A CONVERSATION WITH MALCOLM
I was standing downtown with Malcolm, who has been homeless since he was a
teenager serving in Vietnam and was convicted on a drug offense and subject to a
dishonorable discharge. We were both watching clouds. I saw a huge, puffy
white cloud with two small, identical black clouds in the middle of it. They
looked like flying saucers. “Look, Malcolm,” I said, “the aliens are coming.”
He laughed. Malcolm loves to talk, and this was his signal. He launched off
into a monologue on God, the Mayan prophecies, and human expectations as
engineered by Hollywood. (Unlike many monologuists, Malcolm is interesting).
“That’s what people expect,” He said, in summation, “Whether it’s the end
of the world, the coming of the Messiah, space aliens, any big change –
Hollywood has conditioned them to expect flying saucers, chariots of fire,
thunderbolts, explosions.” He laughed.
“How will it be? Malcolm,” I asked.
“Get up on a silent morning and watch a flower open,” Malcolm said.
“That’s how it is. That’s how things change, that’s where you will meet
SAYING GOODBYE TO RAY
Ray was among our early Home Van friends out in the woods. He had a fine
campsite on the banks of Sweetwater Branch, back in the days we walked through
the woods delivering food. Ray was a skilled mechanic who worked at the same
job and was married to the same woman for 30 years. All that ended when his
wife died in a truck/pedestrian accident. Ray, who had always been a bit of a
drinker, began drinking hard and heavy. He got into a fight in a bar parking
lot and ended up doing two years in the state prison for assault and battery.
While he was in jail his house was foreclosed on and all his possessions,
including his tools, were seized. So he went out of jail into the Big Empty and
ended up in the woods. He also was in the early stages of Glaucoma. Ray was
angry and depressed and still drinking. He was not an easy guy to help, and yet
there was something about him, a likeableness that shone through the cloud of
‘bad attitude.’ His incipient blindness also made it imperative that he get
help. Various people, including Joe Jackson and Lynn Labauve, began reaching
out to him. Eventually, after a lot of work, Ray got on disability and got an
apartment at Bailey Village. Wanting to give back, he began volunteering with
his friend Desi and the UF Campus Christians to serve Friday night dinners at
Holy Trinity. He became special friends with the Rev. Mark Apple of the
University Church of Christ. All those friendships and connections became
important this year when Ray contracted terminal cancer.
Joe Jackson, and others, had kept up with him over the years. Joe became
his medical surrogate and he and the Rev. Apple saw Ray through his final days
in this world. Goodbye Ray. You had a lot of troubles, and I’m glad they are
over now. We won’t forget you.
WELCOME TO THE SATYA SAI BABA CENTER
The devotees of Gainesville’s Satya Sai Baba Center have chosen to partner
with the Home Van this year in their outreach into the homeless community.
These wonderful folks have been helping us for the past few years, during times
of especially difficult weather, and have donated many blankets, sleeping bags
and other needed items. This year they are going to focus on special needs.
They began by collecting tents – maybe 20 to 30 (I forgot to count). In any
case, it was the largest single donation of tents we have ever received. Their
beloved matriarch, an older woman they all call “Auntie” (she told me her name,
but it did not stick in my brain, as usual) spearheaded the effort to collect
tents. For their next project they are going to gather as many batteries as
possible. This is a great blessing. The continual struggle to have batteries
for flashlights and radios – those items of such great comfort out in the woods
- is an ongoing source of frustration for our homeless friends. We welcome the
devotees of His Holiness Satya Sai Baba and thank them for their kindness and
NEWS FROM THE WOODS
The folks out in Tent City tell me that new arrivals out there have become
frequent, and almost all are people who have never been homeless before and
never expected to be homeless. It is a terrifying experience for these new
people. The ones I have met so far have been mainly very young adults, elderly
people, and people who are battling illnesses or disabilities. This situation
is a big challenge for the old timers in Tent City. Many of them are kind
people who want to help the newcomers – help them find a good campsite, connect
with services, and avoid trouble makers. They look out for them as best they
can, but it is becoming a bigger and bigger task due to the large number of new
People continue to work on their individual challenges. James out at
Williston Road has logged four months of sobriety and has earned himself a
sponsor in Narcotics Anonymous. We’re real proud of him and as for him, he
can’t stop smiling!
BOATS OF MINE A BOATING.....
It’s hard to say where all this will end. More and more people move out to
the woods, services diminish. Still, the only response is to get up every
morning and do whatever you can to make the world a better place. All week this
poem by Robert Louis Stevenson has been running through my mind.
“Dark brown is the river,
Golden is the sand,
Flowing on forever,
With trees on either hand,
Boats of mine a boating,
Where will all come home,
Other little children will
Bring my boats ashore.”
Peace and Blessings to all of you,
The Home Van
needs tents, tarps, bottled water, Vienna sausages, creamy peanut butter, jelly,
candles, white tube socks, batteries books, games, personal hygiene supplies.
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 to 307 SE 6th Street, Gainesville, FL 32601, or can be made
online at http://homevan.blogspot.com/