Monday, February 6, 2012

The Premonition of a Calling

In my UCOR class we are talking about what it means to have a home, and where we find our identity.  We are also talking about gifts, and how people manage their talents.  It seems like we have extremely in depth conversations every day, something I’ve been longing for in a class since I’ve been here.

I’ve finally found it and it’s like a breath of fresh air.

Today, a gentleman from Tent City (which is currently located on the SPU gym track) came and spoke to us about what it’s like to be homeless.  He felt that he had constantly burdened his family by always couch surfing between their homes when he lived in San Diego, so he traveled to Seattle for something new.  Now he lives in Tent City, a community of homeless people that has a few simple rules.

           1)   You must be 18.
           2)   You cannot be listed as a sex offender.
           3)   No form of drugs or alcohol is allowed. 

I listened extremely attentively to his story and soaked in every word that he said.  For being homeless he is extremely literate, I thought while he gave a simple and straightforward speech about his living style and how he felt about other peoples’ reactions toward him. 

Turns out, quite a few homeless people have jobs, but they don’t have enough money to pay rent.  They would rather use the money for food, clothing, or things that they consider more important and essential.

I was shocked to find out how ashamed and embarrassed he was of being homeless.  It wasn’t something that he could help and it hurt him that other people looked down upon him because he didn’t have a consistent roof over his head.  He was burdened by the fact that homeless people have the reputation of always being drug addicts or criminals, something that is far from being the truth.  

Our guest speaker was clean-shaven,
Dressed accordingly,

And homeless. 

He told us, yes, sometimes people are on the streets because they have substance abuse issues, but a lot of the time they simply can’t afford a home.  They don’t have enough money to sustain themselves on the “typical” American lifestyle. 

He now speaks to the mayor and advocates on behalf of the homeless people and the community of men and women that live in Tent City.  Every few months they need to move locations, and someone has to figure it out for them.

At first my classmates and I were timid about asking questions, but once one person raised their hand everyone else had something to ask as well.  Eventually I raised mine.  “Have you ever considered writing your story down so that people can read it and learn from your experiences?  And so they can understand what it’s like to be you?”

He looked at me, smiled, and then answered, “I would love too, but I don’t have time.  There are so many other things for me to take care of and I wouldn’t have the time to write out my story.” 

Bummer.  It would be such a great story to write.  I bet it would be a great story that a lot of people would read.

My mind became a whirlwind of thoughts as I continued to listen to the rest of his answers to various questions, including one about religion, which turns out to be a sensitive subject in a camp full of people without homes.  (I find that totally understandable.)

Before I knew it the questioning was over and the man I would have never taken for homeless if I had passed him on the street, left. 

Then I bowed my head and without warning tears started slipping from my eyes.  I couldn’t stop and they were spilling over my cheeks and down my face.  I wasn’t making a sound, but I was gushing tears everywhere.  What is going on?  Why am I crying? 

My friend Rochelle saw me.  “Oh my goodness, what’s wrong?”

I started spewing something about how lucky we are and how much we have and how I wanted to help them somehow.  I just couldn’t believe they were right down the street in tents in the middle of Queen Anne, Seattle while the rest of us were snug in our dorms and pretty houses.

It was if some kind of spring inside of me had burst loose.  I have known for a long time that I have a heart for homeless people, but I didn’t know it was so strong that it could cause me to be perfectly content one moment and spewing tears the next.  All I wanted to do was run down to Tent City and spend the rest of the day talking to the people who live there. 

The wheels in my mind were, and are, still turning.

What if working with homeless people is my calling?  What if I can somehow pair that with the incredible gift for writing that God has given me?  What if, what if, what if…

I’ve decided I’m going to seriously pray about this.
My heart is telling me that this isn’t something I can ignore.
I’ve gone my whole life seeing but I feel as I’ve I finally need to DO something. 

It would take far too long for me to explain how these puzzle pieces have fallen in place the last few months but I do have a general idea of what I need to start doing, and I’m slowly working on that.

The rest is unknown, but I will be keeping everyone updated.  That’s for sure.        

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