Being Kind to a Sleeping Stranger (#BestOf)

A Year of Being Kind blog – Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Thinking about the homeless, and those in need: our church provides donations (both monetary and physical gifts) to a local food pantry. I just finished the pastor’s article for the December church newsletter. I mentioned our holiday donation to the food pantry. We are going to give personal care products—soap, shampoo, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and more. Greatly needed, to be sure! I pray for this dear man, and for countless others like him.

Being Kind to a Sleeping Stranger

thank-thank-to-god

Posted on November 28, 2014 by chaplaineliza

A Year of Being Kind blog – Thursday, November 26, 2014

Being Kind to a Sleeping Stranger

Happy Thanksgiving, to one and all. Today was a quiet, down day. A day to catch up on some needed rest and relaxation, a Sabbath day for me. I particularly needed a Sabbath, after going full bore for almost three weeks.

Except—my husband and I went out for a cup of coffee this afternoon. Yes, we were actually able to find an open Starbucks. My daughter, home from college for Thanksgiving break, decided to go out with her distinctly un-cool, fuddy-duddy mom and dad, at the last minute.

My daughter is such an interesting person. So is my husband. (I must say, I am not so bad at conversation myself.) We had the rare opportunity to sit and talk with each other for over a half an hour, with no computers, DVD players, smart phones, MP3 players, or other gadgetry to distract us. I very much enjoyed finding out more about what my daughter was learning in several of her classes, as well as her experience at a recent lecture with a visiting professor. Amused, I did more listening than talking. She and my husband were getting into it in rapid-fire fashion, concerning the subject of the lecture (a fascinating aspect of medieval literature).

While we were engaged in conversation in the rear of the coffee shop, a tall man came up and sat down about ten or twelve feet away from us, on the booth-type seat along the wall. We didn’t notice him at first, but then, I saw him begin to nod off. And, he did not have any coffee. I felt compassion towards the man. I caught my husband’s eye, and gestured towards the sleeping man. I smiled, sadly.

My husband saw him, too. And immediately registered what his probable backstory was.

My husband was a volunteer at our former church’s homeless drop-in shelter, on Monday afternoons. During the weeks between November 1 and March 31, the church we used to attend had (and still has) a drop-in place for the homeless and indigent, from 3 to 7 pm. First Presbyterian Church took Mondays out of the week. He was a regular volunteer there, most Monday afternoons, for about five years.

So, we both suspected this man needed a place to get in out of the cold. Especially on this cold day, with the high temperature of about 20 degrees.

I was not about to complain to the Starbucks employees about this man. No way! With compassion, my husband and I watched him sleep, and did not disturb him. I mentioned that I hoped he had some other place to go when the Starbucks closed. I finished my coffee, and left along with the rest of my family.

I never did find out what happened to this man, afterwards. I don’t think he had any place to go on Thanksgiving. I hope and pray for him. Lord, have mercy on this dear man. I don’t even know his name—but You do. God, bless this man.

@chaplaineliza

(Suggestion: visit me at my blog: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers– where I am doing a PEACE journey through Eastertide and beyond. #PursuePEACE. Pursuing Peace – Thanks!)

(also published at ayearofbeingkind.wordpress.com .   @chaplaineliza And read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er – Thanks!)

 

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Helping, Serving—One Woman at a Time (#BestOf)

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, Monday, April 18, 2016

I am thankful. Thankful for good health, thankful for a snug apartment in a good part of town. Thankful for a livable wage for me and for my husband. But, it was not always that way. Years ago, I remember living at the poverty line. Not able to find decent jobs, for many, many months. Health and depression issues came in there, too. My life was filled with anxiety and fear. The constant knot in my stomach, stress headache that just wouldn’t go away. Thank God, that period of my life is over.

As I was looking over several entries in A Year of Being Kind, I came across this Feature Friday blog post. I really feel for anyone stuck in this sad, hopeless, even despairing situation, described below. Sarah’s Circle is a non-profit, helping agency that serves as a helping hand. Helping in a variety of ways! I am so glad that Sarah’s Circle is here.

 Year of Being Kind blog – Friday, April 25, 2014

heart and people illustration

Helping, Serving—One Woman at a Time (Feature Friday!)

