Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Generosity’ Category

 Since pretty much giving up the nomadic RV life several months ago and returning to San Diego to live, I’ve become more and more involved in homeless advocacy and assistance projects. At a training meeting with other volunteers for the Point-In-Time Count nationwide count of the homeless this week, I began wondering why I’m so passionate about these activities and decided to try to find a beginning point, something that got me started. However, my memory is a little fuzzy about many years ago, most likely when Reagan was president, so I won’t use that as a starting point. But, that time is indeed a beginning.

While going to seminary in Seattle from 1999 to 2003, I began noticing more and more people on street corners and freeway on and off ramps, holding signs offering to work for food or requesting money. In a field work class, one of my classmates, a rather quiet, unassuming young man, spent much time walking around downtown Seattle, stopping to talk with homeless individuals. I was impressed that he could do that. It tugged at me in ways almost nothing else had for a long time. However, at the time I was not prepared to do it myself.

After graduation, I returned to San Diego to do a year-long CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) residency with the Center for Urban Ministry, hoping to be assigned an internship with one of the homeless shelters downtown. At that time, San Diego County had just experienced several of the worst wildfires in history. Seventeen people had died, and many, many were left with no place to live. The head of the CPE program asked if I would be interested in being a chaplain-intern with those fire survivors, so I did. It was one of the most challenging and rewarding things I had ever done. My office was my small Nissan Sentra and my cell phone. I visited people wherever they were; in tiny motor homes, in tents, in half-burned buildings, in motels, in the homes or relatives or friends. I tried to give them hope. Possibly I succeeded. Little did I realize at the time that I would soon be in a similar situation.

Because of a well-paid job that just didn’t work out, I found myself without enough money to pay rent on the rather-overpriced apartments in the county. It wasn’t as serious as it could have been as I could have possibly lived with a relative or even returned to Portland. However, I was newly divorced and really needed to “stand on my own two feet.” So, I bought a very small motor home, 23-feet, traded the Sentra for a Ford pickup I could tow behind the RV, sold or gave away almost everything I owned, joined workamper.com, and found a job in Kanab, Utah, working as a breakfast buffet server for Parry Lodge. It was my first workamping job, one that provided not only an RV site, but also full hookups of water, electricity, and sewer, as well as pay for all hours worked. But, I was technically homeless, though not in an ordinary sense.

 Living in that very small space of one room with no separate bedroom, helped me understand a little better how the people I had tried to help in San Diego after the fires might have felt. Some of them had the same size motorhomes for their families of two or more people. I had a hard enough time taking what one person called “hokey-pokey showers,” you know, “put your right foot in, put your right foot out…” I couldn’t imagine two, three, or more family members doing it.

I was a full-time workamper for four years, working at various places during spring, summer, and fall. However, winters were difficult as there were very few jobs. Most workamping jobs were seasonal. So, I struggled to find places to live during the winter without having to pay an outrageous amount for space rent. Sometimes I parked in casino and Walmart parking lots for several nights. I volunteered one or more days a week at the Desert View Tower overlooking the desert in return for a spot to park that included electricity, water, and a fantastic view. Although not living on the street or in a shelter, I was technically homeless.

However, it was time to find a more permanent place so I returned to San Diego to live with my mother. It is working out well for both of us.

Two months ago I saw a request for volunteers for “Homeless Connect,” a one-day event downtown that provided resources for the homeless population of the county; clothing, medical and dental attention, food, pet care, legal advice, spiritual assistance, haircuts, and many more. I worked as an escort, helping a 60-something woman find her way around the large room to get the services she needed. We talked a lot and got well-acquainted. Yes, I most likely knew in my mind that homeless individuals were people just like you and me, but it never really sank in until then.

I talked with representatives of some of the many advocacy and aid groups in the county and learned about the Point-In-Time Count (PITC) this coming weekend. It is a national program that counts the homeless population each year at the same time in all areas. The tallies are entered into a large database and used to help get more funding for homeless work. So I will be among more than 550 other volunteers getting out there very early Friday morning, counting homeless individuals.

What comes next? I have no idea. However, I am making lots of connections with groups in the area such as the Interfaith Shelter Network, and will be doing a little volunteer work with them through my Unitarian Universalist church in the next few months.

