Friends by Kaze

Friends by Kaze

 

     I stopped for coffee at one of the Pueblos. To my surprise my homeless friends who got some new coats that I donated last winter waved and ran over to my car. They didn’t want anything; they just wanted to say Hi. We probably had had six conversations over the year.

     “We got a good place to sleep,” they said. “We found an empty house and the basement is open. We can sleep there out of the rain and wind.”

     I asked what they would do if the police came around.

     “Oh, they will just run us off if we haven’t done anything. And we keep the place clean so we are okay.”

     We talk a little and they wave goodbye.

     I don’t know why this makes me so happy. Perhaps it is the joy of knowing that I am connected to those who survive, who find happiness in small things.

 

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Eating Garbage by Kaze

Eating Garbage

     “Want a cookie?” he asks as he pulls one out of his bag. I thank him and eat it. I have been watching this man with a long scraggly beard pick up garbage off the street. He shows me his finds: two cake mixes, a part for an electric shaver, mustard and ketchup packages and some half eaten burgers and hot dogs. He says he can find good food sometimes where tourists eat.

     I ask him if he has seen kids doing this. He looks at me sharply. “Yeah, I see the kids at some of the dumpsters sometimes. We all have to survive.”

     At the homeless park, I see more youth and children than I had ever seen—about eight. Some were with their mothers and some were sitting among small groups. In talking with one, I mentioned that sometimes the streets were easier than family drama at home. His eyes lit up. “Yeah, I couldn’t stand being slapped around whenever alcohol came into the house.” As though he had said to much, he took the socks and toothbrush and left hurriedly.

     Then a young man around fourteen shyly asks me for a razor. Without a question or a smile, I hand him one. He also hurries away. His face is smooth and clear. I can’t believe that he is anywhere close to being able to shave but he holds it like a precious gift. I hear him call out to a woman in a tent, “Look, Mom. She gave me a razor.”

     Later as I drive back toward home I see homeless kids running from a dumpster. My emotions range from rage at the wasted resources of this country to frustration at not being able to do much at getting food to street children to tears at the hopelessness of children who eat garbage to survive.

     It is a hard world for these young ones. I keep looking for ways I can practically help them beyond giving them socks and a safety razor.

    

 

Hard Work by Kaze

Hard Working     by Kaze

     I remember visiting my uncle’s dairy farm as a child. My father told me that he had to get up early every day, including Sundays, to milk cows. “Days off are not an option” he says.” When you have crops or animals, your responsibility is to care for them regardless of how you feel or what you want. You can’t whine that you don’t feel like it. The cows will remind you by crying.”

     He concluded, “Never forget that there are hardworking people who do not let sickness or feelings get in the way of work.”

     I don’t know why I remember the scenes that I do but this one has never left me. I assumed that I would always be in a work situation where I complete my work regardless of how I felt. Over the years I discovered that perks and rights have crept into our work ethic in this country.

     “You have a right to take a little time for yourself,” has been told to me many times. It is not that we do not have to take care of our health. Or that we do not grow physically incapable of doing all that we used to do. But, there is a difference in our fundamental understanding of total responsibility toward the work we have accepted. My uncle arranged for someone else to take care of his cows when he could not. He did not walk away and say “I have a right to a break.”

     And yet, people who work all their lives now live in a world where that is not enough when you get old.

     Yesterday, in the homeless park, Wamen sat down at our table to talk. “I’m getting my apartment next week. I can pay a little for it. I worked my whole life at a Tool and Dye company and I get social security. It’s not much but I can pay something for the rent. Just because I’m homeless, doesn’t mean that I didn’t work when I could. I also get food stamps so I will get by now that I am getting off the streets. When I worked, I had a place. I never thought the day would come when my salary wouldn’t pay for me to have a normal life. At least there is a housing program where most of my rent is paid for. I worked for forty years. You would think that I could have saved enough money for retirement, but we always just seemed to make it month by month. I’m not a bum. I worked for my social security. My wife died and I retired. I didn’t realize until I got my eviction notice that my social security wouldn’t pay all my bills. It’s not easy living on the streets but some times, you ain’t got the choice.”

     He kept talking and I kept nodding my head. “Congratulations on getting an apartment,” I say. “Can you cook?”

     He laughs. “I can get by. At least, I will be off the streets.”

     We leave and I can’t help but consider my own dependence on social security. And on the back stories of so many in the park who don’t understand how they got there.

 

 

No more secrets by Kaze

     “Unto You No Secrets Are Hid”  from BCP

     Jerry asked me what this meant. We were sitting on the floor at his grandmother’s house for a youth meeting.

