have learned, your heart breaks a whole bunch.

Jul
16

Jesus loves me this I know… for the Bible tells me so…” As I walked through the kitchen Thursday afternoon my husband stopped me and said “I have some news to tell you.” I paused and leaned against the counter as he took a breath and continued on, “Jo Anna died last night.” I spun around and ended up in front of the refrigerator feeling myself fill with anger. I closed my eyes and kept repeating to myself that it just wasn’t right.

I don’t know what I said, if anything, as tears began to cover my eyes; I walked out the back door still thinking…This isn’t right!

The night before Missy called me and told me that Jo Anna’s mom had contacted her to let her know Jo Anna had over dosed and was on her way to the emergency room. “Please pray.”

Was this another wolf cry we wondered. You have to understand that when you talk to an addict often times they cry wolf for themselves and others and 98% of the time it amounts to a meaningless goose chase.

This time however the wolf cried and it was over!

I did pray after I talked to Missy. I just didn’t know at the time of her call that Jo Anna had already passed away… She took 65 muscle relaxers. Not sure of the name but who really cares at this point. You add them to all the other prescribed meds that floated around in that house it pretty much was a done deal.

After I walked back into the house I asked Missy who was sitting in my dining room if “Naomi” knew… She informed me that yes Naomi had heard, Missy called her and she didn’t answer the phone. Jo Anna was Naomi’s sister!

Our hearts began to beat much faster at this point. Jo Anna was dead Naomi had another sister that died a few years ago from huffing computer cleaner>>> we had to get in touch with our girl Naomi!!!

Later that afternoon we tried reaching her again and yet again there was no answer. Knowing the types of drugs she had at her disposal all we wanted to do is let her know we loved her and to not do anything dangerous!

Finally she returned our call and didn’t want to see us. She told us in a language only understood from the streets that she was dealing with it how she only knew how and that she would be in touch. Our hearts broke knowing we might not see Naomi again. She told us that she loved us.

For 2 days we have agonized with anger, frustration mixed often with total rage! How can one family become so dysfunctional? Moms an addict, the girls became addicts. 2 daughters are dead, one works the streets for her high and a place to sleep and mom, well mom “cries wolf!”

We pray!

Naomi sent Missy a text this afternoon. “I need you.” After a few more text we were in the car heading to yet another motel.

Climbing the stairs to find her room I always wonder what we’ll find. Will she be alone? Will she be high? I have to trust the God that I serve when I climb those steps because I know I am in an environment that is not my own…or is it?

Yesterday I heard a man jumped into the river. He was found the next morning. They have no name only a sign he left at the spot he jumped. “Will Work for Food!” People do you have any idea how wrong this all is? Do you not know that this man had a mom, had a dad. He even may have siblings somewhere. They have no idea that he is dead yet I carry the knot in my gut and brace back the tears for them all.

I hold my breath when I approach every homeless man I know and ask “Do you know who jumped into the river Thursday night??? Do you know?” I count my mens heads and deduct who is accounted for and who is not while my mind shivers thinking it probably is someone we know.

“Will Work for Food.” Was that his suicide note? I know so many that hold those signs.

Some may say, he was a homeless bum, better off dead. JoAnn was a pill junkie, better off dead. Naomi is a crack whore… We knocked on her door.

In seconds she opened it and we walked in. The three of us sat on her bed like old girlfriends talking about “stuff’ except Naomi is young enough to be my daughter and the “stuff” was anger, hate, bitterness which was dancing on every word which combined with the tears that slipped down our ladies face.

She was broken…

For many minutes, maybe 30, Missy and I sat silent as Naomi had her say! We offered her no advice on how she should mourn yet again the loss of a sister. “Who will remember my birthday? Where will I go for Thanksgiving?” Flashes of those words came back to me at a time in my own life I said the same thing.

After she let out a deep sigh to indicate she was ready to listen I quickly reminded her that we would remember her birthday and she always had a place for the holidays at my table.

She laid down on her face and quietly said “Everything is so so bad!” I quietly told her that she was correct. Everything was bad. She didn’t exactly like my reply but I continued on. The reality of Naomis world right now is that everything is bad but I wanted her to understand one fact and that was it would change and to not include herself into that statement.

You see for several minutes I listened to her insult herself. Truth, she is an addict, truth, she does turn tricks for her stay and high… in fact as we were talking her john came in and he got to listen. Truth, her entire family are addicts and how she was raised was WRONG!!!! BUT!!!! the real truth I told Naomi was, that doesn’t make “her” a bad person. We all do bad things in life but God truly looks beyond the bad and sees the real “us!” HE knows how we were broken and HE alone knows how to fix us.

I have no solid answers why today Naomi has to face her days knowing her sisters are gone because of life and drugs or why she has to accept the fact that her mom is a pill junkie and taught them everything they know.

For now all her anger is being aimed at her mother and because I know the ENTIRE story I silently applaud her. See, all of my ladies life she has been afraid of her mom. Even knowing who she is and what she has done she still coward down to her control. Her anger today was a ticket towards her freedom to safely say “I deserved none of it!!!”

I cried last night thinking about the man who died in the river…I also prayed and asked God to give me some way to make a way for a man who wants to die jumping into a river that will “Work For Food!!” And God…help me make a way, even if he doesn’t! OH and also God… never let me forget the times I tried to die, thought about dieing and continue to bring them into my life, so that I may repleace emptiness with HOPE… and with your help, teach them how to live!” Amen!

Jul
06

Pulling into the parking lot to purchase my Sunday paper I roll down my window and as always I’m greeted with a broad smile.

“Good afternoon John… how is it going?”  Usually he explains he was able to pick up a side job at one of the clubs downtown on Broadway. Or, he comments on how cold/hot the weather has been. Whatever gets spoken usually it is John who does the talking until another customer pulls up and we quickly end the conversation and wish each other well before I pull away.

I have always liked the guy. He’s about my age, homeless and has an extremely friendly personality. I have known my friend John about 4 years not just because I buy my Sunday paper from him but I have run into him at the downtown Burger King in the mornings as well as seen him sitting on park benches scattered throughout downtown Columbus. I honk, he smiles and we both wave. He’s become my friend.

The past month I have driven past his spot along the road where he stood for years selling Sunday newspapers and took notice to the fact John had been replaced by someone else.

Everytime I went past I wondered what happened to him. Did he get sick, did he lose his job for stealing from the Ledger. Often many of the homeless I know that had been fired in the past, allowed themselves to get sticky fingers which then caused them to take off with the entire profit of their day.

I didn’t actually know John to drink, however simply being homeless and sleeping in the wrong location can get you a few days in the county jail so I wondered if that might be where he was…I only knew him as John but had no last name to do a deeper search so I simply drove past his “spots” and wondered.

Because we work with so many homeless people we pick up a paper that can be purchased at any convenience store in our area called “The Joint.”

In this paper are pictures of men and women that have been arrested in a 2 week period and what they were arrested for. I use it to better understand the women I minister to  Sundays at the jail. I learn all their names and the reasons they are behind bars. We locate many men from the streets we have lost track of and sigh a big sigh of relief knowing they are alive, well and only on vacation in the Muscogee or Russell county jail.

Last week I picked up one of these papers and took a few minutes one evening to look through it and lo and behold there was Johns picture. I smiled thinking the picture made him look washed out but also I smiled knowing he was safe. You have to understand, for some of these fellas they are safe to us when we know they are in jail. I was glad; for sure, that he was not sick!

I slid my eyes down to read what he was charged with… Tears filled my eyes as I read that John was on the Most Wanted Sex Offenders list! It shook me deeply.

For several days I thought about my friend John. He is a great guy. Extremely personable>>> He was forever polite and kind towards me. He often called me darlin, sweetie…my heart pounded. He was charming me and I fell for it. God began to open my eyes to the danger I had stepped into and strongly reminded me that with the work I do, I MUST!!!! never allow my guard to drop. When God says JUMP, I don’t ask why…  I didn’t hear the jump this time and I felt fear!!!

If John had needed a ride would I have given him one? Yes! If he asked me to follow him into his camp would I have gone? Yes! Did anyone else know about my friendship with John? NO!!! Not that I was hiding it but often we become independent to the call on our lives and open doors to very bad decisions simply because I justified our friendship and alone deemed it as safe. I broke every rule I sternly “try” to enforce with anyone I allow to work with me on the streets.

If anyone becomes sloppy with their decisions or bulks at my warnings I will not allow them back onto the streets with me. Yet, I let this one slip past me. I was rebuked the instant I read “Most Wanted Sex Offender” I felt chills and a fear of my own humanity.

Lessons are taught in order to allow the wisdom to enter in and remind us all we are nothing without God. Sloppy will cost us a great deal. relationships, our lives<<< Is it “I” or is it “I” allowing my God to work through me? To put in nicely, It put me on my tail and I found myself looking up but thankfully I wasn’t harmed or sexually assaulted. I have been humbled.

I would like to try to go to the jail and talk to John. Being on the ministers list I can not visit the men, only women but my husband can and maybe that is the way it should be. I only want to get word to John that I am praying for him and still consider him my friend.

The stories I share I in no way want to give the impression I just trompes all over the woods, float into camps at will and everything is great! It goes much much deeper than that.

Relationships get formed out in the open for the world to see and observe. I get to know people extremely personally before any visitation. Yet as I said…I let my guard down on this one and have felt foolish but much wiser. It has shaken me and I only pray the shake was enough to never forget.

Thank you for your prayers, as you can see I need them.

Jun
24

Missy and I were just about to get into our cars after 2 hours of Racquet Ball and we glanced across the street and saw Homer sitting on a bench… with-in seconds he spots us and broke out into a wide grin and waves.

I yell across Broadway and told him I have missed him at church. He waves and nods his head that indicated he understood. I then yell again and tell him that I’ll see him later at his camp. Again he nods and raised his hand to once more say he heard me.

I started to laugh as I looked back at Missy who was just about to get into her car. She laughed back knowing what I was thinking… Our conversations must make many people’s heads tilt! There are people walking all around us and I often forget that what we talk about many people don’t understand.

The other day at the hospital Dons social worker was asking us questions and Missy and I were talking like we normally do and the social worker laughed and asked us to hold up a minute. We stopped and looked at her and she slowly said, ” He lives under a transmission shop and you think his nephew was the one who punched him?>>>His nephew lives under the shop with him?”

Missy and I looked at each other puzzled at first wondering what part of that didn’t she get when it hit both of us the reality of what we were saying and that not many people talk or even know things like this.

We quickly apologized realizing we needed to go slower and maybe explain with a bit more detail. When we finished we had now 2 women looking at us as if we fell out of the sky and were making this all up. I suppose that’s why Missy and I just look at each other and laugh.

Pictured here today is a pile of rocks on a small island under a bridge. The other day we were looking for Mr. Homer and I noticed that someone had been living on this little island in the river. Again Missy and I have placed bets on who is being silly enough to live out there. Our money is on Crazy Larry but we haven’t gotten a conformation from anyone yet.

It’s dangerous to get on the island. There are snakes and the water rises quickly and can take you down the river with no warning…yep, it’s gotta be Crazy Larry. He was just told by the police to stay out from under another bridge because of all the fighting he had been in with David. Besides I think when the ambulance was called because Larry stabbed himself in his chest was all the police wanted to deal with. So Larry being homeless was homeless homeless! The rock idea would hit his brain.

The guys pulled out the knife, Larry refused treatment and has been looking for a new spot to live!

This afternoon I was sitting down and Missy called. She heard a man fell on Broadway and hit his head. An ambulance was called. She was on her way and I grabbed my keys and shot off for downtown.

When we got there we passed two groups of homeless men pointing towards the ambulance and each group said “It’s Donnie.” I again thought how well these men know us. They didn’t bat an eye and knew that we were there for one of them.

Missy was able to give the medics Donnies information and we told Donnie to behave at the hospital… Cross your fingers>>>he probably will be in jail by the end of night. I did drive away a little concerned about him however.