Imagine being afraid. Downright terrified. Needing a safe place to stay. On top of that, being homeless. No place to go. Nowhere to sleep. Nothing to eat. On top of everything, you’re a woman. Got that? All of those things, rolled up into a tight ball of frantic fear and anxiety. What to do? How to cope?

There is a place to go. There is a solution. In the Uptown neighborhood of Chicago, Sarah’s Circle provides a refuge for women. They may be homeless, or in need of a safe place to go, or both. Sarah’s Circle provides assistance in terms of housing, case management, referrals, and other necessities of life. In other words, this organization provides hope for women who have just about run out of hope.

A friend of mine, James, is the business manager for Sarah’s Circle. I talked with him recently. He told me this organization “is a place where any woman can come and find support no matter what their situation is.” James is quite enthusiastic about the services and other resources these caring folks provide. Their day program is open to anyone. That means—anyone. Regardless of the reasons for homelessness and loss of family, employment, living space, dignity—women can come to Sarah’s Circle and find help and hope for themselves.

In addition, this non-profit organization also supports twenty-two units of permanent housing. (This is in partnership with the Department of Housing and Urban Development.) Sarah’s Circle is an oasis in the challenging, sometimes fearsome desert that is the city of Chicago. This group helps vulnerable women through difficult times, as they rebuild their dignity, stability—their very lives.

Women have gender-specific reasons for difficulties in their lives, which include many types of trauma. Not only can homelessness be a result of poverty and domestic violence, but Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder frequently occurs. As a result, trauma can contribute to mental illness and substance abuse.

Sarah’s Circle reports: “Approximately 56% of women who are homeless have been sexually assaulted; this is more than three times the rate for homeless men and for women in the general population. Research shows a strong correlation between frequency and seriousness of past victimization and diagnosis of mental illness as well as reported drug and alcohol problems. Women are more than twice as likely as men to develop PTSD. “

Sarah’s Circle is not a religious organization, but many people of various faith expressions work or volunteer at this organization. As I reflect upon service to the poor and homeless, giving a cup of cold water to those in need, I can’t help but be reminded of the verse I’ve chosen for the month of April. Colossians 3:23 tells us “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord.” May I be given the willingness to go and do likewise. Please, God, may it be so.

@chaplaineliza

(Suggestion: visit me at my blog: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers– where I am doing a PEACE journey through Eastertide. #PursuePEACE. Thanks!)

(also published at ayearofbeingkind.wordpress.com .   @chaplaineliza And read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er – Thanks!)

Being of Service—Through Sandwiches! (Feature Friday!) #BestOf

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, Sunday, June 28, 2015

Touching. Moving. Poignant. Whatever you call it, Brother Dano’s Sandwich Ministry is all that. And more. I wrote about this excellent food ministry a year ago. It still touches me as much, as I reread the post. And, all because a high school kid saw a need and decided to do something about it. Would that more people would be that proactive!

A Year of Being Kind blog – Friday, June 27, 2014

loaves-and-fishes feed the hungry

Being of Service—Through Sandwiches! (Feature Friday!)

“Have you ever felt invisible before?” This hand-lettered statement on a plain piece of paper stuck out at me like a sharp thumbtack on the floor, pointy side up. The photo of this printed sign is one of the images on Brother Dano’s Sandwich Ministry website. Three years ago, Dano was a high school student in the north suburbs of Chicago. He realized that there were 100,000 homeless people in Chicago, just a matter of miles south of where he and his family lived. 17 percent of those people were—are teenagers. Just like Dano. These homeless people often feel as if they are invisible. Uncared for. Less than nobody.

Dano and his parents had an idea. Three years ago, they came to the Church Council at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Wilmette. They got permission to start a sandwich ministry, with some help from the church. They decided to pack dozens of lunches once a month at St. John’s, which were then brought to the Night Ministry in the Uptown neighborhood of Chicago. From there, the bag lunches were distributed.

For those who don’t know, the Night Ministry is an outreach to the night community in Chicago—a ministry reaching out to the hidden underside of society. The Night Ministry offers assistance to those suffering from homelessness and poverty, in a number of ways. Not only the food outreach, and also a Health Care Bus, a temporary shelter, and assistance for pregnant teens and young mothers.

