Saturday, December 29, 2007

Lessons under the bridge

This morning at 7 a.m., the youth workers and the youth group that we are attempting to lead had an appointment. On the last Saturday of each month, we are scheduled to assist with an established ministry that feeds breakfast to the homeless underneath the Broadway Bridge in North Little Rock. I say that we attempt to lead this group of young people, because this morning, three adults and zero teenagers showed up.
Did I say on my blog profile that I am amused by teenagers? Scratch that this morning.

It is a good thing, I think, to get out of our warm safe living rooms and do something other than go shopping or out to eat. It is a good thing for me at least. It has changed me.

The first time we drove under the bridge, I expected to see a dozen or more men that we would serve. Instead, what I saw, was about 100 men and women milling around. Some were physically ill. Some were obviously mentally ill. Most were gracious and pleasant. They were tired and cold. Hardened, but helpful,...they converged onto the truck to assist with the unloading of tables and food.
We set up a line of eggs, sausage, biscuits and gravy. Hot coffee and OJ. This morning was the holidays, so we served grits and had several crates of grape juice! The guests get as much as they want, and in fact, the cooks make sure there are leftovers.
Our teens are usually right there on the serving line, dishing up the food.

A typical morning under the bridge is pretty uneventful.
Not this morning.

At the end of the serving line, there is always a place where we stack books. This morning's book pile included several copies of a book entitled "The Art of Abundance". I thought it an odd book to take to a homeless population, but I was humbled by the number of them who knew the book, had read the book and wanted their own copy.
"The Art of Abundance" will definitely be on my "to read" list for 2008.

I was amused by a man who wanted "light" gravy, because he was watching his cholesterol levels.
He lives under a bridge and he is worried about heart disease?
Say it ain't so.

Two particular women stand out in this homeless group. One is very frail, weak and mentally ill. She is quick to smile but mostly keeps to herself. The others call her "touched", but obviously care deeply for her. She is often the first to get "new clothes" from the huge bags of clothes brought for all.
The other woman is mean-spirited. The nurse in me notices that she is also physically ill. She breaks in line, grabs things out of peoples hands and hoards the handouts. The other men and women seem to give her a wide berth. She is always alone.

This morning, for some reason, the mean woman chose to abuse the frail woman by dumping hot coffee down over her head and onto her clothes. The frail, weak woman cried out and the entire place erupted into a screaming mob. Some of the homeless converged onto the frail woman, assisting her out of her wet clothes and checking her for injuries from the heat of the coffee.
The rest of the turned their anger onto the mean woman,. They called her names that I have never heard and strung more cuss words into one sentence than I thought possible. The verbal assault on her continued as she slouched away and was out of sight.
Alone again.

The frail one received "new" clothes from the bag and from her friends as they even offered and gave her their "new" clothes off of their backs. I was reminded of what I heard on the radio as I got dressed for this morning (Really. I am not making this up. I heard this on the radio at about 6:45 this morning.) "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy". I thought then that the message was for me. That I was getting ready this morning to go show some mercy.
Bless my heart. (sing song voice)

Instead, I was given a front row seat to observe the best show of mercy that I have witnessed in a long time.
My homeless brothers and sisters made the Bible passage come alive.

Profanity and all.

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