I always ask questions and I asked Steve how drunk Donnie was. Steve knows Donnie well and said he is drunk but not drunk enough to fall three times. It is amazing the ability the men have to stay on their feet no matter how intoxicated they become…could be nothing but then again it could be something!

Maybe I am just a bit jumpy when it comes to the men. The hospital moved Don to the same nursing home Joe Joe was in. Today Missy and I went in and found the social worker who knows us well and we gave her our personal information again…just in case.

I asked her if his stay was short-term. She said that no, it was extended care. Don will never go back home to his place under the transmission shop. Don will never do another hustle for a can of beer or a bottle of mouthwash. I’ll never watch him gather me a bag of a few of his dirty clothes to be washed.

He will NEVER apologize for using foul language but say it anyhow, thinking by saying “excuse me ladies” gives him permission to cuss. I suppose in all actuality for Don it did.

He ran a decent camp. Every homeless man and woman the past 5 years has been granted permission to stay until they were able to move on. I always felt safe with Don in camp but now it’s all different. It’s all changed. I won’t go back without a man. THAT my dear readers is so unlike me so I know it’s wisdom to heed to my inner warning from God.

But the one thing about all that I can recall about Don doesn’t sting as much as Lima Beans and Cornbread! For a few years now he constantly mentioned to me and everyone that visited that knew me…he was waiting on me to bring him Lima Beans and Cornbread.

I always laughed thinking he was joking but after a while I believe Don Juan the Great One actually was waiting on me to bring him Homemade! Lima Beans and Corn Bread.

We often say we missed it! so many times. The last time we saw Bubba he was laying on a bench downtown. Missy and I were surprised to see him because we thought he was in jail. We didn’t stop! Bubba was dead that evening.

Oh I know no one knows an hour from now but I will be totally honest…I wish I could take Don, lima beans and cornbread tonight. Because of the stroke he no longer eats or drinks but is fed through a tube in his stomach.

Find someone tomorrow that hasn’t had a visitor in a long long time. Maybe someone who has worn everyone out with their whining and complaining…Take them some lima beans and cornbread for me, for Don.

Something so simple speaks so many words and the greatest word of them all is “Love.”

Jun
24

Jun
15

When I picked up my phone that night about 9:30 I looked at the caller I.D. and wondered why Missy would be calling me before I pushed the button and said hello.

From the shake in her voice I slowed my brain down trying to repeat every word I had just heard… “Street Mary just called, Bubba’s been hit by a car on Veterans Parkway.”

Because of my personality and also because over the past 6 and a half years of damning words such as these I calmly asked her to tell me what she knew. She explained to me that Street Mary was on her bike and was on her way to the gas station. In front of the gas station were police cars and an ambulance. Because of the area of town we all  tend to slow down just to make sure the emergency personnel aren’t there for one of our own.

Mary parked her bike and saw Black Timmy so she ran over to him and asked what happened. She could see from where she was standing that several feet down the road a body was being loaded into an ambulance as Timmy explained it was Bubba and the police need his real name not his street name. That’s why Mary called Missy…

Missy gave her Bubba’s given name; Derick Spencer, and Mary relayed the information to an officer standing close by. Over the years we tried to collect as much information about all the men and women on the streets. Many times we are the only ones that know their true names.

You can guess why street names are used. Sometimes it’s because they are wanted by the police from another state. More times than not it is just because it’s a name that seems to stick! I suppose which is why Derick became “Bubba.” It stuck with him, with the men on the streets and it stuck with us.

Because we know Bubba’s cousin (who is a close friend of ours that pastors a church in our town) I told Freddie what I knew and he called Randy.

Missy was still on the phone with me while the call to Randy was being made from another phone and for about 3-5 minutes I sat down on my bed as I listened to my dear friend sob on the other line. All I could think as she cried was “Here we go again…help us Dear God to make it just one more time…”

Bubba didn’t make it, I heard later. From all the information I had I didn’t think he would. Timmy and Bubba were crossing 6 lanes of traffic. They were almost to the center, Timmy was maybe 3 feet behind him and a car came from nowhere… “she hit Bubba” Timmy said.

Details are really not worth repeating and would serve no purpose. Our friend and a member of our church is gone.

I have sat many hours up at the hospital with Don recalling the details that led up to Bubba’s accident. All the “what if’s” have played over and over yet nothing will allow me to reach back in time in order for me to yell out for Bubba to “Look OUT!!!!”

Timmy said he kept telling Bubba to watch the light, watch the light. Keep your eye on the light. They were being extra careful that night. From all accounts, they did everything right. Bubba had a fast quick walk, Timmy has bad feet…he was slower.

Don looks over at me sitting at the end of his hospital bed. He doesn’t stay awake much anymore. A feeding tube is run through his nose, bags of fluids are being pumped into his frail body. I sometimes look at him with a smile and think, “You don’t even know Bubba’s gone Don, you have no clue.”

I also wonder “what day am I coming up here to find you gone…”

Today Missy was sitting with me at the end of  Don’s bed. I told my friend I was tired. I didn’t need to explain, she understood as my sentences were carried away in the silence of his room. I hate seeing Don like this and I hate coming up and never seeing good, but bad. I miss Bubba and I wish it hadn’t happened…

Dons eye opened and I stood up and walked over to him, I bent over so we could look eye to eye. I told my friend that it was OK if he felt it was time to let go. That I understood he was tired. I reminded him about the day he ended up at the hospital. How we were at his camp and he wanted to pray. He reminded God to look at his heart and not at what he does.

I whispered to my buddy that our God does….

I looked back at Missy and I could see she was crying. I asked her to explain, as I reached out and touched her shoulder. She could only motion to Don and I understood.

I sat back down in my chair at the end of the bed and touched my wonderful friends tears and thanked her for crying for us all…

Missy reminds me often that “this” is what we do. God will continue to give us the grace to move forward. I always seem to sigh a big sigh because I do know that she is correct. His Grace is sufficient for me.

We walked to Dons door and one more time told him we loved him. I like to believe he understands…

May
30

Missy stepped out of  Don’s room  today hoping to get information from the nurse about his condition. For 5 days now there is nothing to indicate he knows who we are. Something has gone terribly wrong and we can get no answers.  

While she was gone I sat in a chair at the end of the bed and just watched him with tears welling up in my eyes. My buddy is not going to get any better. I just know it!   

I could hear Missy talking to the nurse 20 feet from the door while my mind started to recall the Don we all knew. “Come on Don Juan!” I thought to myself. “Come on, and ask me for another <Grit Sandwich.>” Every morning for breakfast he would cheerfully come into our breakfast program and drive Missy slap nuts! “I want more eggs, sausage, grits!!!” Each and every time Missy would roll her eyes and tell him to hush and to go sit down. He loved driving her up a wall and I think she loved the game he played equally as much.

Then I would walk into the room and he would always say, “Miss Jaye, make me a <Grit Sandwich.” Knowing Missy had already been harassed, I would pull out 2 pieces of toast, slap some grits on it and hand it on through the window.  He; without hesitation, made sure Missy saw what I was doing and she always would huff, roll her eyes and walk away.  After awhile I knew it was a game we all enjoyed playing. Don drove Missy crazy, she liked telling him no and they both knew I was going to let him have his way. I was in charge…

Needless to say there love/hate relationship has grown stronger over the years. He told her that he wanted to marry her. I just reminded them both…”you’ll kill each other if that ever happened.” Don always would laugh and walk away.

I found out Saturday that someone actually did try to kill Don. That is why he is in the hospital. We went down to the camp after hearing James (NOT REAL NAME) was responsible for our friends condition.  Guess who was home under the building…James!

Climbing down the hill into the camp James met us. He wanted to know if we heard anything about Don? When we said we had, he quickly told us Don had a heart attack. I told him that no, he did not have a heart attack and that he had been smashed in the eye. 

As soon as I stopped to breathe James blurted it all out and claimed self-defense. I knew Missy was furious about the lies he was telling and I thought that if you ever needed to stay quiet Missy, now is the time! Thank God she said nothing.

I know James has mental illness and Sandy, (NOT REAL NAME) was there as well. I don’t know Sandy so I thought I best play straight man/woman and make James believe I swallowed everything he was saying. It was working, because he pieced together a puzzle we couldn’t finish until that moment as to why Don was in such serious condition.

To make a very long story short. A story James repeated 5-6 times… James took his knee and slammed Don down as he brought his knee up into his eye which explains the shattered cheekbone! 

The staff at the hospital only would tell us that someone hurt him very badly. If he dies can James be held responsible? Lord I don’t even want to go there right now. This is how life on the streets is. Do I agree, no! Do I understand? Yes, more than I care to admit.

I told my husband this afternoon that from now on I want him to go with me to Dons camp when I feed his cats. I no longer feel safe and when I don’t feel safe I am not too proud to admit it.

Don always made sure nobody treated us with disrespect. It was his camp and when he felt it was time for a man to move on down the road he would let them know. Now…the camp is open for anyone and “anyone” is going in. Not safe, only trouble comes of this type of situation. Besides I don’t know how long Missy can keep her silence with James. She is extremely upset and I have had to continually remind her to stay quiet.

Respecting my instructions she has done well but if she pops I would rather have a man with us! It won’t be nice! Not even saying Freddie is any better. He’s upset too and between Missy and Freddie, holding their piece is a contest!

I have received many nice comments from my readers. Many had met Don and what has happened has made it much more personal and yet many more never met my Alabama Man that lives down under a transmission shop and his story has connected to your hearts. Thank you for helping me love the unlovables of the world.

Excuse please the picture I took today. I wanted to depict the reality of how ugly life can be for men and woman who call cement their homes.

One person kindly told me that since she started reading my blog she now prays for “homeless” whenever she passes them in her car. I bow my heart low before God and thank HIM that He caused another heart to open.

My husband for years has preached that “Some give, some pray and some go.” Not all can give and not all can go, however we can all pray! Thank you…and I honestly love you.

                                                  

May
26

Standing at the end of the hospital bed watching my husband bending low so that Don could see his face I heard Freddie’s words quietly drift my way. “I love you buddy,” (silence) Tears pushed towards the edges of my eyes as I blinked several times hoping to hold the river back. Again, just a bit softer I heard, “Don, I love you man, I love you.” My face now was wet from the endless supply of tears I did not know were there. I just cried and looked away as my husband stood upright and turned to look my way.

Missy had already walked into the hall and now had returned to the doorway I supposed wondering what was taking us so long. As I glanced her way I saw she too was crying.

There we were; the three amigos, once again walking silently down the long hall towards the elevator. Each one of us in our own thoughts about Don. This time our laughter and light-hearted humor had been dashed in room 624 in a matter of seconds knowing when we entered his room that something had turned really wrong from the day before.

Missy and I saw a normal happy Don only days before. May 14th to be exact we stopped by the camp to do as we always do and that being to make sure everyone was alive and well.

Shaky Roy had just been released from jail so much of our conversation was with him however there was Sam, Jimmy and of course Don all pressing, trying to steal our attention away from Roy in hopes that we hadn’t forgotten them as well.

We stayed longer than we normally would because much conversation was with Sam and I about God. Sam didn’t believe in God and I on the other hand do so my door was open and I ran with it. I noticed that Don kept up with my conversation with Sam and he was crying a lot. Roy had sold his food stamps, had cash, and there was a lot of beer being drunk. I simply assumed that was why Don kept crying. He has done this before yet something did seem different and I just brushed the thought away.

After visiting for maybe another 20 min. I suggested to Missy we should go and as we stood to leave Don stood up and said, “Before you go, I want to pray.” Forming a circle as we gathered hands we all stood in a clear spot among all the beer cans, bottles and trash.

Thinking Don was expecting me to pray I opened my mouth and before I could say any words Don began to pray. I closed my eyes and listened. He asked God to bless our ministry and to help us. He thanked Him for our kindness and caring. As always he prayed for the homeless on the streets. All the homeless men never seem to forget this prayer as we often do. Before another man prayed that day Don reminded God that he was a good man. That he would help anyone when and if he could and to also remember God, “Look at my heart and not what I do.”