     “That’s frightening,” says Jake after we read the morning collect. “Secrets are meant to be secret.”

     Buddy laughs and says “Wait until you have a girlfriend. You will tell her everything about you before you know it.”

     “Yeah,” says Drew. “And then she will betray you.”

     Bitterness spilled out of the group. Many have had this experience.

     Honesty is hard for those who have grown up with those who take advantage of any vulnerability. These youth have learned to shield themselves with a hard core of defense.

     Prayer has been the spiritual tool for allowing us to be honest. Some of our prayers in the group and prayers I have heard about in silence are heartbreaking. If I were to summarize what I have heard over the years it would be “God, please love me even when I mess up so much and I don’t deserve it and God, don’t let my family suffer any more.”

     “Before you no secrets are hid,” is a powerful reality that catches me off guard every time I hear or recite it.

     It is an awesome promise. It allows me to keep my integrity upfront.

 

Surrounded by Kaze

Surrounded by Kaze

     Sacredness surrounds us. Dignity waits to be uncovered at the core of each person we meet.

     I talk to a middle age man who talked freely about his problem in getting a job. “I’ve been out of work for almost two years. I get temporary work for a day or two. Then I go to a cheap motel and get cleaned up and eat a good meal. But if I don’t get a real job, I am going to look like the people on the ground here, dirty and hopeless. I don’t want to give up.”

     He continues, “It’s not like I don’t have friends here. There is a real community here of people who support each other. I just want a job and get back to a life.”

     We talk some more and he thanks me. He ends by saying “If you were in charge of some of these programs that are suppose to help us, maybe we would get help.”

     “I can’t get you a job. Only you can do that. What kind of help are you talking about?” I ask.

     He grins, “Just listening to me and asking questions helps. You care what happens to me.”

     I think about this as we talk to other people on the street. I didn’t do anything. I gave him nothing. But something has changed in me. I am interested in the people I meet on the street and I find great strength in their inherent dignity. As I review the years I worked with people and didn’t listen to them, I am not sure how I changed. Maybe it has been gradual. But I find that I enjoy walking down the street and saying “Hi.”

     As we talked with the street people, a couple walked by and we said “hello, how are you.” They stopped to tell us they were visiting New Mexico from California and were so surprised how friendly people are. They had no idea they were among the homeless. They were just tourists taking a walk.

     Yet, they knew somehow, that they were among compassionate people. May all of us be so blessed.

 

 

Looking Down by Jeremy Blackwater

As a gift to myself, I have posted one of Jeremy’s poem today. We had been asked by the family to say prayers for this little one. Jeremy’s words move me greatly.

Writing respectfully of a young child’s funeral.

Looking Down

By Jeremy Blackwater

 

Sun is too bright for this day.

Earth has a big hole,

Too big for this tiny casket.

Eyes squint at the corner.

Faces tighten

Tears come unbidden.

No one moves

I don’t move.

I can’t.

 

All I can see

Is this little wooden box.

By the empty gap in mother earth.

I stare down.

I imagine a small baby

Curled up to sleep

Lying very still.

Under a lid.

 

This is so wrong.

Did she suffer?

Did she know pain?

All I know is that she cannot move.

I cannot move.

 

I listen to ancient words

Of a God who cares.

I hear the psalms of a God

Who never leaves us.

But I am shaken by my anger

At the death of this young one.

 

Why God Why?

Why a baby?

I stand quietly

Willing myself to

Not cry.

Trying to melt into

Invisibility

.

As I stand motionless,

My brain races with images.

I see the ripple of the Great Spirit

Lifting the body of the child.

I see the baby being placed gently

On the soft needles of a pine,

Branches holding her close.

 

Somehow that comforts me.

I do not have to bear this alone.

God of our ancestors,

Keep this child with you.

Do not let her be alone.

 

Not Beg

Not Beg by Kaze

Sorta of a well dressed middle aged woman walks across the empty lot where I am parked.

     “Hi,” I call out. “Do you need a sleeping bag or blanket? I have some extra.”

     She stops and stares at me like she can’t believe I’m there. She walks over with tears and says “I’m not homeless but my daughter and three kids are sleeping on the floor in my house. We so need a sleeping bag and blanket.”

     I hand her a green bag and a blue blanket, both of them in good shape.

     “You don’t know how much this will help. None of us can get work and we just have enough money for rice and beans every day,” she says. “I didn’t expect someone to just hand over what I need without my even asking.”

     We hug and both say thanks to each other for what we are doing. “Family is important,” I say. “You just standing there with your hands full of things is too.”

     We wave like we are the newest of best friends. I think how important it is that people not have to beg. Human dignity comes in small dollops.