every. single. day.

all those good people

scurrying back and forth

carrying lists

lists of groceries for the food they’ll prepare

for their many,

lists of presents for the friends and family afar,

lists of gifts for the children,

lists of things to do during the hustle and bustle

of the holidays

 

and on that list

for many

“serve a meal

to those in need”

 

oh bless them

it’s a beautiful thing,

it really is,

to want to help those in need–

many come and ask,

do you know?

how?  where?  when?

 

and I do

but I don’t think they want to hear

if you only have one day, one hour a year

please just don’t

 

don’t serve a meal and never come back

don’t hand out groceries and go home

and forget

don’t stand out in the cold,

pouring hot chocolate into cups

that are sipped slowly,

for the warmth on the hands

is more needed than the drink,

don’t hand them a cup

and then go home and climb into bed and never

think of them again

 

for these folks who are just

a check mark

on a list

they live this life everyday

they sleep in the cold and the heat

they fight frostbite and mosquito bites

they can’t get a job to buy a car

because they don’t have a car,

they can’t go to job interviews

because they don’t have the clothes to wear,

a never-ending cycle of loss and need

 

folks need your help and love and offers

of kindness

not just on the fourth Thursday or the

twenty-fifth

or on the day of rest

but every. single. day.

 

and they need what they need–

food, shelter, clothes, homes–

but what they need most of all

is someone

someone

you

me

us

to sit with them

walk with them

listen to them

every. single. day

 

offer not what you think they need

one day or two

to fill you with holiday spirit…..

instead ask their story

and listen

and the pain and sadness in the brokenness

of the story

and the laughter and the joy

is not so different from yours and mine

it only lacks a caring listener

not just once

but every. single.  day.

 

go

be

that

one

for

another

 

 

 

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

“I Think Jesus Loves a Good Hootenanny”

“Why I Don’t Volunteer with Homeless People” 

The Man from Hollywood…..and the Christmas Spirit

This afternoon I made a trip up to Daybreak.  We weren’t officially having our Sister Circle today, but since the shelter is closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, I wanted to go up and see our friends and wish them a Merry Christmas.

As I was saying goodbye to Mac and wishing him a good Christmas, I gave him a hug and noticed that his coat was damp.  The perils of living outside.  When it rains, everything you owns gets wet.  It is hard–this balancing loving someone whose choices put his very life at risk.  He has other options, other resources.  This is his choice at this time, I have to keep reminding myself.  It still didn’t keep me from worrying about the wind that was getting colder by the minute and him in those damp clothes as he limped away to his “camp” with his friends.

I was lost in my thoughts, standing on the sidewalk outside Daybreak watching him go, when this gentleman carrying two bags stopped and said hello. I turned toward him.

“You volunteer here, don’t you?” he asked.

“Yessir, I do.”

He stuck his hand out and introduced himself.  “I’m Sanford Robertson.  I’ve been in Macon twenty-three days now.  I’m from Hollywood, Florida.”

My mouth dropped.  “Hollywood, Florida?  Really?  My Mama was born there.”

He smile grew bigger.  He asked me if it was a specific hospital.  I couldn’t be sure and told him so.  I told him how I’d misunderstood when I was little about Mama being born in Hollywood, as you might imagine.

He laughed.  “Yes.  A lot of people get them mixed up.  It’s not THAT Hollywood.”

Y’all. I felt like I had a wink from my Mama.  Especially with the next words he said.

“You know there’s a blessing coming for you, right?  You just have to hang on a little while longer.  But yes ma’am, there’s one coming for you.”

I felt like Mama was there encouraging me again.  Hang in there.  It will be okay.  Oh my heart.

Mr. R continued to share his story.  He’s in town because he trusted someone, a fiancée, a little too much, followed her here, and gave her all his money. After which she was no longer his fiancée.  And so he’s stuck here.  Until he can work something else out.

In the meantime, he walks the streets of Macon making people smile and blessing them.  And sharing the spirit of Christmas and the Spirit.

Last week he found himself at the bus station.  There was a young woman there, crying her eyes out. “She was a child really,” he said.  “Twenty-two years old.  Babies having babies.  She has two.”

He approached her and asked, “Why are you crying, child?”

She sobbed harder.  He stood there until she could gather herself and speak again.  Turns out she was in a hard place.  She and her sister live in a home together with their four little ones between them–the youngest less than two months old.  She can’t pay the bills and she’s scared.

Mr. R offered to pray with her.  She nodded.  They joined hands and he prayed.  He’s a preacher’s kid, so he’s heard a few in his life.  After the prayer, she thanked him and he started to walk away.

“You ever have one of those moments when the Spirit taps you on the shoulder and wants you to do something, and you look around sure that He’s got the wrong person?  That He doesn’t really mean YOU?”

Ummm, once or twice, yessir.  Sure have.

“Well, the Spirit told me I should offer her the groceries I was about to pick up from the Mission.  I shook my head, and I kept on walking.  At least I tried to.  Yeah, I tried to keep on walking away, but it’s like my feet were frozen in place.  You know what I mean?”