But back to Brother Dano and his sandwiches. This ministry took off at St. John’s Church in Wilmette. People of all ages started to get involved. Not only on the day they made the sandwiches and packed the bag lunches, but also in donating food items and financial gifts. Bread, bananas, cookies. Plastic bags, deli meats and cheese. Even young children can help assemble parts of the lunch, and put cookies and bananas in plastic bags. This has become a service project for all ages.

Many people, both in the congregation and from outside the church, are now involved in this worthwhile service opportunity. The price for each lunch is only $1.00, and people are well fed for at least one meal in their day. Pastor Joe McInnis of St. John’s Lutheran Church says, “What began as a simple idea has become a beloved ministry of our whole church. And in July, Brother Dano’s Sandwich Ministry will reach a milestone. They will reach and pass 10,000 sandwiches—made by volunteers here over the past three years, and passed out at the Night Ministry.”

Dano is now away at college. This ministry has developed a life of its own. God bless the worthwhile efforts of so many, making such a simple yet tasty thing as bag lunches. And thank God for Dano, for thinking of the great idea in the first place.

(For further information, check out Brother Dano’s website: www.brotherdano.com )

@chaplaineliza

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

(Suggestion: visit me at my daily blog for 2015: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers.   @chaplaineliza And read #40acts sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er – Thanks!)

(also published at ayearofbeingkind.wordpress.com

In Which I Ride the El (evated Train)

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, February 6, 2015

As I reread this post, I vividly remembered the situation. I was back there, in the El car. I pray for both of these men, even today.

A Year of Being Kind blog – Saturday, February 8, 2014

 

Under The El Tracks  Painting by J Loren Reedy

Under The El Tracks
Painting by J Loren Reedy

 

In Which I Ride the El (evated Train)

I rode the Elevated train (or, the El) downtown, amidst the big flakes of thickly falling snow. Since the ride downtown lasted approximately one hour, I had my trusty reading material. (I’m currently reading The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson. But I digress.)

About twenty minutes into the ride through Chicago, a young man in an older jacket, stocking cap, hoodie and sweat pants came walking slowly through the El car. He gave a practiced little speech about how he was broke and hungry, and he needed money. I looked up. I usually am leery of people who ask for money. In fact, this guy looked and sounded like a typical panhandler—practiced, and too pat. I checked him out, looked him up and down. Since I have some experience working with people in a drug and alcohol rehab, I suspected he was mildly high or intoxicated. (For my money, I’d bet high.)

He stood there after he finished his spiel, gazing from person to person. Most of the passengers completely ignored him. I sat there for a moment, and then dug into my bag. I pulled out a wrapped chocolate biscotti. Held it out to him. He took it, and looked at it with a big question on his face. “It’s a cookie,” I said. “A chocolate cookie. I really like them.” The information I gave him slowly registered, and he said thanks. Then ducked out of the train car through the connecting door.

I continued to read my book, traveled to the Loop, went to a restaurant to meet my sister, and had a wonderful lunch. After a pleasant afternoon, I traveled back on the El. Got on a very crowded train car, and was fortunate enough to find a seat. After about ten minutes, similar story. A young man in layers of clothes and a stuffed backpack got on the El. He stood in a group of people near the door. He seemed a bit nervous, but got up some gumption and started to speak.

This time, I could tell the man was desperate. He told a story of job loss last fall, and then homelessness. He had been sleeping on the El train for a number of weeks, by his own account. He had just gotten out of the hospital and offered to show discharge papers to anyone who wanted to verify his story. He said his leg was getting better after being infected and inflamed, and that he needed some antibiotics. $18.60, he said they would cost. He showed everyone on the train his calf. (Yes, the calf did look puffy and inflamed. I know what that looks like, from my years in the hospital.) Again, no one moved or looked at the young man. I could see the desperation on his face. Even despair. His eyes filled with tears.

