I first “met” Hugh Hollowell as “The Marine” Karen Spears Zacharias writes about in Will Jesus Buy Me a Double-Wide?: (‘Cause I Need More Room For My Plasma TV). He is the founder of Love Wins Ministry in Raleigh, North Carolina. Their mission statement is:
We feed people…
But we are not a feeding ministry.
Sometimes, we help people get jobs…
But we are not a job training program.
Maybe 10-12 times a year, someone leaves homelessness with our help…
But we are not a housing ministry.
Yet, at any given moment, we may be doing any of those things.
But what we really are is a ministry of presence and pastoral care for the homeless and at-risk population of Raleigh, NC.
On Saturday and Sunday mornings, friends and volunteers of Love Wins meet at the park (on the sidewalk at the edge–it would require a permit to meet within the park itself, which would cost $1600 per weekend!) and share biscuits and coffee with folks in need. There are no other feeding ministries in Raleigh on the weekends. If you are in need, THIS IS IT. Nothing else all weekend long. Unless you panhandle. Which is illegal.
For six years they’ve been doing this. Just sharing goodness and food and relationships with folks in need in Raleigh–folks who are homeless or otherwise in need. But yesterday morning, August 24, the Raleigh PD came up as folks were gathering and said that there would be no feeding of folks happening–that if anyone handed out a biscuit he or she would be arrested.
*sound of crickets*
Let me get this straight. The good folks who prepared the coffee and breakfast sandwiches and showed up on a Saturday morning will NOT be allowed to share what they have with the good folks who showed up for both physical and spiritual nourishment? Is that what you’re saying? ‘Cause I’m not sure I’m picking up what you are laying down.
I don’t even know, y’all.
(Does anyone else see the dilemma here? Hungry people who cannot be fed as they usually are on the weekend and cannot panhandle to get what they need–ummm, it doesn’t take a mathematician to figure out this equation. Hurting people hurt people, but so do hungry ones.)
Apparently the mayor did meet with Hugh Hollowell today and said that no one would be arrested for the feeding ministry until this is all straightened out. There will be a meeting or a hearing to follow. I am hopeful this can all be straightened out. Soon. In the meantime, there are people who went hungry this weekend because someone was administering the law without looking at the spirit of the law. And the names and faces behind it.
In writing about what happened yesterday, Hugh said, “…..our liberation is bound up in each other.”
My friend Mac is back on the streets. He lasted the ten days of detox/rehab and about six in the transitional housing before he walked. So some could say it’s his choice. And it is. But it’s also his disease and how he’s programmed himself over the years I guess. The alcoholism has a powerful hold on him. He doesn’t want to want to drink, to need the drink, but the desire doesn’t ever completely leave him. And so he’s back.
He came to see me last week right before my Sister Circle. We visited a little before and a lot after. It was good to see him. He is still laughing and teasing. I’m trying to love him where he is and not put expectations on him. Like he go back into Rehab. That I won’t care about him unless he does. I just can’t do that. But it’s hard. Hugh Hollowell is right. My heart is tied up in knots as long as my friend suffers and is on the street. And y’all, there is always a name and a face on the streets. Someone’s child, sister, brother, friend. Whether we know him or her or not. Always. And as long as there are, none of us are free.
Tuesday night after our visit, Mac called me from a friend’s cell phone and asked if I were close by. I was not. Seems that he wanted to see if I could get him a room–“so I can get a shower and get cleaned up.” Mac. This friend, this brother of mine, who has never begged around me before. When he realized I wasn’t in town, he said, “Oh well, that’s all right.”
Frustrated I said goodbye. They have showers and washers and dryers at the Day Center. I don’t understand exactly why he didn’t partake of those things earlier that day. And he has told me many times he prefers sleeping outside, so I’m not sure what that was about. But I got the same call again today. A room. For the night. To get cleaned up.
My heart is breaking. I had to say no.
It’s not about the money. It’s about the relationship. It’s about what his disease is doing to him. It’s about codependency and enabling and addictions. It’s about choices–his and mine. And it’s about transitioning from a friendship to the haves and have-nots. I have the resources to get a room, he does not.
And still I said no.
Yesterday I got angry because the powers that be said no to hot biscuits and coffee for folks in need. Today I tell my friend no to a room that would get him in out of the elements for a night.
I make no sense even to myself. And yet, I’d do it again if asked. And I’m pretty sure I will be. Mac knows I love him, and he even said, when I apologized, “Yeah, I know, it would be enabling me.” Oh yeah, he knows all the key words and phrases. It’s not his first rodeo either.
My little guy has taken to asking “how old were you” questions. “Mama, how old were you when I was born?” “Mama how old were you when you got your first puppy?” “Mama how old were you when you first watched Star Wars?”
If tonight he asked me, “Mama, how old were you when you finally had it all figured out?” I’d have to answer, “I don’t know, baby, I’ll let you know when I do.”
It’s a confusing thing, this loving on all kinds of kinds. All I hope is, as Mr. Hollowell’s ministry says, that in the end “Love wins.” I’m counting on it.
If you’d like to help and support Love Wins, Hugh Hollowell lists names and numbers to call and share your thoughts–even for those of us out of town–at the end of this post. You can like Love Wins on Facebook or subscribe to their blog by e-mail to stay informed.