Sunday, January 17, 2010

We Don’t Need No Stinking BBQ

Well, today was our much anticipated, long awaited, and eagerly planned for BBQ for the Homeless. Guess what? We never even unloaded the grill from the back of the truck. Now, you might think that would have me in all kinds of fits of despair but that could not be further from the truth. When our plans were once again dashed upon the rocks of frustration, I had to literally stand back for a minute and ask, “God, what are you doing and why am I getting it so wrong?” That’s when plan B which actually turned into plan C which was probably suppose to be plan A all along, well it finally came together.

When we first arrived, security from the Rescue Mission said we were not going to be allowed to grill on their property. When I nicely asked if they would have a problem with us grilling on public property next to theirs, I was told yes, the police would probably be called to make sure we had a permit. A permit? To give away FREE food to homeless people. Seriously? I could feel my smart mouth tude rising up into my throat so before I lost my Christianity in front of these fine people, I thanked them and strolled across the street to plan B, The Refuge.

The Refuge was a major hub of prostitution and crack dealing until two years ago. A crazy man named Tim bought the building, packed up his little family and moved from California into the pit of hell…literally. Other crazies have since joined him and are living there also. From the outside it looks like an old warehouse. On the inside, it is simply apartments where families and singles live. These people all have jobs and support themselves. There is nothing strange … until. Until you realize every single person living in that building feels called there for one and the same purpose: to build a relationship with a homeless person and take back what has been destroyed. I’m not just talking about the neighboring buildings and streets. These people want to take back the lives that have been destroyed. They are radical and yet normal everyday blokes. I like them.

So, when I threw myself on Tim’s mercy to let us BBQ in their parking lot, he gave me an incredible gift instead. He gave me plan A disguised as plan C. He took me out front, right on the street and said, “Marla, I want you to see something. I think it will answer a lot of your questions and tell you why you are really coming down here all the time.” So we stood out front and watched as car after car pulled up and homeless people ran over, grabbed what was offered and ran back to their original spots on the street. I watched as beautiful cars filled with smiling beautiful people drove away, happy that they had reached out to someone in need. Then I watched their offerings being thrown on the ground. That’s right. Right there where we stood, food and clothing were literally thrown in the street.

Tim explained that people like us had trained the homeless to behave like animals in many ways. We drive up in our cars; they run to the window, grab the bag and run off. No harm, no foul. Forget that they already get three meals a day from the local shelter and churches. Forget that they have more jackets and gloves and hats than they know what to do with because of well meaning people like us. I would not have believed Tim if I had not gone walking the streets with him and seen the discarded clothes and food with my own eyes. My stomach hurt and I felt sick.

“So, what do we do? Is there nothing we can do to make a difference?”

“There is definitely something you can do to make a difference. It’s what you have been talking about doing but just going about it the wrong way. Come down here and hang out with them. Talk to them. Plant flowers around The Refuge. Mow lawns. Pick up the trash left behind. Show them you value them by bringing life into this darkness. They want relationship as much if not more than you do.”

So that’s what we did today. We stood on the corners for hours and talked to people. When a young man approached me and held his hand out to me, I took it. I asked his name, spoke comfort to him as I would hope a mother would do for one of my sons and I prayed for strength for this journey I am on. I sat with women at a table and listened to their stories of frustration at not being heard. I handed out bags of toiletries to each woman that crossed my path. I hugged Diane, laughed with Brenda and admired Tana’s tattoos.

Finally, it was time to go. As we drove away I still felt like something was missing. I knew we were finally on the right track but there was one question still unanswered for me. “Who is it, Lord? Point her out. If you’ll do that Lord, I’ll open my heart and my home to get her out of here. Please God, give me one.” I asked Bob to go back and make one last pass down the main street so I could look one more time.

Her name is Nikki.

26 comments:

Parsley said...

God has certainly blessed you with bravery and his peace in situations I'd be uncomfortable in.

I can't wait to hear more about Nikki.

justsomethoughts... said...

damn it marla!
for pete's sake
stop making me cry

youre a guilt-complex-foister
i hope you're happy now
i hope you sleep well tonight

Oklahoma Granny said...

Thank you for an insight I'd never considered before. God bless you for the work you are doing. I can't wait to hear more about Nikki.

Oklahoma Granny said...

Marla, Have you ever visited Lady Liberty Patriot's blog? The poem today reminded me of you and your special work so if you aren't familiar with her blog you can read it here: http://www.ladylibertypatriot.com/2010/01/helping-hands.html

Respectfully Yours said...

I love you posts. They are so honest and heartfelt. God Bless you and the work you do.

Queen-Size funny bone said...

Nikki is the chosen one

Sonya said...

Wow I never ever thought about the things Tim told you..but of course it makes sense doesn't it? they arent animals that wonder the streets..they are human, like all of us.

I can't wait to hear from about Nikki.

honeypiehorse said...

Ouch. Although that sounds like an unusually well-endowed shelter, I know several in the Bay Area where they don't have so much stuff they need to throw it away. Human contact is in scarce supply, good for you for offering it. That sounds like weak praise but I really admire you for putting yourself out there.

Anna, The Lemon Lady said...

Wow! All I can say is Wow! Amazing how you describe the fellow from California - moving into the pit of hell. More amazing is that there are beautiful souls in the world who really do care about others. Love the insight. Do good. God Bless.

Amarja said...

I am very curious about Nikki! Our God is an awesome God! :)

Nancy C said...

This is amazing. I've been feeling the nudge to do more, say more, act more...and here you are, doing the real deal. Thanks for another nudge.

Nicole said...

Need I even ask if you've read Same Kind of Different As Me?? You are living that life.

Oklahoma Granny said...

Marla, I know you've received the Lemonade Stand award before but I just had to recognize you again.

