This has been a very long week for me. I received six homeless calls. Which has seriously interrupted my New Year’s Resolution planning! Now I’m two weeks into the new year and haven’t committed to anything! Statistically, I only have a few more weeks before I give up. According to U.S. News, “approximately 80% of resolutions fail by the second week of February, so the odds are against you.”
Never the less, I was off to a great start at the beginning of the year: I got out my planner, dusted off my scale, bought some really cute warm running pants, ordered some new microgreen seeds & potting soil, found that meditation DVD I bought last year, and revamped my workout routine. BAM! Ready to go.
I was pumped and ready to recreate myself! Maybe I’ll try to be the first great-grandmother on The Titan Games! YEAH! That’s the ticket! I missed the opportunity to be the oldest great-grandmother bodybuilder in the Guinness Book of World Records. That coveted title went to Ernestine Shepherd who recently celebrated her eightieth birthday! Okay. But, I can still impress the masses with my stellar fitness! It’ll be epic…
Then the phone rang. A message on our helpline. A homeless woman was at the Budget motel. Could I call her?
Betty had just completed her fourth chemo treatment for colon cancer and she has COPD. In our conversation, she told me how she loved the nuns at St. Mary’s Academy (just across from our church) where she went to high school, “a long time ago”. Smiling through broken and missing teeth, she wondered if any of the nuns that taught her were still there.
How did her life go so wrong? She and her husband have been homeless off and on for years. Her husband can never seem to provide for them. She has never owned a home; never had her own gym in her basement. Her “workout routine” consists of wrestling to get comfortable and stay warm in the car she and her husband sleep in most of the time. And yet, this woman praises God. How is that possible?
I have struggled to lose weight. It makes me mad! I know what to do. I just choose not to. But, no more! In preparation for my return to healthy eating I have gotten rid of everything that tempts me to failure and replaced it with all things fresh and green and whole! My microgreens and organic potting soil arrived yesterday! Today I will plant those luscious greens!
Then the phone rang. A message on our helpline. A homeless family is trying to get to Louisville, Kentucky. Can we help them?
Jim and his wife, their three kids, and her mentally handicapped brother, lost their home in a fire in Nebraska. Friends in Louisville have offered them a place to stay and jobs when they get there. But, now they’re out of money and gas, and one tire is bad. Mom & dad haven’t eaten for two days so the kids could eat, but now they’re out of food too. We provide them a room for the night. I make sure they have money for gas, tire repairs, and whatever else they need to get to their destination. I also give them bags of food – pantry food: Spagettios, a huge jar of peanut butter & jelly, canned stew, chili & soup and miscellaneous items with pop-top lids they will have to eat cold while they travel. NOT A SINGLE GREEN THING in those bags. Not one. This is fill-a-void-in-the-stomach food. And yet, Jim’s eyes fill with tears of gratitude.
He told me that they felt they had lived in a good community. Their neighbor’s kids were always at their home and they called him “Uncle Jim”. But, after the fire, not one neighbor reached out to help them.
He and his wife could not believe the love and support they received here, from strangers.
Their hearts ache for their kids and her brother because of what they have been through. But, I could see something else: their love for God, for each other and their kids would prevail over all the struggles. Their kids were learning tough, but powerful, life lessons that will serve them well. And, people, they were actually the happiest kids I have ever seen!
Cold spagettios would not be the choice of a health-snob like me. And it makes me wonder, after having met such a beautiful family, how strong my faith would be; how well I would survive, in their circumstances. I’ve never been tested like that. Nor do I want to be! Truth be told, I’m probably not as strong or resilient as I would like to believe.
Okay, this is it! It is SO COLD today. But, I am determined to pull on my new warm running pants and the jacket and hat I bought when we went to the French Alps over the holidays – and go! I normally don’t like running in the cold, but this is the new me! Those people on that silly “Survival” show (no, I don’t watch it) ain’t got nothing on this “grannymachine”…bring it on!
Then the phone rang. A message on our helpline. A young dad, his wife and two-year-old are staying at the motel. The manager is trying to over-look the fact that they are getting further and further behind. Could we help them?
Jason rides a bike to work, from the motel to Wentzville. That’s about ten miles every day in the cold. His two-year-old son is ill and has seizures. They’re trying to get ahead, but all their money goes to the motel. They have no family or support.
The difference between Jason and me should be obvious. He doesn’t ride his bike in this awful weather because he is obsessed with the benefits of exercise and loves the challenge. And, I don’t have to be out in this weather if I don’t want to. I can just go back to bed, or go right down to my basement and jump on the treadmill.
For years, I was able to maintain a healthy weight. I ran half-marathons for seven years. In 2010 I ran two! That was the year after I had a kidney removed. Basically, I ROCKED! Now, I beat myself up for failing to get my act together. And I don’t believe age has anything to do with it. (So, get that thought out of your head.) I’M JUST LAZY. There I said it! But, I need to get over it and realize that I am not happy where I’m at and the only one who can change that is me. No one else. Me. Now!
Then the phone rang. A message on our helpline. A homeless couple is staying at the motel, but have run out of money. She is handicapped and he is out-of-work. Could we help them?
When I met with Richard and Amy, I held the door to the room we use to fill out intake paperwork. Richard had to help Amy walk and every step seemed labored. She was in a motorcycle accident in 2011 and broke her back. At the time she was a nurse. Now, she’s on total disability. Her constant pain was more than I could imagine or bare to watch. Richard said they have never been homeless before. He always had a good job and worked hard to provide for his family. Then, due to circumstances involving his ex-wife, a shady lawyer, and back child support, he ended up in jail for three days, which awarded him a police record. They also took his driver’s license away, so he then lost his job. He has a lawyer who is trying to resolve what the lawyer believes has been a miscarriage of justice.
I don’t know all the facts, and really, I don’t need to. What I do know breaks my heart. When they first became homeless, he lived in his car for two months and she went to live with a friend. They are trying to work with agencies we use as resources. They tried to get into a shelter before calling us, but the only bed available was an upper bunk, which she can’t manage.
Richard’s grandfather was a preacher. His aunt gave him a packet of mustard seeds (Matthew 17:20), which he keeps in his pocket. They freely express their gratitude to God even when their lives are turned upside down. I’m amazed.
Then there is the woman who calls us weekly and whose mental illness causes her to scream in anger because we don’t care about her. We simply can’t help anymore because we have reached our limit with her. It’s not that we don’t care. But the need is tremendous, and we, like everyone else trying to relieve the suffering of the homeless, have our limits.
You know, I could go on-and-on with the stories of pain and struggle we encounter almost daily. But, somehow, right now, at the beginning of THIS new year, God has been shining a bright light on the contrast between my “personal” resolutions and his focus on personal transformation. I’m sure he has no problem with my wanting to be healthy. But, I’m pretty sure he thinks I take it too far. Our transformation is what he desires, it is what we were made for, and much different than simply a life-style change.
Marcus Borg ends his most profound book, Speaking Christian, with these words, “Christianity…at its best, is about truth, goodness, and beauty. And it addresses the two great yearnings – our longing for personal transformation and our desire that the world be a better place.
The Christian message reduced to its essentials is: love God (as known in Jesus) and change the world.”
My new resolution that will hopefully endure for every single day I wake up until I take my last breath: Love God above all things, so that he can transform me, and every day look for ways to touch others with that love. Granted, those efforts may not change the entire world, but it will be my small part in this small place. And at the end of the day, may I have left this world a little bit better for having been here.
(It should go without saying, but, I’ll say it anyway. I changed the names of these beautiful people for their privacy)
May you and your family have a very blessed new year!