Street Dwellers

It’s been a while since I’ve consistently walked to my appointments downtown, mostly because of insane heat (wisdom has a way of getting through every now and then). However, today I ignored wisdom, and felt it was time to brave the heat and embrace the sweat. So I walked to the meetings I had today, and, as usual, whenever I slow down and stop the hurry of life, I encounter people and see them through new lenses.

I was walking south on Central just south of McDowell when I encountered a band of street dwellers. They were full of energy and very outgoing.

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As I smiled and nodded a culturally acceptable “hello” to them, the gal in the pony tail (in the back of the picture) said to me, “Hey, what are you carrying that camera around for?”

I told them, “I have a blog and I like to tell stories of people in Phoenix. You guys want a group photo?”

Surprisingly, they all agreed and assembled very quickly for a family photo, and as they did, they said, “You can’t get our beers in the picture though.” They were all sharing two 40’s (that’s slang for 40 ounces of beer) wrapped in a sock, to keep them cool of course.

I said, “That’s alright… just get in there for a group picture. You’re going to be famous.”

Then the tall guy in the Nike shirt, his name is Dallas, said to me, “I’m already famous.” Then he  said, “I’m famous with the man upstairs. He’s the only reason I can wake up every morning and keep living.”

“Alright bro,” I said, and I gave him a high-five and told him to keep looking to Him.

Right at that moment, the light rail horn sounded off, it was coming, and they were in a hurry to leave. Then I said, “You guys look like a great family. Where you guys from?”

Then the same gal who asked why I was carrying around the camera said to me, “We’re homeless. Make sure people know that not all homeless people are bad.” She said it again as she was walking away quickly to catch the light rail. I said, “Will do!” (while I gave her a thumbs up).

Not sure what their lives look like day to day (I have my ideas), but today, the glimpse I got was one of correction that led to compassion.

Correction: Don’t have a single story of street dwellers. The term “homeless” is a bad term. They have a home, it just so happens to be bigger and less convenient than most of ours, and people ought never to be defined as homeless. Home is not always a physical structure.

Compassion: I am praying for street dwellers in a new way today as they navigate the street life, and I wanted to write this blog to allow some of to look at a snapshot of people who live radically different from us and suffer in ways that most of us never do, granted, some of their suffering is self-induced, but not all. We can say that when we stop having single stories of people. Not all street dwellers are bad.

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Street Art in Phoenix (part 2)

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A Beautiful Jewel

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This is Jewel. I was at the A2J community garden taking some photos and video footage, when Jewel walked up to me and said, “This is beautiful (pointing to the garden). Did you do all of this?” I told her, “No, but I know a really cool group of friends who’ve committed to live in this neighborhood and display the love of Jesus in cool ways like investing in a garden like this.” I told her about the prayer house next door as well and all the other amazing things that A2J does in this community.

She lit up! She proceeded to tell me that she comes by here every now and then, but has never really noticed the garden. I asked her where she lives. She told me, “I’m staying on Watkins at a shelter right now. That’s where God has me to be a light for Him. Where He tells me to go, I listen, and that’s where He has me.” It was a beautiful jewel to share a few minutes of eternity with her today. She was definitely full of Christ’s love (Light!). Keep the Light shining Jewel.

Just Tryin’ to Find a Way to Eat

IMG_0825This is Juan. I walked by him today while I was downtown and I asked him what he’s up to today, and he said, “Just tryin’ to find a way to eat man.” Then he asked me if I had any change. I gave him the change I had in my pocket. Some people make a commitment not to give money to guys like Juan because they are afraid they’ll use it for drugs or alcohol. I normally feel that way too, but today when I encountered Juan (who was alone on a crowded street), I was reminded that Jesus gave much more to me, and he ‘knew’ I would waste much of it on things that brought death to my soul. So I thought to myself, “I’ll trust Juan with 89 cents and hope he puts it towards food. If not, it’s on him.”