Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Kids

Today was the Best Day Ever at TLPTC! Rainy, hot, busy, youth group coming – could have been a recipe for disaster. So, wait, that sounds bad. I love youth groups! I love kids! ……. But…… they scare me a little. I remember being 13 and I was the kind of kid that would scare the daylights out of me today. And, our place, it’s not the usual. It’s loud and hectic and crowded. Teenagers need their space, right? They don’t like to get up early and listen to an old lady (me) drone on about the importance of protein and why the cereal should all face the same way. They don’t hang out with the kind of people I do ~ people without homes, people who push shopping carts filled with their only belongings, people who are scarred – inside and out, people who to most, are invisible except for the liquor bottle and ratty clothes by which they are judged. These are My People, but a bunch of kids? How are they gonna take this crazy place and all these Interesting People? 

So when they first got there, I gave my speech – some food blah blah, but mostly people blah blah. I always feel compelled to “prepare” people for this experience. To “warn” them that this atmosphere is a little freaky. I beg them to get to know our amazing family and to not be scared of them. So, then the speech was over and they were off. I stepped back and crossed my fingers. 

As I was fliting around, I started overhearing the conversations These Kids were having with My People. I saw them look them in the eye. I heard them laughing with them. More than a few times, a kid would catch me and say “I’m having the best time!” or ‘I just love whoever was their new favorite shopper’. More than a few times one of the shoppers would say “I’m having the best time with these kids!” or ‘I just love whoever was their new favorite kid’. More than a few times I thought “This is truly the best day ever!” These kids today moved me in a way that hasn’t happened in a while. I felt tears welling up when it was time for them to go because I knew they really got it I knew that they would be taking My People – Their People – home with them in their hearts.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Housing, Ventilator and Hope

Today was the Best Day Ever at TLPTC! Been a minute since I’ve written – lots going on at our place and in my head.

Several of our peeps have gotten housing through the Hows Nashville Campaign. Awesome (!) but just the first step of a journey. Packing boxes, finding furniture. Helping people learn how to live “in a place”, understanding that they really don’t know how. Feeling an incredible joy and a knot in your stomach at the same time. 

And, there’s more ~ Terry finished re-hab, Bobby got a prosthetic leg, Ashley got a job. All great events, but things that don’t end there. It’s just the beginning. Now they’ve gotta learn how to live sober, walking and working.

I’ve said that being busy with all this was the reason I haven’t written, but it’s not. Today is the 1 year anniversary of our bad summer. One year ago today, we lost our first family member, Kenneth. And August 5th will be the anniversary of losing Our Mike. I’m still trying to learn how to live without them. I’ve been waiting for June 30th to hit, wondering what I would feel today. Now I know. It feels just like every other day with a huge, gaping hole in it where they should be. One year ago was just the beginning.

I don’t talk about it much with anyone. I learned the hard way that very few people understand the relationships we have with these people we call Family. One of my guys that I love so much is incredibly sick. On a ventilator – “very little hope” – not expected to make it. I’ve been at the hospital talking to him, wondering if he could hear me. Hoping that he didn’t hear the fear in my voice, hoping that he couldn’t tell that all I was thinking about was June 30th and how was I going to live through another bad summer. How was I going to live without him? 

But yesterday, he woke up. He came off the vent. He used what little voice he had to tell me he loved me. It was like I woke up too. He’s not out of the woods and neither am I. Everyday I’m learning how to live in this moment, without the people that I don’t have any more and with the people that I do have. It’s a journey and everyday is just the beginning.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Define and Divide

Today was the Best Day Ever at TLPTC! When the dust settled I had the rare opportunity to just sit and talk to a few of my favorite people. This one fella - we have always said we have radically different views about the things that we tell ourselves are important – politics, religion, social issues. You know, the things that we fight about and puff up about and get indignant and self-righteous about. The things that we too often let define and divide us. I’m a “Liberal” or I’m a “Christian” or I’m a “Pro This or That”. We choose our sides and pull out our swords and prepare to fight to the death, even if our opponent is a dear friend, like this guy is to me.

So, he and I, we have agreed to disagree……sorta. I tug at him, he smiles and validates his points, he does the same to me. It’s cool, we never fight – we respect each other too much, but it’s there. Neither one of us are right or wrong.

So, today, he starts telling me about the moment his heart took over his mind and his “side” didn’t seem so important anymore. It was one freezing cold morning at the pantry. He saw one of our families sitting out in the alley, huddling together to stay warm. They were dirty – it was obvious. They were cold. The kids had on scrappy coats and layers of stained clothes. The mom didn’t have a coat. They often go without power or water, bobbling along in a world that finds it easier to ignore them. They sat beside their shopping cart full of groceries, taking a break before they set off on the 3 mile walk back to their tiny home. They hadn’t had breakfast. They hadn’t had much. They hadn’t chosen a “side”.

