Stay in line.
Next. He motions with his hand for me to come forward. “Fill out this form.” (Good morning to you too, sir). Basic info – easy enough to fill out. Place that I’ve stayed and dates I was there…. not really sure. Emergency contact? What are your short and long term goals?? Shoot, I don’t know. What are these questions?!? Well… I guess I’m finished with the form.
“Here’s your lunch. See you at four.”
I head off with my friend Mac. We wander around the streets for a bit, people-watching as we go, but are interrupted as we prepare to cross a road and some light-rail tracks. There is a minor commotion because some guy is crouched on the tracks. We go over to see and hear more of what is happening. Some foreign student describes how he was directing cars out of the way while the man was running erratically in the street and then crouched here. Mac tries to talk the guy, I keep my distance. Soon enough the police show up and try to talk to him as well. He’s mostly unresponsive, like he’s in another world almost. Eventually they help him off the tracks and then restrain him as he tries to run. “It was PCP,” the officer tells us, and we’re on our way.
Mac and I make it to a park – a good place to relax for awhile without being noticed or “in the way.” I found a bench in the sun cuz it’s a chilly November day and ate my meal. As I was finishing, a couple approached. She sat down, he went to talk to a group of guys over on the other side of the park. She asked for some of my water, I obliged, watching her wander to the sidewalk with it. He comes back to the bench, calls at her. They both sit on “my” bench without acknowledging me, start talking to each other about food, money. Eventually I hear the word “joints” mentioned several times and realize I should leave my warm spot.
Meet back up with Mac and we keep walking around town. We run into some friends who found some Saturday church service to attend – sounds nice enough. We stop at another park, enjoy the sun and the fountains…you know, the little things are nice. Meet a guy named Rufus who tells us about his travels and fixing cars before he decides to move on. We decide to walk some more, stopping to read some of them historical signs around town. We walk past some guy having an altercation with hotel employees – he should know better, there’s just some places you can’t be. We wander by some church and spot a grapefruit on the ground – without blemish – nobody around to claim it – provision of the Lord! Mac and I continue to share stories about our lives, hop into a store to use the facilities quick, and then realize we need to head back for the 4pm dinner.
As we gather for rice and beans, it’s nice to see the rest of the Mission Year Houston teams. For less than a day we have tried to better understand our brothers and sisters who are experiencing homelessness. We share stories of the people we met, the feelings we experiences and the reactions from others (including some being told they needed to move on). This was a brief moment of solidarity. For more information check out National Coalition for the Homeless.
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.”