Sunday, December 11, 2011

Holiday Reality Check

Thirty-five years ago, I lead a group of teen girls in Campus Life (YFC) Youth Guidance. I was right out of college and had so much to learn myself, but it was a wonderful job. It was heart breaking at times, but I loved the challenge. The girls already led difficult lives at such an early age. We met weekly in groups and participated in adventure trips like backpacking, rappelling, cross country skiing and spelunking (cave exploring). Several of them have kept in touch with me.

This morning I received an email from one of them that moved me to tears. I asked her if I could pass it on anonymously. She put the holiday season in perspective for me.


I am so pleased to see that Breakthrough is continuing to address so many of the needs homeless have.

I found myself homeless for 8 months. I was in a hospital and then a shelter and now a very tiny apartment.

I traveled the country, got spit on, punched, robbed, but I also witnessed small miracles on regular basis.

Shelter life was very sad. I did not sleep the entire time I was there. I was afraid of the other women some not all and I was afraid of the staff. the building was beautiful but what difference does it make if things aren't consistent.

I never dreamed I would be homeless. I imagine that is what everyone says. I never gave up hope.

Perhaps it was the skills I learned as a backpacker, or a spelunker or as a nurse but I have no idea why I am still alive.

I must say racism and cruelty exist but the amount I felt just led me to more prayer and meditation. we should be hoping for each other, peaceful lives working together as one. Imagine that. I guess that is why I have to take medication which I never had to before. I have the dreamers disease without the resources to implement my dreams, and the sad part is some of those dreams seem dashed.

Arloa, have a very Merry Christmas. I plan to also. Its not about clothes or education although those things are important. Its about keeping people safe and out of the rain and harms way.

Best always, with a hug,

One of your Campus Life Alumni

I hope you have a Christmas filled with God's love and peace, and that you never stop dreaming.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Breakthrough Kids and Their Proudest Moments

At the end of the school year, Breakthrough puts on an awards night for all the kids who attended their after school program during the year. This past year, they celebrated 10 years since the program started. Through this video, Breakthrough's staff wanted to honor the kids, and showcase their development, their dreams, and their sense of pride in what they have done over the last year.

My Proudest Moment - Breakthrough Urban Ministries from Interrupted Media on Vimeo.

More and more, the desire grows in me simply to walk around, greet people, enter their homes, sit on their doorsteps, play ball, throw water, and to be known as someone who wants to live with them. It is a privilege to have the time to practice this simple ministry of presence. Still, it is not as simple as it seems. My own desire to be useful, to do something significant, or to be part of some impressive project is so strong that soon my time is taken up by meetings, conferences, study groups, and workshops that prevent me from walking the streets. It is difficult not to have plans, not to organize people around an urgent cause, and not to feel that you are working directly for social progress. But I wonder more and more if the first thing shouldn’t be to know people by name, to eat and drink with them, to listen to their stories and tell your own, and to let them know with words, handshakes, and hugs that you do not simply like them, but truly love them.

        - Henri Nouwen

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Who Are The Homeless?

In this video I asked Yolanda Fields, Breakthrough's Adult Services Director, the question, "Who are the homeless?" Yolanda tells the story of a 19-year-old girl in the Breakthrough shelter who is finding her way.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

This is a video of Michelle Alexander speaking in Chicago about her book, The New Jim Crow.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Man with the "Golden Voice"

Suddenly, Ted Williams, the man with the “golden voice,” is no longer an invisible homeless man. He was catapulted into the media when a video of him and his radio voice was recorded by the Columbus Dispatch and posted on Youtube. Within days the video was viewed 15 million times and Ted Williams became a household name. He has appeared on numerous talk shows, has been offered a home and lots of employment contracts and he has been reunited with his mother who has been praying for him for years. It is an inspiring story.

When I heard about Ted, I thought, "I sure hope he has a good support system around him so he has help dealing with the stress and attention this will bring." I also wonder how this messes with our perspectives on the homeless. Certainly if it were not for his unique talent, Ted would have been looked over and would still be on the street. Until a few weeks ago, not many thought Ted Williams was worth a second glance. I wonder what other amazing talent is being wasted because of the suffocating stress of addiction, isolation and homelessness.

Ted represents many of the people we meet everyday in our interim housing centers at Breakthrough. Some are very talented but have hit bottom due to complicated circumstances. All are valuable as precious human beings created in the image of God. Like Ted, many of them have family members who have been praying for them for years. Most will not get the shot at fame and fortune that Ted Williams is experiencing, but with attention and a strong network of loving support, they can rise to start a new life. There are many inspiring stories waiting to be discovered.

I wish Ted the best and join his mother in saying, “Don’t disappoint us Ted.” I wonder, will the world still be there to support him if he falls?