It was an image that touched him. No, it tore him up. He forgot about Labels and Parties and Policies and Right and Wrong. He saw tiny little faces with huge, missing - toothed smiles. He saw a mom that was doing her best. These were the people who were affected by all the side taking and name calling – not us. To us, it’s a game of who chooses the superior view and who declares themselves the most informed. We debate with our friends and shout about it on facebook. But, on that freezing cold day, he saw the real people who swirl in the aftermath of this game. And, in that moment, he saw that everything – everything that is important – is about a person, not about a view.

I love my friend and I know that we no longer have to “define” and “divide” ourselves. It turns out that we’re not so different after all.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Big Family

Today was the Best Day Ever at TLPTC! …….. ok – way behind. It is Monday morning – not Saturday evening. Confession: I let something get me down and just couldn't get out of the funk and sit down and write. A friend/ fellow volunteer and I were doing a little running around after we left TLP Saturday when we saw one of our guys. I call him an Original. He’s been coming to TLP since we opened the doors nearly 3 years ago. He’s Beautiful and Talented and has the Biggest Heart. He’s also got a monkey on his back that is slowly strangling him. He won’t come around when he is in “bad shape”. He says he doesn't want us to see him like that – so when we ran into him on the street, he was self-conscious and ashamed, it was emotional and draining, we were sad and broken hearted. When you have a family this big, it’s not always pretty. 

I was down for a minute, but this morning I remembered all the good things that happened Saturday. I was getting to know a new guy that came in – he’s without a home and with out of control diabetes, so I decided to introduce him to one of our regular fellas. He’s been on a journey to better health and I knew he could give this guy some tips. They hit if off right away so I left them and got back to work. I looked up a little later to see another guy showing the new guy around giving him the Bad Carb - Good Protein speech I’d given him just months earlier when he found out he was diabetic. He’d heard about this new guy and wanted to help too. The new guy left with beans and tuna and fullness in his heart that he said he hadn’t felt in a long time. 

It was yet another confirmation that we are a fully functioning family at TLP ~ complete with ups and downs. Each of us have come together, some in “bad shape”, some have it figured out, but no matter where you are, you are welcomed and accepted. When you have a family this big, it’s not always pretty, but it is always full of love.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Health Fair Day!

Today was the Best Day Ever! It was Health Fair Day! It was also Saturday. Important detail because for most people, Saturday is their day off, but not today. I’m still in awe when I think about how many people gave up their day off to make sure our folks were taken care of.

Our people are mostly what I call “underserved”. They don’t see the doctor. They don’t get their meds. They don’t get much attention. But today was different. People set up tables and gave them information and checked blood pressures and eyeballs. They were basically telling them, I want you to take care of yourself. I want good things for you. I care.

Other people woke up early ~ really early ~ and braved the rain and marathon traffic and carried grocery bags and served oatmeal and made sure our folks got to all the services they needed. They were basically telling them you can take care of yourself. You deserve good things. You are important.

Today, nobody was “underserved” thanks to all these amazing Providers and Volunteers who spent this Rainy, Beautiful, Best Saturday Ever with us. Sincere thanks to you all.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Spring Is In The Air

Today was the Best Day Ever at TLPTC! Spring is in the air and we appreciated every single minute of this perfect day.

Mary K and Karl had some of our fellas lined up to do a little Spring Cleaning with the hair clippers. They set up the “barber chair” outside and got to work. When it was Vern Vern’s turn, he wasn’t so sure. He lets his beard and his hair get pretty wild in the winter ~ it’s his insulation. We told him Vern! We miss your face! So he said, ok – go for it. Mary K fired up the clippers. We ooohhhd and aaahhhd and took pictures and commented on his twinkly blue eyes while she worked. He needed that.

To us, Vern is the most adored man in West Nashville. He’s a talented musician and a total bookworm and he knows every country song written before 1979 by heart and if he loves you, he will sing to you and if he really loves you, he might ask you to dance. Luckily, we fall into that category and we waltz around with him whenever he asks. But, to the general public, he’s an old guy who digs in the trash and lives in an alley on the cold concrete with not so much as a tree to shelter him from the elements. To them, he’s quiet and doesn’t make eye contact and his clothes are worn and dirty and his face is covered with this wild insulation. But they don’t know what’s underneath all this. They don’t know how much we miss his face.

Vern just turned 62. His life is hard. He’s skinny and his knees hurt. He’s been hit by cars that barely stopped to see how they had dented him. He’s been bitten by frost and unkind and ignorant words from strangers. Sometimes we will look at each other and say – what will we do if we ever lose Vern Vern? We can only say that so often – the thought is unbearable. So, today we showered him with all the love we have and reminded him how special he is. We watched the insulation fall away and took turns memorizing this day and this face that we never want to miss.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words!

Today was the Best Day Ever at TLPTC! Spent the morning with 100 or so of my favorite people on the planet. I seriously doubt that there is anybody who has it better than us.
We’ve been taking pictures lately – and they say a picture is worth a thousand words, so here are just a few of the reasons why today was the Best Day Ever. Hope you see what we see.