A few days later we went back to camp and he was gone. Word on the street is faster than internet and in minutes we found out Don was in the hospital.

As of today because we are not family we have no idea what is wrong with him. Could be a stroke… there is evidence someone punched him in his eye and crushed his cheekbone. Every single day we visit he is becoming worse and again no hospital staff will talk to us.

Yesterday I did ask them “IF” something happens to him, please call us. We’re all he has! She said they would but we won’t hold our breath.

However we will continue to daily go check on him. Today he didn’t recognize any of us. That broke my heart. Yesterday I could make him smile. Don always would smile for me. Today nothing.

Later Missy said to me that it’s just too soon to lose another one. She’s right it is. But wether it be 3 months or 3 years it’s always too soon to lose any of the men.

They aren’t just guys that live under bridges, in empty buildings or under a bush. They are my friends. We love them like family and when they hurt…well, many don’t understand, we hurt as well. When they laugh you can bet we laugh and when one of them cries I personally want to wipe their tears away.

Tomorrow we will be back up at the hospital holding our breaths as we walk around the corner into his room. Right now it looks like he will lay there until he dies. But you know we have seen worse and they hung on for 18 months.

I’m just not ready to say goodbye…I’m just not ready.

May
22

Why is it that about once a year a flea or two jumps off the jackass and tries to get a ride on me>? I am referring to last week, I was set up by the entire family of Naomi.

I was forced to remove the picture I had up of Naomi because I honestly believe that her family would notify her children in Florida and encourage them to read it only in order to hurt Naomi whom I was accused of ruining yet in the process hurt the children. Make sense? Absolutely not, however, when the enemy attacks it never makes sense.

I refuse to bow down to “jackass” fleas and will continue to do what I do. I have successfully accomplished great strides with my work and have gathered a fantastic group of readers. Readers not interested in being voyeurs but readers that pray, cry and compassionately care about every individual I have ever written about.

The flea that attacked wanted to know why I don’t share my own trash, testimony, life… they obviously didn’t read very much. Of course there’s like 4 years of work here on my blog however!!!! It is intricately interlaced with my story that leaves the reader no guesswork of what I have overcome. Therefore I believe my hands remain clean.

I understand I owe no one an explanation as to why I mentioned on FB that rumors were being stirred about the blog and why. Just really wanted readers to understand that there are mean people out there that when good is being done they honestly think they have the power to stop it. They don’t!

May
06

Rounding the corner of 13th and Broad I glanced over to my right and saw Donnie and Timmy in their normal 10 AM spot. Seeing me they both raised their hands and smiled as I drove past.

Halfway down to 12th I remembered I had to tell Donnie. I argued in myself to keep going but I knew the instruction was for one of us to tell Donnie. “It would be better if he heard it from someone at the church” his sister-in law told Missy. DANG! I thought inside myself.

Hitting my turn signal to make a left I headed back up Broad to where Donnie patiently waited hoping someone from Total Systems would toss him a few quarters on their way into work.

Seeing me the second time I saw their faces light up knowing if I was stopping they were going to at least hustle a dollar off of me for a morning beer that the two of them would split.

Coming to a stop Donnie was on his feet and as usual Timmy leaned back on the park bench watching Donnie do what he does best…ask for quarters. I have never had Timmy ask me for a penny. Just something about the guy. Self respect or simply respect for “The church lady.” I never have figured it out however he’s never asked.

Timmy I do suppose has always drank. He had a wife and seemed from the stories I have pieced together, had a good life. A few years back his home caught on fire while he was away from home. Upon returning home he found his house burnt to the ground.

Neighbors were still standing around wanting to help a very helpless situation as Timmy pulled down his street seeing the devastation he stopped and jumped out of his car. Where is my wife he asked as he raced to the ashes… where is my wife.

The stories never seem to end about the pasts our men on the streets walk with day in and day out. Many pushed them to a life just like Timmy’s. “She died in the fire” the neighbors told my friend. She died, Timmy died… he walked away into a life of homelessness and today greets me with a smile, points a finger to heaven and never says more than three words at a time.

My eyes never left Donnie as he staggered towards my truck window. I guess he could see from the look on my face I didn’t stop this morning to allow them to think they pulled one over on Sister Jaye by getting a dollar from me. He just stood outside the door and looked in at me.

“Donnie, your momma died.” His fingers began their roll he does whenever he’s uncomfortable and big tears filled his eyes like a river. He knew she was very sick in a nursing home down in Florida. It had been several years since he had seen or spoken to her. I wasn’t sure how he was going to react knowing a few days before Missy had told him she was dying. He didn’t respond emotionally on that day so seeing the tears I felt a sigh of relief.

Donnies been angry at his momma. He is 55 years old and for 55 years he has been angry. Why should I be upset that she’s dying he told Missy a few days before. “She left me on a pool table when I was 2 months old.”

Hard to understand a story such as this but it is true. Donnies momma walked into a bar his dad was in and she set him down on the pool table and walked out of his life.

His horror doesn’t end there and it honestly is a story to be told but maybe on another day or we can read it once my book ever gets published… Donnie escaped to the streets of America and for the past 20 some years has lived here in our area. He drinks beer, mouthwash and has been known to toke on a few joints if one is being passed around.

I told my friend that morning that I was so sorry. Tears now were falling off his wet beard and maybe from knowing the it was the proper thing to say… he only could get out,”she’s in a better place now.” I cried! All I had in me to say was that it all is over now Donnie! It’s all over. What was done, was done. We can’t undo the past but we can go forward. He quietly nodded his head.

I didn’t want to leave my friend standing on the street corner after just finding out his momma had died, but you have to understand that corner is his home. It’s his world.

I don’t believe Donnie ever hated his mama, I believe he has walked through all these years wondering why? Don’t let your children wonder why on this Mothers Day. Go find them, say the “I’m Sorrys,”  The “I didn’t mean it’s” and find a way to go on.

Life is what it is and sometimes like in Donnies case you can say it’s over and move on. Do I really believe he is able to do that? No, to be truthful, I don’t. So much pain and so much sorrow!

Do what we can do I guess is the best way to approach it and leave the rest in the hands of God. Happy Mothers Day!

May
02

Pulling into the gym parking lot I glanced over to my left and noticed Shelley. Dressed in very short shorts, halter top and flip-flops I assumed she was working.

What really made me take notice was the fact that every five or six steps she would stop and begin to dance as if she was an exotic dancer with an imaginary pole in a smoke-filled strip club!

I thought to myself, “There’s that imaginary music again, Shelley’s hearing a band play that only crack can make you hear.” I continued on watching my lady as she walked and danced from corner to corner. I had to be on the racquet ball court in 15 minutes yet I also knew if Shelley kept her nightclub act up at this intersection of 2nd Ave and 14th Street she was surely going to jail…I turned the key in my ignition and pulled out into downtown traffic.

After circling the block several times we finally connected on the same side of the street and I rolled down the passenger window of my truck as I rolled to a stop. Looking up on the sidewalk at her she was about to again begin another dance when I yelled her name.

In mid swing of her hips she stopped and looked down at me as I kept calling her name. Slowly she walked towards my truck and propped her arms on my window. I asked her where she was going and she mumbled  words that I did not understand. She opened the door and got in.

We drove up 2nd Ave knowing that was an area of town she was familiar with and I asked her what she was buzzed on. With no hesitation she said she was smoking crack. I asked her if she was working and again her words were so slurred together I couldn’t understand her answer. However assuming from the way she was dressed she was “working.”

The whole time I drove down the street she kept thanking me for the ride and kept kissing my arms and tried to hug me several times. Shelley is a crack whore; she didn’t have a clue who I was, even though we had met before.

Three blocks into our little journey Shelley kept trying to kiss me and I kept turning my head reminding her I was driving and that she had to be still. You must understand my lady just smoked crack, she was “working”, I just picked her up…to Shelley I was a  john!

We pulled into one of the projects down town where she said she could be dropped off. I avoided the alley she suggested I turn and instead chose a corner with an easy exit.

Before I pulled away I reminded her to stay away from where I picked her up, the police keep the area patrolled and I reminded her she would easily go to jail if they saw her. She said she would work up in the area we were in.

Again she hugged me and told me she loved me and I told her that I loved her too and to safe. I looked in my mirror as I pulled off and could tell the band had finished their short intermission as she began to dance to the music only she could hear.

Glancing at my watch I had minutes to spare as I headed back to the gym with so much heaviness in my heart. “Dang, I hate crack..” I kept thinking to myself.

“Why God?” I asked myself over and over. “Why me???” I get the fact that these are the people you want me to help. I do try to do my best at what is given to me to do every day, but “Why God???” Often my own life feels like Shelley’s. Walking down a street blindly, unable to hear or even feel my way in the direction I need to go.

How can I possibly help Shelley or any of the others>>>>

I closed my truck door and headed over to the gyms main doors shaking off the emotions that were flooding me like waves beating the sand during a morning thunderstorm. Every wave that pulls back out to sea takes with it life and often I find my own life going out to sea. Little by little. “Why God, why?”

Tonight I have no answers to my question as I am sure somewhere when the high ends today or the next 3 days for Shelley she’ll ask the same question. Maybe that’s really it! My answer probably is very simple…Shelley and I really aren’t that different. No different then all the rest of us. We all stumble through this big world and wonder why!

God, I suppose simply answers “Why not?” I have a long way to go in this span of time I call life and I will continue to take as many Shelley’s with me along the way. If they fall I will be there to pick them up and if nobody ever comes to help me find my way I want to always remember…”Why not!”

Pray for my lady tonight and if you wouldn’t mind, please pray for me as well.

Apr
12

Sitting at my meeting this morning talking to Mary, someone put their arms around my shoulders from behind and whispered into my ear, “I love you.” I quickly turned around recognizing the voice and stood up as Naomis arms reached out to me.

I grabbed her and hugged her tight and noticed that in my hug I felt nothing but bones. She has lost a lot of weight.

Tears kept forming in my eyes as we all sat and talked just because the pain I saw in her eyes and the words she shared with us were breaking my heart. “Be strong Jaye.” I kept telling myself. Yet before the meeting ended I believe we all cried.

The topic of how “I am the reason I am the way that I am” was flowing. “I can’t look back and blame anyone” Naomi said. “I am a bad person!” I spoke and said “STOP!” Naomi quickly continued in order to block out anything good I may have wanted to say and continued…”I am a whore, I bang (shoot dope in) my arms, neck and legs, I walk the streets and steal.” Again I said more softly for her to be silent so I could speak.

I told them all but looked into her eyes and explained that none of us are bad people. We just do bad things sometimes. You see to God we’re His creation and that the things we do He is maybe the only one that understands the “why.” I reminded Naomi that those little footsteps she took as a little girl stopped at doorways in a house long long ago as she rounded corners to see a mommy shooting drugs in her own skin.

She heard vulgar ugly words being thrown at her that wrapped themselves around her tiny heart and today have worked their way into her mind that she is no good. But God says she is.

Knowing I may never have my shot at telling Naomi anything of value I continued on in pure desperation hoping that time could stand still forever. Today she was alive. tomorrow??

She spends 150.00 a day on ice. She prostitutes herself for 60 bucks a guy. She may make 40. As she was speaking I thought “Yard Sale.” It’s like a yard sale. You mark your item for 60 dollars and you really want 40. The customer thinks they got a deal.

However what is the value of Naomi? 40, 50, 60 lousy dollars?To me she is worth more than money can buy and to God, there is no limit. Priceless?

I asked her if she was ready to turn herself in? “Not yet” she said. I wanted to know what her day was like. She does not go into stores, watch TV, cook, or clean. She lives to get her next high which is averaging out to 5 a day.

“Where do you go in your head Naomi when you’re on a “DATE?” I asked her. It becomes a job she explained and you feel nothing emotionally or sexually. You turn your mind off.

Whats in your bag? I asked her… she pulled it all out and set it on the table in front of me. This is who she is and yet I yell really loud inside myself , “NO!” I don’t want this to be who she is.