I do.  We’ve all got a bit of Jonah in us, don’t we?

He sighed.  “Well, I finally figured out I wasn’t going to be leaving without doing what the Spirit wanted me to do, so I turned back around, and I told her where I was heading and that whatever I had coming my way was hers.  Hers and that family of hers.”

He tugged at his jacket.  The wind was picking up a bit. He continued his story. “Then she asked me, ‘Just tell me this one thing.  Why do you want to do this?’ and I told her, ‘I don’t want to do this.  But I’m going to.'”

I laughed.  He chuckled too.

“Well, I went on down to the Mission.  I told the man there, I was straight with him, that things had changed a bit, and that I had a friend who was in a bad way.  Worse than I was.  And he loaded me down with a ham, turkey, case of peanut butter, rice……” He listed all the things he could remember receiving.  They were very generous.  He estimated it was $75-$80 worth of groceries.  But I’m telling you I went to the store just the other day.  It was worth a lot more than that.

Mr. R started thinking about how he was going to get all of these groceries across town.  “That devil was trying to get me to keep those groceries for myself, I can tell you that.  From the moment I tried to walk away from her, he was a’tryin’ to change my mind.  But I was having none of that.  I used to be full of foolishness, but God’s working on me, and I’m not going to go back on my word that easy.”

He stood outside the Mission.  He had $3 to his name, all in his pocket.  He offered it to a few folks to drive him over to the young woman’s home.  Seems they all were headed in a different direction.  Again that devil was offering him an out.  Then he saw a grocery cart close by.  Just there, belonging to nobody.  So he loaded everything in it.  And tried to figure out how he was going to push that heavy cart all the way to her home.

“Then I seen one of them homeless fellas from down here [Daybreak] walk by.  I told him I had $3 and that was all I had, but it was all his if he’d help me push this cart over to her house.”  He paused and waved his arm out.  “We pushed that thing up all them hills, but you know, he stuck with me the whole time.”

When he got there, the young woman wasn’t home.  Her sister was, and she could scarce believe her eyes.  He opened their refrigerator and there was a half jug of milk and a bottle of water.  And that was all.  Hardly anything in their pantry either.  And they weren’t going to get any more assistance before January 1.

Y’all.  I can’t even.

He unloaded, and the sister timidly asked him a question.  “Mr. R?  Do you mind if I give you a hug?”

He said he has granddaughters older than these girls, and that when that “child” hugged him, she held on tight.  “You just don’t know how you’ve saved us,” she said.  “You just don’t know.”

The young woman who hadn’t been home when he made his delivery called him at the shelter later on.  She, too, was in tears.  “I had no idea you’d bring this much.  Thank you.  Thank you so much.”

By now the clouds were gathering and turning into shades of dark gray.  My sweatshirt that had been too warm on the ride up to Macon was nowhere near enough as I stood there listening to Mr. R’s story.  I was thankful he had on a few more layers.

“So you see, like I told her then, there’s a blessing coming, child.  I don’t know from where or when, but you hang on.  It’s coming.  One day.  It will come.” He asked me my name.  I told him. “For you too, Tara.  It’s coming.”

I looked at Mr. R, and for a moment, I was really puzzled.  Could it be that this man, who was headed out this afternoon, walking to the Salvation Army in the hopes of finding a bed for the night, had not a clue that HE was her blessing?  And in many ways–mine for today?

As we parted ways, me not sure if I would ever see him again or if I would get to hear how his story turned out, I gave thanks for Mr. R and his story.  And his birth and life in Hollywood, Florida.  And for his ways, so much like my Mama’s, who also would have given the shirt off her back if someone needed it.  Or her ham and turkey and last $3.  Whatever it took.

What a story for Christmas!  And everyday.  He reminds me of The Story of the Other Wise Man by Henry Van Dyke.  He was interruptible, and he changed lives with his gift.  I wonder if those little ones looked at the man coming through the door with all those goodies loaded in a grocery cart, and thought that Father Christmas, Santa Claus himself, had arrived at their door.

The Spirit called him, and he answered.  May it be so with all of us.  (And God, when (not if, I’m afraid) I try to walk away, please freeze my feet too!)

Love to all.  And to all a good night.  Sleep well, Mac, I pray you are somehow miraculously warm and dry.  And Mr. R, may you sleep the slumbers of a soul done good, and those little ones and the sisters with full tummies, may you dream the sweet dreams of those who have been touched by love, a love that asks for nothing in return.  The true Spirit of Christmas.  And the Spirit of every day.

He’s One of the Good Guys

You know, you have family you are born into, and then you have family that comes up on the porch, opens the screen door and walks right in, sits down, and enters into the story seamlessly.  You kind of have a hard time remembering when they weren’t there.

My brother-in-law is one of those folks.

I like to call him Leroy.