I waited almost a minute. I hardly ever do this—again. (I usually do not have the money to spare, to tell the truth.) But, I gave him some money. And I said, “God bless you,” as I gave it to him. I held his hand for a moment. He and I made eye contact. Held it. His voice broke. “Thank you. Thank you, and God bless you.” I could hear the gratitude in his voice. Then he got off the train at the next stop. I waved and smiled as he got off the train car. He nodded at me and then ducked his head as he made his way through the mass of people clambering in or out of the car.

Two people. Two situations. Honestly, I do not usually give things to panhandlers. But today, I did. I wasn’t even thinking or making a conscious decision—the compassionate gifts just happened.

A friend of mine is a columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times, reporter Maudlyne Ihejirika. She had an article published the other day that featured three people who had lost their jobs many months ago. (In case anyone is interested: http://www.suntimes.com/news/metro/25404540-418/still-jobless-little-hope-of-long-term-benefits.html) Just like the second man on the El. Perhaps I was empathizing with his situation. Perhaps I was recalling my friend’s article. Whatever the reason, I acted in a loving and giving manner. Just like in Matthew 25:40, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”

God, thank You for the loving, caring nudges. Thank You for the opportunity to be of service to these two men, these members of God’s family.

@chaplaineliza

(Suggestion: visit me at my daily blog for 2015: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. Thanks!)

Be of Service, Like a Good Shepherd (Fund)

A Year of Being Kind blog – Tuesday, October 14, 2014

BK heart to care, be there

Be of Service, Like a Good Shepherd (Fund)

Most churches have benevolence or charity funds. They give away many, diverse things. Some give food, others give clothes, a few give shelter. I have heard of larger churches that have free classes—computer classes, ESL classes or sewing classes. I even know of one local church that hosts a diaper pantry! I even did a blog post about them—First United Methodist Church of Evanston. Their wonderful diaper ministry, Bundled Blessings, was featured at the end of March. I wrote them up in Feature Friday.

Even though my church, St. Luke’s Church, is a small congregation, they still try to do what they can for their community. I’ve written about their benevolence fund, too. The Good Shepherd Fund is set aside for individuals and families in need. Various kinds of needs, too. Except—not recently.

Let me elaborate. St. Luke’s Church is located between two busy thoroughfares. It is placed in a highly-visible spot. For the first several months I was at the church, there would sometimes be a knock on the church door, or an occasional ring at the church doorbell. Every two weeks or so, someone would be coming to the church with a request for benevolence. Either food, or money, or in some cases whatever we had available. However, it has been two months since anyone has come to the church for some kind of assistance.

I am not certain, but perhaps because of the recent opening of several large businesses and a grocery store in the area, there are not quite as many individuals and families in need. I am not convinced of this, but we can hope so.

Although, our church did not and still does not have any money for gasoline. Sorry about that. I wonder whether the reception and information I gave to several people earlier in the summer was communicated to others. I mean, passed around via the grapevine. I am, sadly, realistic and cynical enough to know that there is a sort of a loose ‘network’ that certain people have access to. I live several suburbs away from Morton Grove, where the church is located. However, I know several acquaintances and friends who work with the homeless and needy in my suburb. I have been told about such loose, unofficial ‘networks’ that organically grow within certain communities of people.

Truly, I want to be kind to those in need. (I’ve been in need myself, some years ago.) I say in the verse for October – Proverbs 19:17 “Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and will be repaid in full.” And, I mean it. I enjoy being able to provide for those in need, and it encourages and warms my heart, too. Except—I need knocks on the church door, and rings on the doorbell. Perhaps someone will come to the church later this week. God willing, I’ll be ready. God willing, the Good Shepherd Fund will be able to serve, to give them a helping hand.

@chaplaineliza

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Being of Service? That’s Family Promise! (Feature Friday!)

A Year of Being Kind blog – Friday, September 26, 2014

Credit - Anna Pereia Circles of Inspiration

Credit – Anna Pereia
Circles of Inspiration

Being of Service? That’s Family Promise! (Feature Friday!)

I wondered what big thing was going on at my friend’s church, every few months. Then I asked. The answer? Family Promise!

My good friend, Pastor Joe McInnes, filled me in. His church—St. John’s Lutheran, in Wilmette—is one of the host congregations for Family Promise Chicago North Shore, which helps homeless and low-income families become financially, sustainably independent. (The formal name for this worthwhile activity at the church is Interfaith Hospitality Network.) This organization is nonsectarian and interfaith, and has an excellent track record at doing what Family Promise does best: mobilizing local community members to come alongside of homeless and low-income families, helping them get back on their feet.