As we all gathered our things up to leave I pulled her into my arms one more time and told her to take care of herself. She told me she would.

I fought back tears that again were fighting so hard to find the door down my face as I drove away knowing I may never see her again. I kept hearing her words how she described that now if the high doesn’t push you to the edge where you teeter on the tip of life and death then it wasn’t a good high.

Once they peek at that tip they can literally feel themselves just about go into death. I think Dear God!

I told her I have written about her in my blog and why. I told her many people care. She seemed surprised! I explained I changed her name and she smiled and wanted to know if I call her Jessica? I laughed and said no that her name to the world is Naomi.

She smiled back and said that it was a nice name and I explained why it was Naomi. She listened. Naomi in the Bible changed her name to Mara which means bitter. She looked at me and knowing I didn’t want her to think badly I told her the story of Naomi and how she thought she had lost everything. God never changed her name, Naomi changed her name when her world fell apart.

In the end, Naomi was no longer bitter but had gained so much more than she lost. This is my hope for my friend that our Dear God in heaven will help Mara be Naomi again… I pray for her to live and dance and smile. Tonight I hang my head and shut off the images she wrote in my heart with her words of what her days have become.

I pray she finds peace from the demons of her past and that she somehow finds hope to live again.

Apr
08

What can 200 dollars of cold cash get you if you live down at Dillingham Camp? Most of you got it, drunk for 6 days. No food, no water, no bathroom breaks. Just sitting in one spot drinking beer for 6 days.

We checked on the guys off and on all week just to make sure everyone was still alive knowing how much alcohol was being consumed. In fact nobody even got into any fights which is not at all surprising. “Keep the peace and you get to stay and drink for free.”

I can imagine the other question…”Where did a homeless alcoholic  get 200 bucks?” I can’t tell you. Some information I can’t say but I will say nobody got robbed or hurt.

I guess I am posting this just to say that at times like these I feel totally helpless and also feel that some have taken 20 steps backwards when lately they have done so well.

It is all part of the work we do but it also can sure wear you slap out. The conversations were not amusing and the laughter was ignited from a drunken blitz which I found angered me more than anything.

Pictured here is Johnny and he is holding his side. He fell over a fallen tree and it appears he broke some ribs which will have to heal on their own.

Next week I’ll pick up where they have landed and we’ll all get going again. Love can’t walk away but I just might love them all up side their heads…. Have a nice week-end!

Apr
01

Normally when I begin to write, I enjoy diving right into my story. Todays can only be told using an intro into a world not many of us have gone.

My stories often are stories introducing the reader to the group of homeless men that have used the 14th Street walking bridge as their meeting place.

We have traveled down paths and hills into camps all around town and I have tried with as much experience I have as a novice writer to explain the “good, the bad and the ugly” of what living homeless can bring you to.

I have allowed you into the world of the horror of being afraid and why they live afraid! I hope you feel the twinge of pain as I do when one of our friends walks their last few days with us before they succumb to imminent death. Or, find freedom from the bondage of their addictions and return back into society to live a “normal” life.

I am sure I have taken you on a rollercoaster of emotions for I know I have felt those same emotions while I have typed my stories. I laugh with you and I cry. I have eaten many cookies and peanuts. Gained and lost weight all the while knowing the stories must be told but much more than that, they must be understood.

Recently I have introduced you to another side of homelessness after years of drug addiction. These stories always have been there and often are mixed among the thousands of alcoholics on the streets I talk to and see day in and day out and yet not until as of late have I really wanted to talk about beautiful woman selling their bodies for sex.

Maybe it has been because I just wasn’t sure readers could feel their shame and would scoff, walk away bewildered thinking “they enjoy what they do or they wouldn’t do it.”

I have said a lot so far and yet I haven’t touched my topic for the day. Can I for a moment ask you to forget you have opinions and as an American citizen have the right to those opinions and allow me to introduce you to David?

Again, I am not exactly sure the clarity I should use due to the sensitivity of my subject and to David! You see David is a man I know and a man Missy writes to several times a week. He sits on death row because he shot a man to death in a drug induced state to get money for more drugs.

My story today isn’t about if David has the right to any rights because of his crime but it is about how the past few months my opinion of the death penalty has been shaken and broken. Realising I have no opinion any longer on very much and when I hear his stories, I cry.

Let me start at the beginning. I have known David for years. I met him a few times and I knew way back in 85… he was heading down the wrong road. Missy on the other hand knew a David that was funny, kind, sensitive and ready to explore life even if it meant getting into minor trouble. He stayed with Missy and her husband once when he was much younger. This {staying with people} was a pattern he continued as he walked deeper and deeper into the drug world where finding a place to turn around becomes harder and harder!

I know several stories about David. We’re working right now together on a book I am writing about his life. Due to the process of the law David writes his story,  and I see nothing for his own protection. Until the day comes that I am handed over his manuscripts which are words on several pieces of paper I soak up every word he sends me and Missy through the mail.

 David wrote Missy a letter this week. “We’ll be in lock down Thursday.” William Glenn Boyd was being executed. Whenever “Holman Correction Facility” has an execution the entire prison has lock down. David knows one day he will be the cause of inmates not being allowed out of their cells.

He keeps his spirits up by praying and reading his Bible. He has turned his entire life over to the Hands OF God and he knows when he dies he will be alright. He gets depressed often and knows he had no right to do what he did. He feels sad.

Death Row Inmates are not allowed out of their cells except to shower twice a week. They have no contact with any other inmates but do manage to communicate by talking through the walls or passing a note.

This week something unusual happened for David and William. The guard pulled up a chair and parked it outside Williams cell door. He went to Davids door and unlocked it and took David to the chair.

For 2 hours David and William talked. We have no clue what they talked about. It is private and should remain that way but I can only imagine. You see William was 20 years old when he committed his crime. Yesterday he was 45.

Did they talk about the “what if’s of life.” Children William never had. Tree houses he might have built or the trails that ran through the woods he would run on when he was allowed to run?

Was it the first girl he snuck a kiss from or recalling the smell of his mama,  flowers, rain.

The paper indicates nobody on Williams side came for his execution and he left his belongings to other death row inmates. I couldn’t help but wonder why.

In jail usually an inmate will be known as the “store”. The “store” purchases items and they sell them to other prisoners at an interest. On this particular day David had with William the “store” gave them 2 sodas and a pack of crackers.

Before they finished their goodies David suggested they take communion. They used the soda and crackers and prayed. David did say they talked a lot about God and William  was certain when he took his last breath here he would be with God in Heaven.

For 2 hours silence fell over death row as they talked so the other prisoners could listen…

When David returned to his cell after saying goodbye to his friend he sat down on his bed and I am sure thought about the wonder of God and how he can use us anywhere. Before he fell asleep David said notes started coming to his door from the other prisoners. “Thank you for doing what you did for William today. When you prayed, I closed my eyes and I prayed with you.”

No matter how hard I stretch my mind I find it very difficult to comprehend saying goodbye to your healthy friend knowing he was going to be gone from your life here…forever! Holman plays no games, they execute often and of those oftens David knows each and every man.

As I get more involved with our friend David I am sure I will have more Mail! stories to write. Before I close however I want to say what last WISH David has in life. “Don’t do what I have done.” “Stay away from the drugs/alcohol.” Truth is, we all are capable of murder but we never go down that one road that allows us to pick up a gun and shoot.

Again I have a voice to say what David can’t right now say. Just like the homeless alcoholics and crack whores. Help me to help others to listen when no words are being said and wonder what William and David possibly could have talked about those 2 hours.

 Our opinions really don’t matter!

 

 

 

 

Mar
28

“Have you heard from Naomi?” This question has been asked quite a lot this week. Every time I am asked I can feel my stomach quickly tighten and a frown replaces the smile I had on my face. “No” I quietly say

Last week after I posted my blog about Naomi, titled “Crack Whore” in just one day I had over 400 hits. It still amazes me how many people Google those 2 words.

Yesterday while I sat at the County jail in Columbus Georgia to be taken up in the tower to see my ladies I received a text from Missy. <<On a mission, will explain later, I will be careful>> I knew she made contact from what she said and that she was on her way to see Naomi.

I was committed to my ladies in cell block 319 and I wanted so bad to go where they were meeting but I also knew I had to trust Missy to remember everything I taught her. She did say she was being careful and I knew that was my clue to take a deep breath and pray!

Missy told Naomi to meet her in a safe place; I found out later. Inside I smiled when she was briefing me on what happened. That was one very strict order I gave her and she followed it. Check for Missy!

In a nutshell, Naomi has been staying in a rather very nice Apartment complex in town with her pimp. She’s shooting up ice and crack and being sold out for prostitution and drugs. While they chatted Missy gathered more information from Naomi; not to be nosy, but to help us keep up with her. (Another check)

The two of them went to get something to eat. Naomi hadn’t eaten any food in 3 days. As they talked Missy told her that we spent hours looking for her. Naomi doubted that we were even close to where she was but that doubt was dispelled after Missy told her names and locations.

Sitting there stunned she asked Missy how we found all the information out. She knew and we knew that the drug world is a very private world and you either are a user, buyer, pusher, prostitute or a cop to know the information we were able to gather.

We of course are none off that list however we do know God. Naomi knows the same God and she also knows  “OUR” God would help us all out if  she needed us. She covered her face and turned her head.

She sat there Missy explained with shame and guilt so tightly wrapped around her precious heart that at this point she sees no chance at turning herself into the police or working with us to get into a drug program. She’s a caged animal desperate for an escape from her nightmare and we worry. Missy reminded her that desperate people do desperate things. Naomi simply shook her head to indicate she understood.

They drove about 8 miles to a motel that Naomi will be able to stay at for a week. Missy got the room number (check). Another prostitute was working out of the room when they arrived and the pimp was inside. Missy stayed in her car and took Naomis word for it.

When our lady got out of the car she turned to Missy as she was closing the car door and said, “Thank you for hunting for me.” She closed the door. Missy drove away.

How could we not hunt for her? Jesus would and besides he hunted for me. It is the least we could do for Naomi. She has to know, she just HAS to know that some one loves her. Otherwise she can become so dangerous. Dangerous to the point she’ll find another way never to go to prison.

Tomorrow I plan to go find my lady one more time. I have allowed a day to go by to prove to her we aren’t going to turn her in. She did tell Missy one other thing though and that was she knows that IF we thought she needed to be arrested again; for her own good, we would do it and she would understand.

If she needed arrested to stay alive… I would.

Mar
19

Looking directly into the color of their eyes I can see  little girls who use to giggle. The eyes that danced as she chased after a beautiful butterfly for hours hoping to touch the splendid colors if only Mr. Butterfly would  come back.

Like so many things in her life…it left and now she sits empty, alone, frightened. As she looks back at me with hollowed out eyes above very high cheek bones I shiver…<My lady> If I allow my imagination to walk with me I can see the tender soft skin that once caressed a young face, which is now bumpy and marred!

My lady smiles at me exposing a mouth that words to a simple song “Jesus loves me this I know” once flowed, only now exposes rotten teeth.

She dances back and forth and swings her hair. Her bounce would make you think she is happy and carefree but if I step forward and look closer I can see it isn’t that at all.

“Dance with me” she says… “Baby, there is no music.” I respond. She looks to her left, to her right. Her head swings back again indicating my answer made her understand the piano man isn’t really there as a frown begins to form under her lips.

My Lady hears a song only understood after 3-4 hits from her crack pipe. Her dance is an expression from the high that rushes to her brain and convinces her she is beautiful and happy. It gives her the ability to lay down on her back for 5 stinkin bucks so that a crack head can have 3 minutes of pleasure.

She sees no money exchange hands. That is between her pimp/drug dealer who waits outside the door and the John! that pays his 5 and also flips over another 25  for more of the damning drug that litters  many drug houses in our town.

The streets call them “Crack Whores!” Sad to admit I use the slang often in order to help someone understand which one of my ladies Missy and I are hunting for.

If I only ask if someone has seen so and so, she’s homeless. I am pointed in one direction. If I say “she is homeless and a Crack Whore,” I am directed to another location of town.