I remember when I first heard of him, but I don’t remember when he walked in and I met him.  My sister had been staying with me and my girls over the Christmas holidays in 2005, while my husband was deployed.  My BIL worked with my sister in Atlanta, and they were just friends.  He had called her and said he was coming down to Macon for New Year’s Eve, that he wanted to get out of Atlanta.  She started to go meet him but decided not to enter into the crazy foolishness that can be New Year’s Eve in the “big city.”   When she called him and said basically, hey, just kidding, I’m not coming, his reply was that’s okay, I’ll be in town through tomorrow.  They had a New Year’s morning breakfast the next day.  I guess the old saying about what you do on New Year’s Day you’ll do all year long is true, because after that breakfast I just don’t remember Leroy not being a part of our lives.

This man is somebody really special, though if he sits down to read this, he’ll probably say, oh please, and push it to the side because something needs doing.  That’s one of the things I really respect about him.  He’s a guy who gets things D-O-N-E–done.  In looking back through my old photos, I don’t have very many, because he’s rarely still long enough for one to be taken.

See, he's hardly ever NOT doing something--my awesome BIL taking care of the yard at Mama's a couple of years ago.  Love.  Him.

See, he’s hardly ever NOT doing something–my awesome BIL taking care of the yard at Mama’s a couple of years ago. Love. Him.

He’s a great Daddy.  My sister stayed at home with their son for a year.  After that time, with many factors playing into the decision, my brother-in-law left his job to stay at home with their son.  He sacrificed five years of his career to be a big part of his son’s life in a society–let’s face it–that doesn’t always know what to do with that choice.  He gives his love and affection so freely with his words and actions that it moves me to tears.  He’s a tough guy, but not always.

Leroy’s an awesome uncle too.  Two years ago my oldest was away in north Georgia on a youth trip.  She had some health issues come up and needed to come home.  It was this guy who drove and picked her up since he was closer.   I drove and picked my girl up from their house in Duluth, and we had a nice unexpected day with him and my nephew before heading back.

It was in 2009 that he truly shined.  And has since then.  When Daddy was admitted to the hospital in town on August 24 and transferred to Emory five days later, it was the beginning of a period in our lives of exhaustion, worry, frustration, and coping.  Daddy was sent home after about a month at Emory.  It was Leroy who drove Mama and Daddy home.  He had been so good about checking on them at the hospital or holding down the home front so my sister could be there as much as possible.  When Daddy came in the door at home that night, it was Leroy in the background, making sure everything was going smoothly, toting bags, making a pit stop, grabbing a slice of pizza and driving back to Atlanta that same night.  He made so many of those trips.  He got up at oh-dark-thirty, drove the two and half hours to my parents’ house, arriving soon in the morning, helping them into the van, and taking them up to Emory for Daddy’s treatment.  Later that day he made the trek back down to bring them home before he headed all the way back to his house.  When things needed doing, he was the one who talked it over with Daddy, such a gracious respect, and then he did them.  He and Daddy had something special.  It was Leroy who went with me over to the cemetery to pick out Daddy’s plot on what turned out to be one week before the funeral, five days before Daddy left this world.  He was patient as I wandered somewhat aimlessly around the old country churchyard, reading gravestones and calling him over to see them too.  It’s the quiet moments like this that truly make me appreciate all he is.

For the fifteen months that Mama lived without Daddy, this man was right there to help with things as Mama needed.  She respected and appreciated his opinion and would often ask him what he thought.  He always had her best interests in mind.  He’s a good guy like that.  And when she went in for her HospitalStay, he never blinked an eye at my sister staying indefinitely down here.  He came down as often as he could.  He took that time to make things better for Mama around the house, straightening up some things–for example, getting and putting together a shoe organizer for the back door–he wanted things to be just right when she came home.  Which, unfortunately, never happened.  And his heart broke too.

Mama loved all of her children’s spouses like they were her own.  And Leroy was special to her for sure.   She fussed at me or my sister when we would tease him–you leave him alone, she’d say.  I accused him of trying to be her favorite.  She’d grin really big at me and say, “Trying nothing.”  And he’d laugh.  Yeah, he was her oldest.  And seeing as how that used to be my spot, I think I’m okay with that.  And sometimes, just maybe, he was her favorite too.

Mama and her "favorite" cogitating on things back in 2011.  Love those two.

Mama and her “favorite” cogitating on things back in 2011. Love those two.

I always wanted an older brother.  I thought it would be cool.  And what do you know, I was right!  Because my BIL, whom I will henceforth call my big brother is giving us all a great gift–that of togetherness.  He and my sister are moving back to our hometown.  I’m so thankful for that gift, and I won’t let them forget it.

Today is my big brother’s birthday.  In honor of him and his special day, I won’t tell how old he really is (but yeah, older than me!) and I share this video.  Because he’s who they’re talking about in this video.  He is that friend.  He’s one of those legendary good guys.  I’m lucky he walked through that door and joined us.  (And didn’t run away hollerin’.)  Seamlessly.  Love you Leroy.  Happy Birthday!