You always find a way to make lemonade out of the lemons that come your way.

Have a blessed day!

Unknown Mami said...

Sometimes we have the best intentions and want to help, but can not see past our own realities. Sometimes the problems can not be solved from the outside, but must be solved from the inside. We know this, but we forget. Teach people to fish, not give them fish; help those that help themselves. Realize that these are people with insight and use their insight to help.

I'm looking forward to hearing more about Nikki.

Marla said...

Deena ~ I don't think I have a brave bone in my body. I just don't know any better. The story continues...

justsomethoughts ~ Did you just call me a guilt-complex-foister? ROFL!!!! Because if you truly did, I am quite happy and shall sleep like a baby tonight!

Ok Granny ~ Thank crazy man Tim. I couldn't figure it out until he put my face in the middle of the street. This story is just beginning...

Going to check out the blog you suggested. Thank you!

Respectfully Yours ~ Yeah, my "honesty" is what use to drive my poor parents half crazy. Thank you anyway! :-)

Queen ~ Poor girl! She has no idea what she's in for. :-)

Sonya ~ It was so obvious I couldn't see it. I can't wait either...

honeypiehorse ~ Things are definately not the way I thought they were that's for sure. I am really excited about what's ahead.

Anna ~ I am so inspired by what you do. We will be gleaning fruit from neighbors this year for the food bank because of you. Thank you!

Amarja ~ Me too and yes He is!

Nancy ~ That's what this life is about, each of us nudging one another.

Nicole ~ I read Same Kind of Different As Me about 5 years ago. It was a pivotal moment in my thinking. What an awe inspiring story of courage, love and sacrifice. Have any of your girls read it?

Ok Granny ~ Seriously!?!? Ah, thank you!

Mami ~ So well said as usual. You are so right.

gayle said...

You are an angel on earth!!

Marla said...

gayle ~ An angel with horns. That's what my mom always said and she never lied. :-)

Auntie Cake said...

Bless Tim for what he has done, and for taking time to show you around. I know you are going to love the new way you are going to help these people. I just know it, it might not be the way you imagined, but in the end, it will be more than you imagined. How wonderful!!! And, can't wait to find out more about Nikki!
Kate

Mama Zen said...

Just, wow.

Marla said...

Kate ~ "it might not be the way you imagined, but in the end, it will be more than you imagined."

This pretty much sums up my entire life....most days! lol

Mama Zen ~ But can you say that backwards? lol

Nicole said...

My oldest, 14, just read it. I'm reading it aloud to my 9 and 12 year old girls. Gave my oldest and I pause and really opened up some intense conversations for the two of us. A bonding experience of sorts. I'm hoping reading it to my other two, one is extremely sensitive and the other a bit too young to get it on her own, will give us girls all something to discuss that delves deeper than our everyday occurances.

BTW...called your sister again. No return call. Told David I'm just going to come. I'm thinking next week if I can work out childcare. Wish me luck.

SmokeysMountain said...

FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO FEEL LIKE GOD CAN USE YOU BUT YOU JUST DONT QUITE KNOW HOW?heres a quik easy effective hands on way to directly be his hands and feet .............................................................MATERIALS NEEDED ARE AS FOLLOWS AND ASIDE FROM YOUR BIBLE THE COST IS USUALLY BETWEEN 25 TO 30 BUCKS AT THE GROCERY OR 99 CENT STORE.YOU WILL NEED=========YOUR BIBLE ,4 LOAVES OF BREAD,3PACKS OF SLICED CHEESE ,AND 3 PACKS OF BOLOGNY,1 BOTTLE OF MUSTARD AND 1 BOX AF SANDWICH BAGS..1 BIG JUG FULL OF COFFEE LIKE A LARGE COOLER JUG AND SOME CUPS....ASSEMBLE THE SANWICHES INTO BOLOGNY AND CHEESE AND INTO THE BAGS THEN TAKE YOUR BIBLE THE SANDWICHES AND THE COFFEE AND A GUITAR IF YOU CAN AND A COUPLE OTHERS AS WELL TO DELIVER GODS WORD WITH YOU AND THEN IF THERE IS AN AREA WHERE HOMELESS FOLKS GATHER THAT YOU ARE AWARE OF ,,GO THERE AND WITH ALL OF THIS AND HOLD UP YOUR BIBLE AND SAY ''IVE GOT THE WORD OF GOD HERE AND SOME SANDWICHES AND COFFEE COME AND GET FED FREE SANWICHES AND COFFEE GO A LONG WAY FOR THE LORD AND YOU WILL BE SURPRISED TO SAY THE LEAST TO SEE WHAT GOD DOES THRU YOUR WILLIGNESS .THIS IS A PROVEN AND PROVEN THING HERE .TRY IT IF U CAN.YOU WILL BE BLESSED AND THEY WILL BE FED. WIN WIN WIN! ! !

Kate said...

What a beautiful post. That really touched me

Marla said...

Nicole ~ How wonderful that you and your girls are sharing that reading experience. It is such a worthwhile read.

So glad you are going, btw. I know she really loves you and has always spoken so highly of you as her friend and as a mother. Good for you!

Smokey ~ Thanks for stopping by

Kate ~ So when are you coming to my side of the pond to hang out? You need a break from that office! :-)

Lily Robinson said...

I had a very close childhood friend named Nikki. I can't wait to here more about your Nikki.

There is a blog I follow whose soul purpose is to collect hats, scarves and gloves for the needy and homeless. Now you're telling me they get thrown away?

I learned a lot from this post.

Marla said...

Lily ~ I am hoping to see Nikki this weekend. As for the hats and gloves being thrown out on the streets....I am not sure that happens everywhere or with every person. I only know it is happening here. We should never allow something like that to stop us from reaching out, though.