Another great message from Guest Blogger Kathy N.Norris
My Three Friends
If anyone had told me a year ago I would be driving three homeless people around, I would have said no way would I ever do it alone because I’d just be too leery of street people. Little did I know about “tent people”… that they are as normal as you and me! Well…. It did happen… I did it a few months ago. There’s no way I would have though, if it hadn’t been for Angie and Larry already knowing our friends and knowing that I would be fine. There’s no way they would ever put anyone in danger.
I volunteered to go to Huntsville to pick up three friends to take them to Decatur to the CCC building ( Committee On Church Cooperation), to get new eyeglasses provided free by Haiti Sees mission group. I prayed all the way to our meeting place at the bus stop for the Lord to give me the words to say to my new friends. I was thinking how I had no clue how to converse with “homeless” people… people who I thought were so very different from me. I prayed for the Lord to give me words to say when we made our little ride so it wouldn’t be uncomfortable for them being with me. I didn’t want to appear any different from them, certainly not better than them. I was seriously worried. In my mind I rehearsed things that I planned to talk about, obviously starting with the weather, as most all conversations with strangers start! I thought if I could get them talking that they should feel at ease with me and we would make the trip fine!
Well, well… was I in for a shock. I mean to tell you…. as soon as we loaded into my car all three started talking, non-stop, just as personable and friendly as could be! In my heart I was smiling and saying a big “Thank you, Lord!” It wasn’t THEM that I was relieved for … it was ME! They were totally at ease riding in my car, and there was constant chattering the entire trip to Decatur, and then when I took them back home! I enjoyed it so much! It was just like a gathering of old friends. They talked about different jobs they had been doing, how much they had made at small jobs, how they truly liked to be able to work, about their little $16.00 a month food stamps, about the woes of some of their friends, what they liked to eat… just NORMAL stuff that WE all talk about. Not one bit of difference. No one would have a clue that they were homeless people, two that had slept on the ground in their tents the previous night, and got “ready” in that tent that morning. They were dressed well, just your average attire, no different than what I was wearing. They had no body odor whatsoever, and it wouldn’t have mattered to me one iota if they did. I was shockingly impressed, and proud for them that they maintained their pride in life regardless of their circumstances. I had to hope that I could be like them if I were ever in their shoes. Tina talked about God, what the Bible says about sin, and said she had been going to church. She said her daddy was a Church of Christ minister. I assume she knows the Bible quite well, probably more than the average person.
It was a regular free lunch day for the homeless and low income provided by the CCC, so we had a really good lunch of lasagna and sides before they had their eye exams. Jim had three servings, bless his heart. Tina ate very little from her plate. She said she just wasn’t hungry. It was a long wait because there was a room full there to get glasses. We had a lot of time to get acquainted and chat! I know they were happy to get new glasses to be able to see better, but I truly believe they just enjoyed leaving their worries behind and heading out of town on a little trip!
As we headed out of Decatur back to their homes, I asked them if they wanted a milk shake from Dairy Queen and it was a unanimous joyous response! They started telling what flavor they wanted. Tina wanted a peanut butter milkshake, Jim wanted a chocolate milkshake, and Rickey wanted a Root Beer cola. I thought to myself…. I wonder how often they get to have these treats that we all can have anytime. I told Jim I was right there with him on his choice of a chocolate milkshake! So, we all enjoyed our cool treats on the way back to Huntsville as they continued to chat! I felt I knew all three soooo much better than the few hours earlier!
They were my navigators getting them back home. I know nothing about Huntsville anyway, but most definitely not to discrete tents hiding in the woods. We took Tina back to her camp first. I hated to have to let this precious friend out to return to such a dreary,depressing, God-forsaken looking place. It was just unreal to me that someone could live like that. She has led a rough life. She is only in her 50’s but looks 15 years older. Sadly, I fear that she won’t live to be old. She cleans houses for people, and walks to get there. She told me she had made $45.00 the previous day. I had already had a tour (by Richard Waltman), of her “home” and that particular camp back in December when I helped with the Tent City Project. Tina is a crier and she was having one of her moments that day when she saw Angie and Larry. They introduced her to me, and oh my she immediately got to my heart and there was no way on earth to prevent my own tears. I was proud to get my picture made with her that day. This camp is called the Cleveland Camp, and the city is destroying it soon. They will all have to find new places to call “home”, which seems so cruel and sad to me.
We took Jim home next. I thought we’d never get to his camp! It probably wasn’t anywhere near being as far out as it seemed to be to me! On our way there, he was telling how he “has it made” in life. He was telling of different new items that had been given to him that he was saving, for when he will need them later…a new pair of shoes and a new blanket that he has put up. He told about how he gets along so well with his tent buddy, Richard. I think they are more like brothers than friends. They like the solitude and quiet where they are and they are very near a store that they can walk to. The store is where he wanted to be let out at, which was across the road from his woods. He told that he could walk there and buy a little pack of sandwich meat for $1.00 and get several sandwiches from it. Don’t you just know that our homeless friends could teach us all so much of how to get by on very little? It would be such an eye-opener for many of us, a wide one. Jim is a Cajun and I could listen to him talk all day!
Last stop was to take Rickey to his little house that he is renting with the help of Huntsville Good Samaritans Ministry. They helped him acquire it, all of the furniture, and everything he needed to get set up to live there. At that time he was living alone, but later a roommate moved in with him. I know he was glad to have the company, because he is most definitely a talker! Rickey was a high-ranking Navy Seal and made it his lifetime career. He certainly has some interesting stories to tell! He talked my ears off when we were waiting to get his eye glasses… he’s such an interesting gentleman! He ended up being homeless and living in a tent for seven years because his wife was in Huntsville Hospital for months, then passed away, and the hospital took everything he had including his veteran’s retirement. I totally could not believe they did that to a VETERAN, but that doesn’t matter to big business in the least. Rickey has very serious health issues. He has had heart attacks, cancer, and is on oxygen. He has to take a portable tank around with him. He likes to cook, and to read Westerns. He said he could sit and read a book a day. I told him I would try to find him some books. That hasn’t happened yet, but it will real soon. My niece, Janet Alley, called an independently owned bookstore in Cullman, Deb’s Book Store, and she invited us to come pick out what we need at no charge! If anyone reading this has any books you would give to our friends, I will be glad to pick them up from you! A lot of our friends love drama and mysteries, in addition to Rickey’s westerns.
I am 66 years young. During different stages of my life, God has given me various gifts of the Spirit. I personally believe that gifts and talents from God aren’t always for a lifetime. They can change. Some we can have earlier in life, and some are developed later because of wisdom and love that we have acquired throughout our years. I am beyond thankful that I have ALWAYS had the gift of love and compassion for everyone, leaning strongly on the side of the less fortunate. At this point a little beyond mid-life, I have gained a deep love and respect for the homeless. I LOVE helping them in whatever avenue I can, which is mostly gathering things to donate to them. Since I live in Cullman, there’s not a lot of chances for me to have one on one contact, but oh how I wish there were. I LOVE being with them, talking to them, learning from them, and about them. I just overall LOVE our friends, and I want them to know it! My heart’s desire is that I could do some little something or say the right words that could give them a double portion of pure happiness… freedom from the chains of homelessness that has them bound.
July 9, 2018
The Forgotten Shall Be Forgotten No More