From Recipient to Partner

Each week our Homeless Task Force offers showers. We realized that after the showers the stalls would be filled with bottles of shampoo and partially used bars of soap. We were having a hard time keeping those items stocked so we decided something needed to change.

In the past, we’ve simply offered free food and free showers with nothing expected in return. While that felt good at first, we began to see that giving stuff for free without any expectation of exchange actually separated us from the neighbors we are called to love. One-way charity at arms length is easy and feels good for the givers, but it creates a false perception that we the givers have everything, and our homeless neighbors are empty vessels with nothing to offer.

So, when the shampoo and soap problem came along we decided rather than perpetuating the charity mindset, we would put it in the hands of the people who use the showers. We alerted all of the “regulars” of the problem and appointed three leaders to take care of it.

Since then, Sharon (changed name), one of the homeless appointees has been regularly picking up shampoo, soap, powder and other items that are used on Saturday mornings. When we recognized that the neighbors weren’t just needy, and invited them to take part, leaders emerged. Had we the “givers” simply solved the problem ourselves, we would have missed out on the opportunity to involve Sharon in the solution. That to me is a picture of the Kingdom…neighbors moving from recipient to partner, from poor to contributor, from betterment to development.

Birchwood Candy Walk

This was the first year of having a candy walk in the Birchwood Neighborhood and after spending several hours passing out fliers there were three of us at a station along the candy route.  We had no expectations but high hopes that people would react positively to the idea of having a safe way for kids to get the candy they so desperately wanted without the parents having the anxiety as their children went door to door.  So we approached the evening just being thankful it was not raining and that there were plenty of Trick or Treaters.

Within 15 minutes of each other two different neighbors approached us with their bowls of candy, asked what we were doing, and the asked if they could join us.  “Of course!” we practically shouted.  So for the next 30 minutes or so we had some neighbors setup a station similar to ours about 100 feet down the route.  Success!

Click here for a video on how the Candy Walk works.

Cameron Garcia

Alleys, Scars, and Day Laborers

It is amazing to what lengths we will go to avoid seeing what is hard.  This morning on my way home from my run I thought about going down the alley.  I like to pass through that way every once in awhile to check out what’s going on.  The alley is a bit of a “behind the scenes” look at my neighborhood.  – When I walk down it I can see which crews are active by the graffiti.  I have a chance to notice whose landlord is not keeping things up.  Sometimes I can tell if a family has to live out of their garage.  Walking down the alley is one way I take the temperature of how we’re doing as a community.  This morning though, I didn’t want to run down the alley.  I didn’t want to know what’s going on.  I didn’t want to see graffiti.  I didn’t want to notice furniture discarded in the alley.  I didn’t want to know what was wrong.

This willingness to embrace denial has crept into my heart as of late.  There has been a general discontentedness that I have tried to avoid through various methods.  I’ve been shopping. I’ve cleaned house like a madwoman.  I went for long runs.  In this attempt to make myself feel better, I decided I needed to get rid of my scars.  I bought some scar removal anointment and committed to the suggested three times daily application.  It seemed that the more I applied the anointment, the more scars I noticed that needed to be removed.  I was diligent, even rigorous, with applying to each unwanted mark.

Somewhere around day 3 of my manic application of scar lotion I realized that I was removing scars from my body in an attempt to make my heart feel whole.  I was willing to commit to a system of scar removal, yet not willing to sit quietly with my hurting heart.  I did not want to know what was wrong.

Today as I walked to work I thought about taking a different route.  I did not want to see the day laborers on the corner.  We have worked on several initiatives together in our city that have not been successful.  I feel like I’ve let them down and this morning I did not want to answer their questions about our next move.  Plus now with the economy being so bad there are more guys and fewer jobs.   I feel the burden and urgency when I’m with them.  Today I didn’t want to know what was wrong.

I am convicted by what Albert Edward Day wrote in The Captivating Presence:

“I came to a new understanding why Jesus passed up the religious establishment of his day, the economically secure, the socially prestigious, and sought out the poor, the outcast, the sinner, the broken, the sick, the lonely.  He felt, as we so often do not feel, their sorrow.  He was acquainted, as we too seldom are, with their grief.  On Calvary he died of a broken heart.  But that heart was broken long before Black Friday, by the desolation of the common people. ‘In all their afflictions he was afflicted.’

Most of the time we are not.  We seem to have quite a different conception of life.  We avoid as much as possible the unpleasant.  We shun the suffering of others.  We shrink back from any burdens except those which life itself inescapably thrusts upon us.  We seek arduously the wealth and power that will enable us to secure ourselves against the possibility of being involved with another’s affliction.  Lazarus sometimes makes his way to our door step.  We toss him a coin and go on our way.  We give our charities but we do not give ourselves.  We build our charitable institutions but we do not build ourselves into other’s lives.

May Jesus give me his heart to enter into the lives of others.  May he strip away the anointments and alternate routes that keep me from seeing and feeling what is.

Crissy Brooks
Crissy Brooks is the executive director of MIKA Community Development Corporation. To learn more about MIKA visit their website by clicking here.

Click here to view Crissy’s Blog.


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