I'm now in Denver! I didn't write much while I was in Kansas City, but my time there was such a blessing!
The organization that I worked at in Kansas City was Hope Faith. I worked in the laundry room my first day and in the kitchen the rest. When I wasn't there, I was either downtown looking for people to talk to and take care of or at International House of Prayer. I went to IHOP almost every day, usually after the sun was setting and it was too dark to go out. My time there was so good for my soul!
Even though I loved my time in Kansas City, it was there that I had my first really hard day. I didn't really want to write about it because it really hurts my heart, but it is a reality for some of the homeless people. One day while I was driving around downtown looking for people, I saw a guy with plastic grocery bags wrapped around his feet. I stopped and went up to him and asked what size shoes he wears. It was kind of hard to understand him because he didn't speak well and what he said was hardly audible. I started asking him what all he needed, and he would respond to most things, but he wouldn't tell me his name. It was sad to me that he wouldn't tell me his name, but I thought maybe he just had his guard up because some strange girl he'd never met before was coming up to him and just giving him a bunch of stuff and asking him questions. I figured he would warm up to me after a few minutes and tell me his name. So I got him some food to eat while I looked in my car for shoes that would fit him. I didn't have his size, so I asked him what kind he would want so that I could go buy him a pair. He asked for a pen so that he could write down what he wanted. While I was driving to get his shoes, I was just thinking about how sad it is that he lives in a city full of people that pass by him every day, yet he was walking around with plastic bags on his feet. That just blew my mind. It took me a while to find a shoe store, but I eventually did and I picked out some black tennis shoes that I thought were really nice and would look cool, yet give enough support for all the walking that this man does. When I got back him I pulled the shoes out for him, and honestly I was kind of expecting a good response. Maybe happiness, excitement, gratitude. At least something positive. But when I gave them to him, he didn't give any kind of reaction, he just kind of nodded. So I kind of just said my goodbyes (we couldn't really talk much because I couldn't understand most of what he said), and started walking to my car. Before I got in my car he came over to me and asked me if I could return the shoes. The shoes fit the description of what he asked for (black boots or tennis shoes), so I asked if they didn't fit well. But he said he wanted boots instead. That part of the story really makes me laugh, because I thought, "Sure, I'll go get you boots...but why did you write down tennis shoes if you really didn't want them?" Haha. So I went back to the shoe store and got him some sturdy black boots and prayed that he would like those because it was starting to get dark. When I got back to him, I showed him the shoes and asked if he liked them. He nodded his head and he started packing the shoes away. I kind of wondered why he wasn't putting them on. I asked him if he wanted to try them on before I left to make sure they were the right size, so if they didn't fit well I could take them back, but he said they were fine. I tried to talk to him for a bit longer, then I said my goodbyes and went to my car. I couldn't leave, I just sat there and sobbed. I was talking to God and all I could say was, "He needs more than just shoes!" This guy was so sad! He could barely speak, he had grocery bags to keep what you could barely call a shoe on his feet, and he wouldn't tell me his name. It was just so sad. And I thought, "Whoopie. I gave him shoes. Now he's a sad, lost homeless guy that has a new pair of shoes." I felt so useless. A pair of shoes is helpful, but it doesn't change his life or his circumstances. It might make him happy, but it doesn't change his heart. It didn't even really change this guy's demeanor. I gave him a Bible and told him about Jesus' love for him, but he wasn't very responsive. I just felt like I did absolutely nothing for this man. I still was sitting in my car, and he came up and knocked on my window. I rolled it down and he asked me if I could help him get to the hospital. He needed some money for a bus ride to the hospital. I said yeah, and asked how much. He said $1.50. As I was looking for the money in my purse, I asked him what was wrong and why he needed to go to the hospital. He told me he had to go to the hospital to change his shoes. When he took off the old ones, they wouldn't come off clean, so it had to be done at a hospital. My heart just broke even more. Then as I was giving him the money, I found four quarters first, then I gave him a dollar bill. He tried to give me back the two quarters, which shocked me. I told him it was fine, he could keep the quarters, I wanted him to. But he refused to take any extra money than what he needed for the bus. He wouldn't even take fifty extra cents. He tapped my car and said thanks, and he walked off. That just killed me. A man with bags on his feet that wouldn't even tell me his name or take two extra quarters, when usually homeless people will take as much money as you offer and some even ask for more.
That was the first completely heartbreaking homeless reality encounter I've had. And it was truly heartbreaking. I did all that I knew how to do, though. At first it made me kind of afraid to go out again. Because that was so hard. But I can't let how hard it is keep me from trying to help these guys. I was so sad. The next day, I was scared when I first headed out on my own. But the first person I found was sweet Eric! The people that I find when I'm sad, and they turn it around and bring me joy in the midst of this sometimes really emotionally hard journey, those people always hold a really special place in my heart. Ray was one of these people in Nashville when I sat with him and he brought me comfort after I was so upset about sweet Denise sleeping in a park. Teddy was this person in Atlanta when I was so upset about Mike, one of the guys who had some mental/spiritual issues. And Eric was this guy in Kansas City, who cheered me up after being so torn up over the guy without shoes. It's funny, because these people don't really do anything to comfort me. They're just there when I'm sad and they make me feel better. It's like being with them says to me, "It's ok. Some of us are alright, and we'll help you get through the hard ones." So when I call them friends, it's not just something I say. While I'm in the cities, these are the guys I hang out with. These are the guys that I'm excited to go out and see. These are the guys that cheer me up. So I was so excited to see Eric. For some reason, I just loved him! He melted my heart! For the group that he hung out with, he was kind of the baby of the group. He was a bad alcoholic, so Eric always had to be taken care of. Also, in his family, he was the youngest and came twenty years after his brothers and sisters, so he's kind of been the baby his whole life. And I just loved him. His story of alcoholism is really sad, though. Both his parents were alcoholics, but he didn't really look to drink on his own. He was a really good drummer, and in a band with older people when he was about fourteen. The older band members would ask him where his cup was and ask him what was in it. He'd tell them where it was and that he had coke or something in it, and they'd take it and put alcohol in it and tell him to drink it. He said it was just downhill from there. It's just sad how innocent a fourteen year old is, and he was just interested in the music. But that influenced his entire life path. Eric was so sweet, I was always so excited to see him!
Here's me and Eric with his new glasses!