Yes, I am passionate about this work and hopefully compassionate towards the many homeless people in this county. There are too many. And, the economic and unemployment situation now just makes everything worse. We all need one another, regardless of political or religious beliefs, and I really hope I’m doing my part to at least help with some basic needs. It’s the least I can do.

Read Full Post »

The Cookie Lady

While volunteering at A Third Place Community Center in Turley, Oklahoma last year, I became known as “The Cookie Lady.” Simple enough–every time I drove the 35 miles down there from Bartlesville, OK, I took along a supply of homemade cookies. They disappeared quickly and people started expecting them. And, who was I to disappoint such wonderful people! Of course, that’s when I was living in a small house and had the use of a regular oven and even a bit of counter space.

Remembering how much people appreciated those cookies, I started making them for the night front desk people at Parry Lodge here in Kanab, Utah. This time it’s a little more difficult because the RV I’m living in doesn’t have an oven nor counter space. I use the toaster oven and shuffle things around a bit in order to get enough room to make the cookies, and it works. Just takes a little patience. I’ve also started taking them on the nights I need to show the Western movies in the hotel coffee shop instead of in the barn, figuring since we can’t have popcorn, soft drinks, or ice cream, at least people can have cookies, coffee, and ice water. After all, who ever watches a movie without something to nibble on?

The most popular ones are the Oatmeal/Raisin/Chocolate Chip cookies, followed by regular Toll House cookies. I even found a great recipe for gluten-free oatmeal/chocolate chip cookies for a friend.

Ingredients are the key. I use real butter, fresh and unsalted, that I’ve found at The Dairy Store in Colorado City, AZ, a short drive through the desert on the way to Hurricane or St. George, Utah. That makes a mediocre cookie into an excellent one. We’re lucky here because we can order really fresh eggs from a friend. Those also make a huge difference. And I always wonder, why bother using fake chocolate chips when real ones taste so wonderful?

Of course, it’s so hard not to chow down on the cookie dough or the finished cookies. I haven’t figured out a good way to handle that problem except willpower. Unfortunately, that’s sometimes in short supply!

Read Full Post »

I’ve been having thoughts about water today.

It’s been very hot here in Kanab, Utah for about a month now, up into the mid- and high 90s. However, the humidity is low so it’s almost bearable with enough air conditioning—and cold drinks.

Marcie and Jim never go anywhere without a large supply of bottled water in the back of their car. They pass it out to anyone who needs it or would like it.

Other places, such as parts of Oklahoma, aren’t so lucky. There the heat index, a combination of high temperatures and high humidity, is around 116 degrees today. Some people have air conditioned vehicles, work places, and homes, while many others have to do without.

Ron Robinson in Turley, Oklahoma  writes “…extreme Heat Alert so we have turned A Third Place Community Center into a Cooling Station. Free Water, AC, and all our other services–food pantry, clothing, computers, TV, library, etc. Now off to see about setting up water station at the main bus stops here that have no shelter from elements. If you can drop off ice or water or lemonade, etc. much appreciated.” Ron also pointed out that, as a heart patient, he has a car with A/C, cold juice and water available, A/C at the center and at home, but not all heart patients, especially in that area where life expectancy is significantly reduced, have access to those things.

Crystal Cheryl in Okmulgee, Oklahoma “…took some iced tea out to the city tree trimmers working in this heat — sweet, lots of ice — on a tray with real glasses. They [the workers] were resting in the shade on my back lawn and their faces lit up with big smiles when I came out with the cold drinks. Boy, did that make my day! Living in the blisssssss …. ♥ I think Ron inspired me. And I actually had to wrestle with myself. Had only a little ice made, and only half a pitcher of tea that I had just made — was tempted to keep the tasty treat for myself. Such silly inner struggles with selfishness.”

In the deserts of San Diego County in California, hundreds of people attempt to cross the border from Mexico for various reasons. They find hostility that extends to laws prohibiting others from providing food or water.

In March, before leaving for Utah for seven months, I volunteered for part of a day with Water Station, a group in San Diego County that places and regularly replenishes supplies of water at about 200 spots around the desert and other places people cross during blistering  summer heat. Many of those sites can only be reached by high clearance 4WD vehicles. No matter what your stand about illegal immigrants, they cannot die for lack of water.

Do you know individuals or groups who freely and unselfishly provide water and cold drinks to others with no requirements or fanfare? Please tell about them in the Comments section here.

Read Full Post »