Loss of a breadwinner’s job, an extended period of illness, a sudden accident or even death in the family. Any one of these can be devastating to an individual or a family going through some traumatic event, or even series of events. As someone who has worked as a chaplain for most of the past ten years, I can easily see how suddenly a reduction in standard of living can happen. Even overnight, in some cases. The Family Promise website says it best, in giving us a brief, thumbnail sketch of their activities:

“We recognize that poverty is a multifaceted problem that requires a multifaceted response. We respond by integrating educational outreach, smart programming, effective policies, and the hands-on work of thousands of volunteers. We provide food, shelter, and support services for homeless families. We provide advice and advocacy for at-risk families to prevent their becoming homeless. And we educate people about poverty and the means to combat it.”

Pastor Joe is enthusiastic about how many parishioners are involved in this worthwhile program at St. John’s Lutheran Church. As he mentioned, once every three months, St. John’s offers both meals and housing for up to fourteen people. And, that’s for up to one week. Plus, what about the wonderful volunteers who gather to offer food and hospitality! The excellent location of St. John’s Church, one block from the Metra train station in downtown Wilmette and along several bus lines, offers the clients and friends of Family Promise many options. It’s good to have options.

This is a wonderful way to be of service to others. To offer the gift of hospitality and generosity, and show the love of God to others in a very tangible, loving way. What an awesome way of being kind!

@chaplaineliza

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Being of Service—Through Sandwiches! (Feature Friday!)

A Year of Being Kind blog – Friday, June 27, 2014

loaves-and-fishes feed the hungry

Being of Service—Through Sandwiches! (Feature Friday!)

“Have you ever felt invisible before?” This hand-lettered statement on a plain piece of paper stuck out at me like a sharp thumbtack on the floor, pointy side up. The photo of this printed sign is one of the images on Brother Dano’s Sandwich Ministry website. Three years ago, Dano was a high school student in the north suburbs of Chicago. He realized that there were 100,000 homeless people in Chicago, just a matter of miles south of where he and his family lived. 17 percent of those people were—are teenagers. Just like Dano. These homeless people often feel as if they are invisible. Uncared for. Less than nobody.

Dano and his parents had an idea. Three years ago, they came to the Church Council at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Wilmette. They got permission to start a sandwich ministry, with some help from the church. They decided to pack dozens of lunches once a month at St. John’s, which were then brought to the Night Ministry in the Uptown neighborhood of Chicago. From there, the bag lunches were distributed.

For those who don’t know, the Night Ministry is an outreach to the night community in Chicago—a ministry reaching out to the hidden underside of society. The Night Ministry offers assistance to those suffering from homelessness and poverty, in a number of ways. Not only the food outreach, and also a Health Care Bus, a temporary shelter, and assistance for pregnant teens and young mothers.

But back to Brother Dano and his sandwiches. This ministry took off at St. John’s Church in Wilmette. People of all ages started to get involved. Not only on the day they made the sandwiches and packed the bag lunches, but also in donating food items and financial gifts. Bread, bananas, cookies. Plastic bags, deli meats and cheese. Even young children can help assemble parts of the lunch, and put cookies and bananas in plastic bags. This has become a service project for all ages.

Many people, both in the congregation and from outside the church, are now involved in this worthwhile service opportunity. The price for each lunch is only $1.00, and people are well fed for at least one meal in their day. Pastor Joe McInnis of St. John’s Lutheran Church says, “What began as a simple idea has become a beloved ministry of our whole church. And in July, Brother Dano’s Sandwich Ministry will reach a milestone. They will reach and pass 10,000 sandwiches—made by volunteers here over the past three years, and passed out at the Night Ministry.”

Dano is now away at college. This ministry has developed a life of its own. God bless the worthwhile efforts of so many, making such a simple yet tasty thing as bag lunches. And thank God for Dano, for thinking of the great idea in the first place.

(For further information, check out Brother Dano’s website: www.brotherdano.com )

@chaplaineliza

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.