Thursday, Missy and I  went out to locate one of  our ladies caught up in situations that right now are difficult to escape. As we  rode around in crack neighborhoods we started recalling the names of ladies we have worked with caught in the cycle of crack/ice! Sue, Tiffany, Patty, Daffney, Johnny Fay, Bonnie… Names can go on and on but this particular day I was hunting for Naomi. (NOT her real name)

I’ve known Naomi about 10 years. She was just released from jail 3 weeks ago and while there, Missy and I visited her regularly.

“I want a job and I want to see my children.” She often would say. “If I get busted again I am being sent to prison for many years and I would rather die.” These were words that pushed us into the streets this past week. She broke probation by not showing up…a warrent is out for her arrest.

After no luck driving the streets I decided to go where she was last known to be and start there.

We walked up to the door and knocked. I never met Nick (again, not his name) and wasn’t really sure if he would help or not.

OH he helped alright. He gave us names and phone numbers of pimps, drug dealers and crack whores Naomi worked with. We also were given address. Not just streets but complete addresses. Nick asked one thing…we forget where our information came from. We said, “Forgotten.”

Getting back into my truck I glanced over at Missy who was loading the names and numbers into her phone. I smiled thinking “She’s really one of a kind.”

After many calls and getting the same reply… “I haven’t seen her, but she’s alright!” We decided to go where Nick believes she is staying.

After circling the apartments I asked Missy (who now is driving) to pull over and I called the pimp. I was so close and if there was even a chance to get her out of 158; so I could talk to her, I was willing to give it a shot with “Pimp!”

After playing cat and mouse with 2 phones Pimp contacted me as we sat outside the apartments we just knew Naomi was in.

Our conversation was touch and go. I had to convince him I wasn’t a threat and all I wanted to know was if Naomi was alive for one, and if he knew where she was… therefore I just told him the truth and he was bending on information.

Truth is always wrapped in lies when you deal with any addict so my mind was quickly clicking on where truth was. He saw her 3 weeks ago but her druggin was way off the charts so he threw her out. Didn’t believe him!  He suggested we try Mike (different name). Well we had already tried Mike and Mike gained a new name from information we gathered after talking to him. Lying Mike!

Nick was so so close to caving in when suddenly he said, “My phone is about to go dead, let me plug it in…” He hung up! I believe Naomi walked in. NO! Drug dealer keeps a business phone uncharged!!

We pulled away and went home feeling somewhat defeat! I am not sure my Lady thinks we will try to have her busted or not but we did make sure with every person we talked to… please let her know we care and to contact us. Two days later now…she hasn’t called.

My Lady does dance to the rhythm of a song I never played. I can only stand-off to the side and watch her sway and move hoping when she stops she’ll be alright.

I told Missy I know she won’t come with us if we find her. So we ask ourselves why are we doing this? To be honest, I am not really sure. Only one thought comes to mind and that is I must let Naomi know as well as every other addict out there tonight that we personally know; (hundreds), that if the song begins to skip and you forget how to make it end… I will help, that we love you and I’ll help you go back home.

The last time I talked to Naomi was about 2 1/2 weeks ago. I told her she was beautiful, no matter if anyone has tried to convince her that she wasn’t and that her worth was more than spreading her legs for a high! Sound awful? Well it is. Naomi cried as we talked and as she got out of my truck I told her I loved her.  I watched her walk away and I knew she was going into the darkness of  the crack world. There was nothing I could do to make her worth as a human being come back in those fragile seconds. I drove away/

 

Mar
09

Missy and I spent a little time out on the riverwalk today. We’ve been doing our exercise by walking and we also get a chance to check up on the homeless that live and spend their time along the river and on the 14th Street Bridge.

Realising so many now wait patiently for updates on my blog I am forever looking for a story to tell. Honestly I could write every day and I do suppose that’s why I’m working on my second book… there’s so much to tell.

After I got home I thought about what we do when we don’t feel well. Some call out of work and spend time at home resting. Others of us sleep or we curl up on the couch with a blanket, good book or put on a movie until we want to face the world again.

Pictured here is Sharon. She was asleep on a small grassy area about twenty feet from the bridge. Sharon wasn’t fighting a cold or the flu. She didn’t even have a tummy ache. Sharon has seizures and today she felt like one was coming on so she went to “bed.”

My little lady here is “special.” Sharon is in her 30’s but has the mentality of a 12-13 year old. Mental retardation is very common on the streets and about 70% have been diagnosed with a wide range of mental illness.

When Sharon first came to the streets in my area of town many of the men were drawn to her. Because she is “slow” they often were using her for sex. Needless to say when we heard about it we blew a gasket and several and I do mean several of our friends on the streets took her under their wing and began to take care of her.

For a short while she lived in a crack house and foolishly surrendered guardianship of her check to the lady that runs the crack house. AGAIN the homeless men we work with came to her aid.

They would get into the house and secretly talk to her. When they would see her alone on the streets they talked to her trying to get her to understand she had to leave the house. It took a few months but it finally worked, Sharon left the house.

Their next goal was to get the check out crack ladies hands and in order to do that she needed a guardian and it had to be a woman or husband.

A few of the men truly cared about Sharon. Love, maybe not so much but they wanted to take care of her. Fights started between the men and Sharon became confused.

One fella that comes to mind is Tommy. Tommy has some retardation and I do believe that he; in his own way, loved Sharon. BUT! Tommy went to jail for a few months, therefore Cowboy stepped in.

Cowboy is in his 50’s, smokes crack and lived in a storage building illegally at the time. Sharon would be out of the rain, Cowboy would have his drug money and everything would appear to be looking up for our girl. They were married and he now gets the check, they live wherever they can thus Sharon went to sleep in the grass this afternoon.

Sound like an unbelievable story? It is unbelievable but it also is how homeless people with mental illness and addictions live every second of every day in America.

When you are homeless and have the flu, cold, ear infection you find a spot that the police won’t spot you and you lay down and sleep. When they have severe tooth aches they find us and beg for aspirin and ambesol. Broken arms and shoulders? I rip a shirt and make them a sling.

Some have cancer and we listen to them cry and drink just a little more. One guy named Adam has/had stomach cancer. We haven’t seen him in weeks. Nobody knew Adams last name so we never have been able to check hospitals. Yes, we believe Adam is gone.

Bubba has skin cancer on his arm. It stretches from the top of his wrist up past his elbow. He refuses to go try to get some help. It honestly is useless. Doctors won’t see you, emergency rooms treat and release homeless people and you add an addiction on top of that where help just might be available… well they forget or can’t make it to appointments. Therefore they are scratched off the list.

We try so hard to find them on appointment days but they move around so much that making sure they keep an appointment becomes rather difficult.

What I am sharing is in no way to make anyone feel guilty for our silly whining when we feel sick. I feel strongly to speak on behalf of homeless people bringing awareness to every aspect of having nothing and the hardships that go along with that. It’s difficult to watch day in and day out, however they all have adapted to nothingness. There’s the laws of the streets which we honor and do respect just like Sharon getting married to Cowboy. We must leave it alone but also keep an eye on Sharon as much as possible.

Before we left the streets tonight we ran into a new guy named Larry. Larry is rough, spooky and very mentally challenged. In 5 min. he lost his cool with Missy and I which had me watching his every move in case he decided to take a swing. This was all taking place 2 feet from Sharon.

After he cussed me out for the last time I calmly looked at him and said, “That wasn’t very nice” and we walked away. I glanced back after a few steps to make sure he wasn’t following.

Before we made it back to my truck we ran into him again and he stopped us to apologize. He began to cry and started to share with us some of his life and after about another 5 min. I understood our new friend a little better and how he ended up living on the streets.

I had to run out tonight to the store and coming back home I have a habit of checking out every person I see walking to see if it’s someone I know from the streets.

In the dark walking alone I saw Cass. I don’t see him much anymore because he usually travels in another area of town but tonight I wondered where he was going.

I would have stopped and given him a ride but because of his mental illness I knew he wouldn’t get in. As I passed on by I looked over at my friend and knew Cass was alright.

I could see his lips moving and a smile on his face. You see Cass has an imaginary friend. His friend is safe and the only trouble he ever has from his friend is that his friend makes him laugh a lot!

Seeing his smile made me smile as I turned the corner and went on home. My friend wasn’t alone. Goodnight Cass I whispered in my heart as I prayed for God to get him where he was going safely tonight.

 

Mar
04

With tears streaming down the side of his nose Donnie looked up at Missy and I when we were about to turn and go and he spoke with a quiver in his quiet voice…”I Love ya’ll.” We both stopped our turn and looked back at our dear friend and I said “I love you, Donnie.” He again spoke and said, “Do you really love me?”

Knowing that there is always a great chance I will never see my friend alive again I lifted my voice and stared directly into his beautiful blue eyes and spoke my words knowing I was pushing past many cans of beer and several sips of mouthwash… “Yes Donnie, I will love you forever.”

Tears again started to drop off his cheeks and he asked us to pray for him. I walked up to where he was sitting and I told him we would pray now. He reached his hands up to me as I bent over to take them into mine and he bowed his head and rested it upon my hands. 

Our prayer wasn’t fancy and it wasn’t long. We simple asked God to tell Tim his buddy; Donnie misses him and that he is doing alright…and to also God, help Donnie make it another day.

When I said Amen, Donnie kissed my hand and let it go.

When Missy and I walked away I felt sad. I have worked these streets for 6 years now and you just know after a while that there are some that will never find sobriety this side of heaven. Donnie is one.

Yesterday I received a call from one of the girls I have been working with at the jail.

She has been out of jail now 11 days and with-in 24 hours of her release she was on her way to where her phone call led her to yesterday.

On the other end of the phone I heard her voice begging me for help. Begging me to find a  place for her to go. Begging!!!!

I’m listening to what is known on the streets a “crack whore” pleading with me to stop the insanity that she has created. I can’t do it for her. She has to decide when enough is enough. Just like Donnie, will she ever be able to grasp reality again to make a decision to live?

That dear friends is something I can not do for another human being and often times I become frustrated wishing my friends could find the fight in themselves that I found 26 years ago.

Tonight, I will bow my head and this time Donnies hands won’t be in mine. But the same God we prayed to this morning on the bridge. The same God that heard the rip in my heart yesterday when I talked to my lady from jail will be listening in the silence of my soul as I ask Him to hold them in His arms on the streets tonight.

Begging and pleading for his touch to dry the tears and His voice to speak to the storms in their lives…peace.

Feb
16

It’s taken about 3 years for my blog to actually get off the ground.

By that I mean…for people to finally find me here in “Blog Land” and care as I do, what happens to a society of people who seems to be forgotten.

Your very kind words about what I share has lifted me up and cause me to try just a bit harder to slow down and post on a more regular basis.

Many consider me an expert in this field and I do suppose that may be true however I don’t see myself in that way. It is kind of like a mother having her first child. You try to study up on motherhood and babies before the big day called delivery and when it happens everything you learn simply flies out the window and for whatever reason doesn’t seem to work.

Oh sure the baby must be fed and the baby has to be changed but I learned something a long long time ago about babies. If you don’t pick them up and hold them, the baby will die.

I suppose I use this same concept with the fellas on the streets and now, my ladies in jail. I know how to read scriptures and I seem to have had some success walking out a somewhat decent Christian life but if I never hold them in my arms they will die.

A week ago my husband and I sat down and watched a few videos I have made about the men on the 14th Street. We could see on their countenances changes of when they allowed us steadily in their lives and when they slipped away.

The months we had constant contact they improved and appeared healthier. Then the pictures on the video where they stayed away they seemed sick and very worn. It was when we held them they improved, when we had to let them go… well, you understand.

Today at our Tuesday meeting the subject came up of how many we knew and loved and now are dead. Six years when we started this work my husband told me, “Jaye, always stay prepared because most will die.”

I knew he was right. I saw what they drank and how much. I knew where they lived and how very little they ate. Many “Religious” would rip me apart for handing a man; leaning against a building shaking and gagging, a can of beer in order to stop the DT’s. Have I adding or taken away the quality of life? 

