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Stepping Up and Reaching Out

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I was asked by a friend to write a reflection or thoughts about living with, working with and assisting those who are experiencing homelessness. My life also regularly involves going into Cook County Jail. When we choose to dedicate our lives to help those without homes, we quickly find it is far more eclectic than we could ever imagine. It involves, and is not limited to, helping people with their rap sheets, assisting those who are struggling with addictions, walking alongside those struggling with a mental illness or visiting with those who are chronically ill. The challenges are never dull and ever-expanding. My hope in this rambling is that I can encourage those who aspire to do something similar.
These are just a few of my own personal opinions, aimed at inspiring anyone who wishes to enter this exciting, challenging and rewarding world. This is in no way comprehensive, but a list of what I see as most important for those who wish to dedicate years to fighting for and walking alo…

Grappling With Reality

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Naivety imprisoned me as I entered into my new world. I was learning, I wanted to learn, but I was captured by my thoughts, my opinions, my ideals. My privilege insulated me. Propaganda deceived me. My anxiety captured me. My faith needed strength and courage to question and have the guts to walk into the dark and destitute places. 

Ever since I remember, I was an irritant that questioned the status quo, challenged the high places, distrusted politics and could never understand the vicious and evil inequality that has always surrounded me. Seeing all the injustice and inequality tormented my young mind. I knew it wasn't right! In my restlessness, I knew Jesus must be grieving and wondering how I could faithfully and courageously step into this unjust world with my faith.

I had a major problem though, I lacked courage! I was scared! I needed strength! I was battling depression! My anxiety had taken me captive! I was crippled by my shyness and social anxiety!
Into this unrest, I attend…

Stewart School Blues

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Most days I walk about 3 blocks down Wilson Avenue to and from work. This brief trek through Uptown reveals so much celebration and tragedy! It screams of community and gentrification, compassion and violence, activism and discrimination, trauma and elation! You have to close your eyes tight to remain neutral on such a street! 

The street tells countless stories: I walk out of my building to see a few apartments occupied by those once homeless. I've watched an abandoned Burger King turn into an expensive glass high-rise. I’ve marched with other protesters over our authorities trying to prevent people from feeding and giving shelter to the poor. I’ve seen developments rapidly grow before my eyes. I’ve seen the friendly embrace of friends and the beauty of forgiveness. I’ve been watching the tragic gutting and destruction of the Wilson Men’s Hotel, causing a new and traumatic path of homelessness and loneliness. I’ve had people dangle their keys in front of me, proudly revealing thei…

Crazy, Not Stupid!

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He beat his chest! He bugged out his eyes! He howled into the sky, and yelled as loud as he could “I’m crazy, crazzzzzyyyy! I’m the craziest man in Uptown!” He would follow that by laughing hysterically, with one of the loudest and most distinctive laughs you’d ever hear. He had a laugh that would turn heads on a whole city block. It wasn't something you could ignore, it would either cause terror or amusement to everyone in earshot. 

Then, all of a sudden he'd stop! He’d stop beating his chest. He’d stop laughing. He'd stop yelling. His whole demeanor would dramatically change. His gigantic smile disappeared behind a hard, angry and penetrating glare. He’d barely blink and stare straight into my eyes and say, “I may be crazy, but don’t ever call me stupid. I ain’t stupid!” 
After making his point he’d switch back to smiling and being his usual loud, hyped up emotional self. 

I’ve heard and seen Shaun do a variety of his “I’m crazy, not stupid” routine many times! He was dead …

Be Not Distracted - Live Out Your Story!

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It’s that awful time of the year: political flyers, relentless texts, and people pleading with me to vote for them! I have absolutely no faith in submitting to this empire that serves only those who have money, power, and privilege. What I do have faith in: people who resist the empire, grassroots movements motivated by inclusive compassion for those who’ve been rejected, and our Merciful God who loves those who are struggling, homeless, incarcerated, and refugees.
Every day, at the moment, if you’re like me, you’re getting bombarded with a whole lot of political mailings and videos from our incumbent alderman, James Cappleman. It's tiring! If it wasn’t for how many people believe this stuff, the lies and use of propaganda shoved in my face would be hilarious! I could ignore it, but he's had some real and devastating effects on the lives of people I care about. I cringe over how much money is spent mailing out and posting this propaganda so that he can be re-elected; money that…

Hope! It's hard to grasp....

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Hope! It's so hard to grasp when despair is always knocking at our doors. Yet, despite it all, hope doesn't disappoint and it shines, mysteriously, in the chaos! Though it may be dim at times, hope remains, hope’s there, lighting up even those pitch dark caves we venture into! 

Every week I see things that could shatter me. I witness things that could make me numb. I hear about things that could send me into depression and give me fits of rage. The injustice and inequality I witness every day is downright criminal. Whether we choose to admit it or not, we are all surrounded by despair and hopelessness! 
I see it! I feel it! I know it! I mourn over the cyclical nature of addiction, systemic racism, the brutality of those with power, the violence that hits our streets and the abusive preying on the weak and mentally ill by those who’ve been given authority to administer rules and protect them. 
It doesn't change! It's the same every week, only the names, faces, and stories …

Extreme Weather Ain’t No Joke

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Weather like today’s ain’t no joke! 
It's brutal.
It's deadly.

But what about those experiencing homelessness?
How do they escape it’s deadly grip when it’s more likely to grasp them with a vicelike tenacity? 
They announce, “don’t go outside!”  They announce, “check on your neighbors, especially if they’re old or sick!”  They announce, “if you have to go outside, don’t linger!”
But how do you do that if you’re experiencing homelessness?  How can they obey these rules when society keeps shutting them out, shoving them around, and pushing them down? 
It’s so frigidly oppressive, they’ve shut down schools. It’s so detrimentally risky, many businesses are closed. It’s so fatalistically brutal, many workers are staying home in bed. 
But what about our friends experiencing homelessness?  How will they escape this brutal wave of frigidly oppressive weather swooping down on them? 
The threat of frostbite is real.  As is hypothermia
...and even freezing to death. Walking to a shelter 
Waiting for the tr…