I used to tell so many more stories in this newsletter, especially in the old, old days when we walked through the woods, from camp to camp, sitting around people’s fire pits hearing the news of the day.
Maybe Jerry found a chicken, frozen solid and not past the date, in the dumpster behind Winn Dixie and he bought some flour and they all had chicken and dumplings....
or about Eva’s hallucination. Eva was a kindergarten teacher who took to drink after her child was killed in an accident. One afternoon, in a stupor of beer and listerine, she had a hallucination – but not of elephants or giant spiders. She saw little children running through the woods laughing and playing and she held her arms out to them. Soon after Eva stopped drinking and she had her own little apartment and was reunited with her family before the end. Maybe someone who drinks so much but has such a loving heart can have her own special hallucination and then find her way home...
I will never forget Henry who loved owls and felt he could communicate with them. One day he was standing in the parking lot of Shands, where he worked as a janitor. He looked up and saw an owl on the roof and then an owl feather fell at his feet.
It’s different now with so many homeless people, needing so much, but we still have our moments, especially at the small stops. Tuesday night two journalism students who are doing a class project on hunger rode along and they were talking to a beat up old hooker universally known as “Big Booty Judy.” She’s talking to them and our pharmacy volunteer says she has some donations in her car to give me. It’s a bag and sticking up out of it is a brand new fluffy pink teddy bear. Judy is saying, “It doesn’t matter if you’re hungry. People just walk by you. They don’t look at you, or if they do it’s like they’re looking at a piece of garbage. It’s because of how you look. But I’m not a piece of garbage. I’m a human being. I’d do anything to help anybody. I’d give someone the shirt off my back...if I had two shirts...” At that moment she glances over at me and sees the teddy bear and her eyes light up like candles. Of course I give her the bear and she wraps her arms around it...
At such moments I feel like the luckiest person on earth to have this job. To myself, I call them “the Jesus moments.”
Judy has had a long hard path through life, and none of us would have wished it on her. But we have the world we have. It is a gift to know these homeless people and to share such moments.
The Home Van’s annual Christmas party will be on Thursday, December 22 at 5:45 p.m. in the little parking lot on the east side of the Civil Courthouse. It has been an annual tradition in Gainesville for the past 6 or 7 years. People from all over the community join us and they bring Christmas stockings for our homeless friends (and sometimes home made cookies!). For you newbies on the list, here is how folks do the stockings:
Buy a pair of white tube socks. Roll up one sock and put it in the toe of the other. Then fill the stocking with presents and tie off the top. Here are some suggested items to put in the stockings: candles, batteries (especially triple As), duct tape, chocolate bars, reading glasses, playing cards, small games, crossword puzzle books, small stuffed animals, Vienna sausages, stamped envelopes, pens, small notebooks, lighters...The Dollar store is an excellent place to find stocking stuffers. We have two requests for the stockings:
1. Don’t put money in the stockings. It’s a wonderful thing to do, but it hurts too much if one person gets money in his stocking and another person doesn’t.
2. Make sure each stocking is not made up entirely of utilitarian gifts (like soap and toothpaste). Every stocking should have something pretty and frivolous in it like a Santa Claus candle or a chocolate bar.
We used to have designated drop-off sites for Christmas stockings, first at a volunteers house and then at the Alachua County Housing Authority. The number of people and the numbers of stockings has increased to the point that any drop-off site ends up resembling one of those homes on the TV show about people with Hoarders Syndrome. So now we ask people to bring the stockings to the Christmas party and, if they can, to stay and party with us and meet our homeless friends. If any of you make stockings and can’t bring them to the party, call me (372-4825) and I will make a drop-off arrangements for you.
Peace and love to everyone!
The Home Van needs tents, tarps, bottled water, Vienna sausages, creamy peanut butter, jelly, candles, white tube socks, batteries, bug spray, duct
tape, books and games. Call 352-372-4825 to arrange for drop off. Financial donations to the Home Van should be in the form of checks made out to Citizens for Social Justice, Inc., earmarked for the Home Van, and mailed to307 SE 6th Street, Gainesville, FL 32601, or can be made online at http://homevan.blogspot.com/