I simply do not know to be totally honest. This much I have figured out and that is DT’s can kill a person and if I’m bad for giving them a beer then I guess I am Bad! I could not stand there and do nothing.

I have been insulted for working with homeless people. Quotes such as “They lie”, “They’ll use you.”, “They just want whatever you give them because they are too sorry to find a real job.” “You are enabling them to stay drunks and drug addicts.” Quotes could go on for days and for what purpose? They haven’t stopped me yet.

I do not do what I do for the praises of man. I do it because I truly believe it is what Jesus would do if he were walking the streets. Pray? Good golly prayers have been raised on the wings of angels, I am sure into the throne room of heaven. We pray!!!

I don’t think I ever shared the story of one evening a group of us found about 20 homeless men under what they call the “Cool” bridge during the HOT days of summer.

We know all of them and told them we were there to pray. They all jumped down off the walls while still others stood up from spots they were squatting, to join a circle of holding hands and prayer.

For the first time all day opened cans of beer were left unattended as we all closed our eyes and bowed our heads.

After maybe 5 min. sobs began to bellow out of the mens throats desperately trying to ask God for His help! Men began to hold each other and comfort the terror they felt inside themselves that now they could see etched across the faces of someone just like them.

Twenty minutes may have passed and suddenly there under the “Cool” bridge silence settled onto us all. I was the first to speak and I asked everyone to join me in singing, Amazing Grace!

I have never felt so near to God as I did standing there with all those men dripping with sweat, tears streaked down dirty cheeks, smelling like beer and cheap mouthwash with eyes closed singing to The God that not only I love but the same God my friends love as well.

If I am an expert dear friends, it is because I have the greatest teachers… My homeless friends that walk the streets of our city.

Missy, Freddie and I are not only welcomed into any camp in the area but boxes will be dusted off so we may sit down. No matter how filthy it is I accept the invitation to sit to indicate <<I will stay awhile to hear what it is you have to say.>> That is where the learning begins.

Again, Thank you for your nice, kind comments. I find it difficult to respond to everyone but I do read them. If anyone would like a video and would like to make a donation you may have a video by asking when you comment. Please send a return address.

For a financial donation you may send it to-  World Vision Ministries, PO BOX 2744, Phenix City, Al. 36868

 

 

Feb
15

I have said it a million times…”I love my job!” “HOWEVER!” (my favorite word…) Not everyone loves me. I’m smiling.

I have a job to do out there on the streets and in the county jail and one of the things I do and I think I do it rather well is I will NOT sugar coat the reality of where drugs and or alcohol can take you.

I often share with people a story. “A man stood on top of a very high mountain and it was extremely cold. He looked down and saw a snake and Mr. Snake asked the man to take him down to the bottom of the mountain where it was warm. The man says; Oh no Mr. Snake, you will bite me. Mr. Snake responded with; No I promise I only need you to take me to where it is warm, I will not bite you. The man picked up Mr. Snake and put him inside his jacket where he carried him as he went down the mountain. When they reached the bottom the man pulled out the snake and the snake BIT him on the hand. The man yelled at the snake and reminded him of what he promised…that being he wouldn’t harm the man in any way. The snake responded back to the man and said…”You knew what I was when you picked me up!”

See this is what I try to get across out there in this ugly world that wrapped itself around the minds of wonderful human beings thinking just one more hit on the pipe and I’ll quit. If I can get my kids back, I’ll quit. When my check gets started, I’ll quit. No, you knew what it was when you picked it up.

Yesterday I shared with the ladies in cell block 319 about decisions and how our decisions not only affect us but everyone we come in contact with.

After everyone settled down when I arrived in the cell block I brought up this subject. I opened with a story that had just taken place 20 min. before my ride up the elevator.

A little boy about 13 years old was sitting next to me; with his brother, in the waiting area downstairs. He said in a shy voice, Excuse me…, do you have change for a twenty? I knew I didn’t but I thought they might want a drink or snack out of the machines. I had about 7 ones on me. I asked them what they needed the change for. The older boy of the 2 said, I want to put some money on my da…. he stopped. I figured I better help him out. I asked him who he was there visiting, and he said his dad. I then asked him why his dad was in jail and he explained and of course alcohol was part of it. I then helped them to understand the process of putting money on an inmates account and how the machine automatically will keep a dollar. Therefore their dad would only receive four of the five.

They patiently listened and I could see the seriousness of wanting to help their dad. I handed them my five ones and they seemed more concerned knowing they had still no change to give me. I told them it was on me and they hurried off to the “J-Pay” machine.

When I finished telling my ladies my little story I raised my voice a bit louder which echoed inside the cell block. I said ” This should not be! Those 2 young men should NOT be taking care of their father, their father should be taking care of them!”

I further went on in the now silent room explaining how decisions affect everyone we have a relationship with. Now with most of their heads lowered just about to the tops of the tables they were sitting at I went further to explain how a homeless man’s decision to drink mouthwash not only had a negative influence on his life but on many other lives that knew him and loved him.

Most of the homeless men out on the streets that knew Joe seem to want to find comfort in the fact Joe drank mouthwash and that is what put him into an early grave.

Odd how all of us can step into the shoes of self righteousness because I personally know they all have drunk mouthwash. “However…” Joe drank it all the time which makes them think they are exempt from an early grave because they drink cheap beer and vodka.

Oh if they would only say nothing>>>I must rattle their thinking in hopes to shed light into their self-deception and get them to understand alcohol period comes in mouthwash just as it does the cheap dollar sixteen can of  2-11’s they consume for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks in between.

Pictured here in this post is what we bought Joe to be buried in. His bible, hat, small American flag, and his badge we gave him while he lived inside the church the weeks he stayed sober. These items too were buried with him.

That’s about all Joe had left in life and those things were only found because we always kept them for him when he lived on the streets.

It is true we come into this world with nothing and we do leave the same way “however”, sobriety costs a lot yet at the same time it cost very little.

True Joe did die sober but not by his own choice, but because a stroke left him paralyzed on his right side and he had to wear an adult diaper that had to be changed by someone else.

His sobriety cost him greatly because often he cried knowing it was because of  himself, that his last few months free from alcohol  gave him ample time to remember.

Yes, we can all blame someone for the ways that we turn out but like I share with so many, there comes a time in everyone’s life that we must step back and look into the mirror. “You” are the only reflection there and only “You” can change anything regarding your future.

The past is simply that, The past. The future…well we can all guess. It’s the now, and choices we make now that will either throw us into something grand or catapult us into a future Joe saw.

You don’t have to have a mind clouded by drugs or alcohol to be a Joe. Unforgiveness often leaves us more of a prisoner then the ladies are I see every Sunday afternoon or the men scattered out across the 14th Street Bridge.

Life is good and it can be sweet. Again yes there are valleys every man/woman must overcome yet how we look at them determines if we’ll climb back up.

Be kind to someone every day. But more than that remember every decision we make know someone is watching, listening and being effected positively or negatively.

Leave life with more than what can be photographed on a table but by the treasures you deposit into someones life.

Feb
09

Joseph Blain Davidson… My Brother in Christ, my friend forever!

First on Joes behalf let me say thank you for loving and caring about a human being you never met. I often told Joe about you all that read my blog or have kept up on the comments I posted on Face Book about the man I kindly called “Crazy Nut!”

Once he was admitted into the nursing home Joe drifted mentally. If he didn’t see you on a regular basis he forgot who you were. Missy, Freddie and I found it very important knowing that due to his stroke his mind wasn’t as quick and sharp as it once was that being there was important to Joe but just as much, it was important to us.

Meeting and knowing Joe back in 06 was relatively easy. He would never go away. Everyone on the streets knew Joe as “Mouthwash Joe” therefore we adopted the name for him as well. However learning to love Joe was considerably a different story.

Born and raised in the hills of Virginia to alcoholic parents Joe learned to be uncaring and tough. The beatings his father gave him challenged every dream he had inside his soul, to die! Yet the only dream I can honestly say that was preserved without any question was his hope, his desire, his will to see his savior Jesus face to face. That, his father could not beat away!

He laid behind a building for 4 days some 18 months ago. The men were telling us that Joe was behind the building but we supposed he had passed out from the mouthwash he consumed religiously. He had had a stroke and we found him in ICU!

It was a long battle in ICU but the sheer willpower of a homeless man who knows nothing else but to survive kept Joes determination alive to live and see another day.

He did see many new days after a few scary moments of balancing on the edge of deaths door a few times in the hospital and once in the nursing home. He lived but still Joe was dying.

My husband could never get the staff to completely comprehend that Joe was a homeless man and to be under a roof and sleep in the comforts of a bed were not only foreign to him but things we take for granted he resisted with every ounce of his being!

He would find “ducks” (Butts of cigarettes/street slang) out in the smoking section of the nursing home and he was caught often sneaking out to smoke in between regular smoke breaks. I often found hidden cigarettes in the nursing home break room and lighter, that he himself would hide on the book shelf.

Because the stroke left him with very little ability to talk he would quickly raise his good hand up lifting one finger to his lips to indicate I was to be quiet and tell no one.

I only laughed knowing his secret was safe with Missy and I. We told no one, in fact I was impressed and so happy to see the Street Joe was still very much alive in what I’m sure he considered his prison of doom.

Too many times to count after many many visits to Joe I often said to Missy that I was going to miss that man. It took awhile, but I had fallen in love with Joe Joe.

You see meeting him was easy but loving Joe took time. You had to understand him by first understanding where he came from. He started to drink and smoke at age 8 and if it were not for the stroke…who knows the ending to that comment. Only God!

I have written one book about the men on the streets and I’m working on a second which has stories of Joe inside the pages trying to get people to understand homelessness isn’t about people making decisions to stop functioning in society so they can be drunks living on the streets in every city of America.

Homelessness is about Joe’s. We all need to be silent, lay down our prejudices and listen to words that explain how they ended up on a cement sidewalk. Their words cause your heart to beat a little faster and tears will make your eyes sting yet if you just listen… out of the shadows of a smelly bums spirit begins to sing a song only a musician of loving another’s life, could ever begin to write.

Once I allowed Joe to sing I understood God’s song. I can close my eyes and smell his smell and hear his laughter. I recall his stories and frantically sketch them into my mind hoping I won’t forget what was said.

The few days leading up to Joes death here on earth I was standing by his bed. We talked often about where he was going. His mouth laid wide open gasping for every breath of air that would fit into it. His eyes would roll back into his head and I would call his name.

He would turn to the sound of my voice and focus his eyes onto my face as I leaned down real close to his. I made sure he knew that I loved him and at one point he reached over with his good left hand and he grabbed a hold of my hand.

I wasn’t sure if he was scared and was reaching out to ask me to help him not to die. I didn’t even know if maybe it was because he couldn’t speak he was trying to show me that he cared. Whatever the reason, I knew my journey with Joe was finished and all I wanted to do was run away and cry.

Instead I again leaned in and called his name. He focused again and I told him, “I have taken you as far as I can go Joe, God has to take you the rest of the way. He released my hand and I knew my job was done.”

Tomorrow we are having a small service at the funeral home. He is having a paupers service which really means they would normally give him a box and take him to be buried. We have been given permission to have an hour alone with him. He knew many people and touched hundreds of lives.

Some very well to do people will be there and some of his homeless friends as well.

Meeting Joe was easy, Loving him came later, saying goodbye for now is very hard to do.

Feb
01

“Loved today, I wish it would start over…”

Today as I was reading the comments on my Face Book I came across this very profound comment one of my little friends posted, “Loved today, I wish it could start over!”

My breath held for a few seconds and my eyes moistened while in a flash I thought about what little Cassy wrote and in seconds remembered everything she is going through.

Isn’t it amazing how so many times it takes us a lifetime to say what we are thinking and only seconds for us to think it? Yet Cassy said something she thought>>> and said it.

I guess from a child’s perspective it’s actually just that simple and as adults it somehow becomes very complicated.

Cassy’s mom and dad are going through a separation and soon will be divorced. She loves both her mom and dad and they love her and being little she has no ability to stop a decision they have to make.

Last week she found out her grandma; that her, her sister and mom are living with, has cancer. It’s terminal and everyone’s hoping and praying for a miracle from heaven and again something Cassy girl can’t control, but she can however control loving the day.

The Bible tells us to go to the Father as little children. To me that’s not to say we must regress back to acting and behaving as children but to learn to lean on and depend on God above just like a child. With that dependency we learn to hope, trust, wish and surrender to that unwavering Faith that God is who He says He is and He will do what it is He said He will do!

This morning at out Addiction Recovery class and Sunday afternoon when I ministered to the ladies in jail I am forever smacking into a wall when they refuse to believe and understand that we have a God that wants it all. I believe He wants us all to be like Cassy at the end of our days to say “Loved today, I wish it would start over.”

I hear so much more the desire for our days to end so we can go to sleep. I watch men and woman bound to substances that enable them to crave after death! Of course visiting Joe Joe is emotionally exhausting; watching him hating the notion he is yet alive for another sunrise.

I so often walk away hoping I said something that would stir a desire up in people to at least try to live again. Not live again the way you want it to be but to just live again to maybe get a bit closer to being able to say what Cassy said…”Loved today, I wish it would start over.”

She has every reason for her circumstances to control her day but she is much more mature than most adults I know and is able to step onto her circumstances and live in the beauty of the moments to the point she wants it all to start again.

The Bible also says that often He speaks out of the mouth of babes. God speaks and way too often we ignore because we just can’t get past ourselves. Too many times we’re high on the fact that we’re miserable.

For instance the new girl in our group denies she has a drinking problem.  She came to appease her friends. I flat-out ask>>> “Do you think you have a drinking problem?” She replies, “No.” Simple, I tell her “OK then don’t drink for a year!” Her reaction was as if I slapped her. When I hugged her as she was leaving I whispered in her ear, “You can’t do it can you?” She again says “No.”

“Homer, the seizures are coming when you drink too much. Pace yourself by drinking when you must get rid of the shakes. Take control or buddy you will die alone under this bridge.” Homer’s response, “I can’t.”

Folks all these negative answers are true, we can’t! But we can learn a great lesson in Cassy’s comment and that is we can give it a darn good try. I mean a real try! Attention from getting high on our cloud of misery seems to work for some but why not have days that you only wish they would never end?

Days we decide to be powerful instead of pitiful!

Ahhh if I could only get an ear to hear and a mind to understand. It’s up to us to bow low and ask God to give us the strength.

“Loved today, I wish it would start over!”  Give it a try.

 

Jan
26

                                                                                                   Pictured here is a view some of the men see day in and day out from their camp. I find the view awesome but the men find it mind numbing!

A few weeks ago one of the men was having a hard time physically. Also depression had settled in. Not good on a very cold overcast January day so I was a bit concerned.

He mentioned that he couldn’t remember where he put his small pocket radio. ( He LOVES to listen to music and talk shows.) I was maybe 5  feet away from the conversation and I heard the “I can’t find my radio.”

I knew where the radio was and began to explain that I found it in the pocket of his jacket when I was getting his clothes out of the dryer at home. I washed his clothes one day and yes I washed the radio as well.

Less than 2 min. later Missy and I were climbing out of the camp to go find and buy a pocket radio.

Great ending to this story, radio was found and purchased. My man was much more upbeat when he turned it on and heard a voice quietly coming from the 3×5 plastic box. As we said our goodbyes I knew now he didn’t feel so alone.

Often lately I have struggled because of the emptiness I see on the faces of so many people out on the streets that it can weary me a bit. Our work with the men has picked up and many days we stay busy 4-6 hours a day with meeting simple needs that all of us take for granted. The list would and could go on forever of what often is so time-consuming just because there address is Dirt under the Bridge!

Every week new faces hit the streets. Some brand spanking new to the streets while others are seasoned homeless people who simply decided to try our town for a while. Seasoned fellas are easy. The newbies…well we worry!

Trying to get picture ID’s or Birth Certificates can drag out for weeks which is hard when they need these items like yesterday in order to just get a doctor to look at them. Just ask Missy!

Back before Christmas I started working at the County jail in Columbus Ga. Columbus does not have a small jail, it holds several several inmates. I have been approved to go in Sundays from 2-3 and minister to a cell block of woman.

My paticular block holds about 28 woman and from what I gather there are about 6-7 blocks for woman. The rest of the jail houses men which is probably in the hundreds close to a thousand men.

I know that God gave me this part of my job. Ministering to the woman in cell block 319! It helps edify me somewhat from working the rest of the week with homeless alcoholics and drug addicts.

A typical Sunday for me lately is to gobble down food after Sunday morning service in order to get to the jail by 1:30 so I can put my name down for 319! I enter a room and hand over my ID and I am issued a badge which I must wear at all times.

I am escorted with all the other woman ministers through 2 doors to an elevator. The elevator door opens on floor 3 and usually I am the only one getting out. Third floor is high security which simply means I am on a floor that the woman are waiting to go to prison or they are repeat offenders. They aren’t getting out soon.

I stop at the guard room and hand over my car keys and cell phone if I have it on me. I then step over to a door and over that door in black numbers is 319! I have to wait and I hear a click. The door slides open and I step into another space and wait at another door. I can now see my ladies and they see me.

Smiles come across their faces and I suddenly hear “Church!” Another click and I am now able to push open the final door.

The experience is unbelievable and these ladies are terrific.

The first time I went into the jail I went with another minister. Upon entering the room the smell made my stomach flip. No perfumes, no fancy smells. It is what it is…jail. 4 tables and stools are cemented to the floor. There is a lower and upper deck to my left and moves in an L to my right. Seperate rooms are located in the “L” . Two woman to a cell and each door gets locked at night. They each have a toilet and sink in their rooms.

Toilets often are drained of water at night and they talk to inmates on the 4th floor through toiletpaper tubes. Make-up is from dyes in magazines rubbed off with a wet finger. I have learned a lot.

What I have learned even more than that is I know God is calling me into another direction. I will forever help the men on the streets and the 14th Street Bridge but now there is a solid bonding taking place with the ladies in Cell Block 319.

I sat there the first day up in the tower of the Muscogee County Jail and wanted to cry. The reality that 24/7 these woman stare at nothing. Have 1 TV that hangs on a wall and due to decissions they have made they ended up on a floor of the county jail for high security inmates.

I have one lady in my group that’s waiting trial for murder. She never speaks and only stares while I’m there. The ladies don’t even have to come to the tables for church but they always do.  My room usually fills up when they hear me in the room. Because of me? Again I sure hope not, but because of the hope in Christ in me.

Sunday when we gathered into our circle to pray before I had to leave I covered many prayers the ladies mentioned while we talked. Children is an extremely difficult subject and not may can stop crying from the guilt and shame.

I then began to cry and asked God to give me strength to walk out that door. I didn’t want to go. My mind races to the many times I should have gone to jail but I never got caught! It goes to times I wasn’t a good mom. I understand the shame.

I heard the door click and I knew it was time for me to exit. The ladies circled me wanting hugs and handing me letters to read and homework assignments I gave them the week before.

A few are telling me to pray about a court date, others yell and ask if I will write this week… I love you is echoed throughout the cement metal room. I walk out the door and wait. The next door slides open and I stand at the guard-room waiting for my keys and inhale deeply.

I can hear through the glass a song being sung by my ladies. It the old black hymn they just taught me. The elevator door slides shut when I hear “I know I’ve been changed, The angels in heaven done signed my name.”

I am so blessed!

Jan
22

A few weeks back a friend from my high school days (Beth Britton McCarney) got in touch with me after hearing about the work we do with the homeless.

She and her husband Rick had some clothes and blankets they wanted to bring to me for the men.

We always get excited whenever someone contacts us and shows care and concern for the people we help take care of. Often we hear very little from people. Not saying that they don’t care or pray but it’s always welcoming to see a new face.

The past few weeks have been difficult to say the very least. Watching Joe Joe waste away can drain our emotions. He’s angry and still very bitter and many visits he just yells at us. We walk away not feeling very chipper!

We do understand where it all comes from. Yet it doesn’t make it easier.

Homer has been in and out of the hospital. He was found under the bridge with no blankets passed out from an evening of drinking vodka with Rio who by the way was tossed off the bridge by 2 men that got angry because Rio didn’t have a cigarette for them. Homer was under the bridge the whole time but remembers nothing. (figures)

 He did live from the fall because of the tree that broke his fall and of course God Almighty. Broke his arm and 3 ribs and is able to see another day.

Homer has been struggling with his memory since he was released from the hospital and his right leg is not operating properly. Not being able to get a complete physical from a Dr. we all just guess at what might be wrong.

Thursday of this week Missy and I loaded up everything we had into my truck. Hats, gloves, jackets, sweatshirts, jeans and even underwear. I am a firm believer that we have to let go in order to receive new. That includes even clothes.

First stop we didn’t get rid of much. Beth had brought jeans that were a bit larger than our usual sizes of 30/32. I remembered a place in town where I knew men would come out of the woods as soon as they knew a car pulled up and suggested we give it a shot. These men were a little larger than the men on the 14th Street Bridge so the jeans would really be appreciated.

In less than 15 min. my truck was empty.

The men were fantastic. Very polite and kind. Whenever I work out on the streets I am forever amazed at the favor the Lord always gives me. The men never get out of line and never get flirtty. I am treated with so much respect that it often just blows me away.

Pictured here are just a few that stayed around for a photo shoot. I told them I would come back with a football and we could get a game started. Well anyone that knows me knows that I will get that football and I will be back. The men were excited.

Ya see to some they may wonder what the heck does football have to do with ministry. Especially a pastor’s wife. The Pastor maybe… but his wife?

First off my husband doesn’t care for sports. I do! Second thing is I am a white female, my husband is a…well, male. Being a woman with a football with a group of men in an open park where traffic flows back and forth and people are walking around and I feel safe I simple say, “Are you ready for some football?”

Do you have any idea how that opens doors for me to share Gods Word  and not only that but to help the men remember there is more to a day than sitting around in a park waiting on the next feeding program to open or to be able to score their next rock of crack.

It’s great to get high on just fun! I also know they won’t be pulling any crack pipes out with me there.

The bible says to have friends we must first be a friend. So, I want to be their friend and once I’ve built trust even if it’s with a pig skin called a football Then I have ears willing to hear what I say. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~sweet~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The temperature is dropping and the wind has started to pick up. My mind switches back to the men I know will fall asleep with the smell of dirt as they say their prayers tonight. (yes, they do pray) Will Homer remember to get up for his ride to church tomorrow? Will David? Will either one of them risk sleeping under the bridge knowing Thursday night the police told them if they are under there again they’ll go to jail?

Is Shaky really with Carl or was Don too drunk on Davids vodka to really know where they are.

Wheres Thom and is Sonny out of the hospital or is he still out of his mind and being held until they can put him as well into a nursing home… Will it be the same one as Joes?

Thank God for His grace. Before I let you go let me tell you about the guy that stabbed Russell to death. If you go back a few years on my blog you will find the stories of that awful night on the 14th Street Bridge.

Love was the man arrested for his murder but because of all the circumstances Love was released. Once Love was back to being a free man he was very angry at me. He thought that I said bad things about him and whenever I was around him he often ran his mouth loud enough for me to hear.

Love had murdered before Russell and I wasn’t exactly looking forward to being #3! So I prayed and avoided him on the streets.

Last Saturday he came up to me, Missy and my husband and told us he was sorry. I finally was able to explain I never said what he thought I said. We gave each other a hug and he now wants to come to church.

I do love my job. Not because Love is no longer mad at us but because I get to see how God can soften a 2X murderers heart that once hated me very much to a heart of forgiveness. That friends is something that only God can do.

Have a great week and remember all the homeless on the streets of America the next time you want to complain because you’re cold sitting in your homes.

Dec
29

Standing at the doorway of Joes room at the Nursing Home we peaked inside and could tell a few of the nurses were taking care of Joe.

Because he now uses what I call adult diapers he has to be changed every so often and we suspected we arrived at a “not so great time!” For Joseph anyway>

I could see through the crack in the door they were tossing his shoes into a corner. My mind was trying to understand why!? Why weren’t they putting Joe back into his wheelchair?

As the nurses came out the door I asked them if he was sick? One mumbled something I couldn’t make out and looked at the other one. She heard my question and quickly picked up where the other left off and said that Joe wanted to lay down because he was tired and his body hurt.

My whole body shook by her words. Joe NEVER would go to bed no matter how bad he was feeling.

Missy and I walked in and he smiled when he saw us. Every few seconds his face expressed his body “was” is quite a lot of pain. He never made a sound. Of course I rattled off my battery of questions and for the first time in months he didn’t seem agitated trying to answer.

He hadn’t eaten in 3 days and he is ready to go home and be with Jesus. “Now what” I asked the Lord inside of myself. As if I heard God himself I knew I needed to find a chair to sit in and prepare my friend to die.

For about 30 min we talked about his life here. His childhood… If there is a type of hell on earth I do believe Joe found it. Now he’s ready to die. He’s done, he’s tired he’s ready to go. We continued on for about 15 more minutes talking about heaven and death.

I could tell from my side of the bed that Missy was crying but because Joe was looking at me he never noticed. Once Missy left the room. Her tears said it all. “Sometimes we hate our job!!”

Before I left I told Joseph that I would be back and as clearly as any man that has had many strokes I read his lips more than his words… “TOMORROW?” I told him yes, tomorrow.

Missy cried as we walked to the car and we said the usual “I hate this job” list and why. Then we laugh and know we wouldn’t be happy doing anything else. Our conversation wasn’t long as we pulled into the hospital parking lot to go inside to see Sonny.

After I turned off the engine I glanced across the street and could see Mike and his nephew Eric waiting in front of a doctors office. Eric has HIV and just had surgery on his skin at the bottom of his back. He has a sore that won’t heal and the flesh is rotting away. Being paralized from the waist down Eric feels no pain.

Not being treated for HIV his sore won’t heal. It’s just a matter of time.

We walked into Sonnys room. The curtains were drawn and no lights were on. They have him sedated. He looked so old and worn. You can’t help but wonder who will die first. Not being family we have no idea what is wrong with Sonny. From what we have learned on the streets watching death and hearing symptoms it sounds like Sonnys liver is shot.

 Time. Sure we all have time. Today when I went back to visit Joe we talked again about death. I brought up the “Time” subject. Every man/woman is appointed a time to die. There is no escape. It is sure, it is a done deal. We will all die. Yet too often we live as though we will live forever. That thought get’s chipped away each and every time we have to go through a time such as this. I find myself anymore making every word count.

I asked Joe if he would like me to sing Amazing Grace. He said he did and I asked him to sing along with Missy and I. He got as far as “How sweet the sound” and his voice fadded. I then picked up his bible and read some things out of Psalms.

His eyes closed as he listened to God’s words being spoken out of my lips. I was hoping he was going to sleep but as soon as I finished he opened them up again.

Tomorrow we will go see our buddy and I will read his bible to him one more time. It’s down to maybe days with Joseph Blain Davidson . I mentioned to him today that when I first met him I didn’t really like him. We both laughed. I said, “However, the more I got to know you the more you taught me and you became my friend.” I thanked him.

So my 2010 is coming to a close on a sad note. We pray the Lord takes Joseph on by the first of the year. Time? Just what are you going to do with your time? This year???? I guess we could all start with kinder words and meaning what we say.

Happy New Year!

Dec
08

Sitting in the nursing home this afternoon visiting Joe Joe I couldn’t help but notice the staff hanging Christmas lights.

Like anyone else my first thought was that it really did lively up the place and also it seemed as if the staff was trying in some small way to help the residents that live there feel like they were at home.

Visiting Joe is difficult anymore. He can not be understood when he speaks which is extremely frustrating for him. He scowled most of the time we were there and so we often visit watching TV or playing on our cell phones. Joe doesn’t much mind, in fact I think he’s a bit relieved not to have to answer questions I often; without thinking, impose upon him whenever I first arrive. “Are you sleeping, Are you eating, Have you been sick???? Have you played BINGO? “GRUNT!”

Today because Joe just seemed to enjoy being with us and not saying anything I looked around the dining area much more than usual. I noticed the lights that were being hung were done so with very little care. They hung down more than they stayed up. I wondered if any of the staff would have hung lights like that in their own homes. I didn’t think so.

 To be really honest I don’t think any of the patients even noticed or cared about that fact. I have an eye for lines and so I reasoned in myself that that was why it stuck out at me like it did.

One time I did notice Joe looking out the glass door to the smoking area where more lights were being draped onto objects  outside. I wondered what he was thinking, even if  he noticed what they were doing and if it meant anything to him. I honestly didn’t think so.

Sitting with Joe for about 45 minutes today I became bothered by how unclean he has been lately. It’s a state nursing home therefore do I need to say more. His fingernails are filthy and hair hadn’t seen water in weeks. In fact his hair hadn’t been cut in months.

I mentioned at one time how cold it was outside. When Joe first arrived in the home I would be able to remind him how lucky he was to be inside and not sleeping behind buildings in 20 degree weather. Today there was no way I was going to say anything like that out of my mouth. Joe feels trapped!

He watched a man being rolled into the nursing home. He made an ugly face and an awful sound. I asked him if the fella was new and Joe shook his head still with an awful look on his face. I asked him what was wrong. Unable to tell me he just shot a look back at my question. I knew his answer.

I said you know that man may never leave here don’t you and he jerked his head stiffly up and down. Imagine freedom being stripped from you from bad decisions you made in life. Joe would literally die to sleep in 20 degree weather again on a cement sidewalk. If he just had his freedom back.

My friend will die soon I’m sure. He is slowly going down. Much pain shakes his body and because he gets to see no doctor he takes not even an aspirin. State run facility. Because I am not family I can’t speak for him. Frustrating!!! I tell Joe to point to the pained face picture on his card they gave him to explain how he feels after his stroke. He said he would. I pray!!!

If I were God? The people in Joes nursing home would smile. They sit in wheelchairs and the only sound of communication heard is the staff in the kitchen. They speak to NO ONE!

Life stinks sometimes but if I were God!!! I would dress Joe really warm and push him downtown to his spot behind the building where he slept. I then would go home. Tears want to pour from my eyes as I say these words. See not many could even begin to understand why I would do this for Joe. Others will totally understand. Freedom!!!

In the nursing home our Joe will die a very sad man. On the streets, our Joseph Blain Davidson would die an extremely happy man.

I do suppose the world is lucky I am not God…but if I was…Tonight Joe would feel cold cement against his face as he drifted off to sleep.

Nov
12

After being seated at the table Missy looked across at me. She said, “I have something to tell you.”  Seeing the look on her face I held my breath because I knew what I was about to hear was not going to be good.

In a flash my mind ran through the faces and names of the men and women we know that live on the streets and in seconds I was trying to figure out whose name she was about to speak out of her mouth.

From her expression and the tone of her voice I knew what was about to be said because I have heard it more times than I ever care to hear… someone is dead!

Sitting up a little straighter in my seat in order to position myself to the blow I knew was about to come through words I quietly said “What is it.” Before I finished my words she said “Bruce died last night.” All I could force out of me was “Why?” After I said it I quickly thought to myself how silly that one word question was. I knew right off that because Bruce was a homeless man we would never find out why… However the only details she put together were Michael was with Bruce that morning behind a gas station where they slept. Mike sat while Bruce slept drinking a beer and he said he was talking to Bruce. So typical of Mike to keep talking when nobody answers. He said he tried to wake Bruce and when he touched him he knew he was gone.

Shock always sweeps through us. You would think of all the men and women we have lost to death that somehow hearing this kind of news would come easier and our reaction less feeling! But it doesn’t. We still feel an overwhelming feeling of loss. Our eyes still tear up. Our stare becomes fixed on an inanimate object twenty feet across a room while all the information gets processed slowly into our brains.

Bruce is gone! We always have a habit at that point of trying to remember the last conversation we had with the person. I do suppose that this is no doubt a normal thought pattern anyone would go through.

Remembering Bruce was an easy one. He came to church often. The last time I went to pick him up he politely declined because he had drunk one too many beers and didn’t want to be  disrespectful to others in the service that evening. If only all the men were as thoughtful as him. But that just was how Bruce was. Before I pulled away he told me he loved me and I told him I loved him. I always sigh a sigh of relief when I can remember our goodbye was a good one.

Homeless men are a handful and not always is that the case…

After our lunch Missy and I decide to go and find Homer. We hadn’t seen him in weeks. Nobody had from our end of town and we thought something terrible had happened to him. Six days ago we found out he was alive and well and was staying at Dons camp. I thought that was not a good idea. Don and Homer do NOT get along. Two leaders on the streets usually fight. One leader in any group of followers works best. Especially in a camp.

Yet we knew Homer was being chased around by the police. They kept him moving which means every time he tried to rest or sleep in a bush or under a bridge they would make him move on. This can become so wearisome for the guys. So….we knew why he decided on Don’s camp. It was private and he has permission to stay there from the owners of the property. The police can’t make anyone move out of it and if Don says you can stay then you stay. If Don has had enough of you, well you have to go.

Because Don is such a hard nose he can like you one minute and the next he will want to rip you apart. So it’s easier to move on again.

As Missy and I were climbing down the small steep path that leads in and out of the camp we heard loud argumentative voices. As I rounded the corner I saw Homer sitting on a couch. He began to cry and shouted our names. He stood and we hugged as if it were years since we had seen one other. He heard we had hunted two days for him and it moved him greatly that we cared that much.

Soon Missy and I realised that all the men were very drunk and three of the five down there are leaders on the streets. Not very often do I ever feel unsafe when I’m with my friends however this afternoon I felt immediately uncomfortable.

We found ourselves stopping arguments more than we were able to have conversations. At one point I saw signals that two of the men were signaling how they were going to attack one of the men that had his back to us. I got into the signals at this point and made it very clear that that was not going to happen.

I stood up at this point because I felt more comfortable knowing that I could hit the trail up and out quicker in a standing position than I could in a sitting position.

As I inched towards the exit one of the men asked me to pray. I thought to myself that he had no idea I was praying the entire time I was there but yes, lets all stand and pray. The men quit fighting and stopped their cussing as they bowed their heads.

I closed my eyes and thought “I hope Missy keeps her eyes open.” As we said all our AMENS! the men began to argue again. I spoke up loudly and reminded them that we had just prayed. Seeing the voice of reason was not going to be heard and I was in no mood to watch anyone throw a punch my feet began to move and I said no goodbyes to any of them. We climbed out of the camp and I wondered what just happened.

As we drove away Missy and I talked and as we did I believe the Lord spoke to my heart. See, Bruce died from no doubt natural causes due to alcoholism. Black Tony died two weeks ago from a shotgun blast during an argument due to alcoholism. Sue, Tony Boy, Corky died this year alone from alcoholism. Today, if we hadn’t gone into that camp and prayed when we did we would have one more man dead… from alcoholism.

Often people think we’re crazy. Why risk what we risk at times by going into a camp knowing we have no clue what awaits us when we come into the clearing. We do it to save a life. Did I leave there rattled? Oh you better believe I did. Was I scared? No not one time. Do I want that experience again? Lets just say I don’t have my hand raised to volunteer.

Missy travels a lot with me and I know I am responsible for her as well. She’s so obedient and watches my lead and when or if I say run then she has to respond immediately. Asking why could get us both hurt. But this is our work. Building lives by one word at a time.

Many like Bruce are gone today. Yesterday there was a very good chance another one was going as well. Today the streets are calm. I thank God that God is God and I am me. Much work to do and so little time. Through HIM all things are possible and Through HIM I’ll do what I can while it is yet day.

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