The downtown night lights glow as bright as diamonds! What a beautiful sight to behold as every building sings its own tune.How fascinating it is to see the people walking to and fro as you wonder where do they go? The in and out of the the buildings in the entertainment district the travelers go to seek that fleeting moment of excitement. Yet in the distance from the glitz and glamour of the night life are the streets of desperation. Only a few will even notice the eye sore. The Grungy men and untidy women searching to find what those only a few blocks away seem to have.
As you span the lens a little further from the sparkling night lights you may be fortunate enough to see the hope in the city. The soft hearts, the bleeding hearts, the organizations and churches reaching out to those who need the help of strangers. While there are some homeless people who have come to depend on the kindness of strangers for their very survival, there are many more who are able to stand on their own because of that kindness. The dispensers of hope are what these kind souls are who do not hesitate to touch one who has not had a bath in an unimaginable length of time. The caregivers of the desperate are everywhere. They notice the man who is standing with the sign reading, "Work for food." They see a man with no socks as his toe is hanging out of his shoe and he learns the man's shoe size to return with a new pair of shoes and a pair of socks. They notice a woman in the heat of the day with the sign asking for .25 cents. Upon looking further they notice the woman is at least six months pregnant. Stopping and talking to the woman they learn she is trying to earn enough money to pay for a hotel room to avoid sleeping in the woods (The woods, any area of town where there is a collection of trees to sleep away from public view.) And she is helped with at least one night's hotel stay for her to take a much needed bath and to have a soft bed for her and her unborn baby to lay for a night.
While it seems more people are needing help in the cities across the country, there is also a surge of hope in the city because of the dispensers of hope. You too can take part in the hope of the city. Just be someone with compassion, have the desire to have empathy, be willing to put aside all bias and judgments, and share the little that you have to help someone needing just a little help. December, the last month of the year, is a good time to start a new and refreshed look at the part of the city that is further from the lights that shine like diamonds. Look from side to side, in the back and in front of you and you will not have to wait very long for your opportunity to give a hand up to someone else.
This story begins during an era before there were cell phones, eight track tapes, cassette players, and CD's. Before credit cards and ATM machines. It is a story of a little eight year old girl who lived in a large metropolitan city on the seventh floor of the fourteen floor building in the housing projects with her two year old baby brother and her unemployed mother. They often did not have money for the things others took for granted.
The little girl's mother announced with reservations that was mixed with excitement that someone finally hired her with the limited skills she had. The bad news was, she was hired for the afternoon shift at a nearby hospital. She asked neighbors to keep an eye out for her children as the little girl was given instructions to care for her brother and not to open the door for anyone not even the neighbors.
The day came and the little girl's mother was off to work. She was so happy for her mother and finally they would have the food and things they needed. The girl knew that much would be required of her as she hoped for the best for her mother. Each night after putting her baby brother to bed, like a brave soldier, she would prepare for her own night shift. She would place a kitchen chair in the best spot where she could hear her brother in the bedroom, see the TV and watch the only access to the outside, the front door of the apartment. This became her nightly ritual. She would watch the door to make sure no one would break in. Sometimes during her shift she would carefully pickup the chair and place it quietly next to the door close enough where she could look out. She would silently climb up on the chair to stand so she could look through the peep hole. That was a frightening thing because she was never sure that the person on the other side would not be able to see her eyeball as she peeped through, but she would get enough nerve to put her eye to the hole eventually. Once satisfied that no one was lurking outside their door, the little girl would quietly climb down off the chair and carefully pickup the chair to put it pack in its place so she could continue to be the watchman.
There were times when the noise in the hall would send her in a panic. She would stare and stare at the door until the door would seem to pump like a beating heart. Never did she realize the beating was the fear in her heart. On those extremely frightening days the little girl would cry out in a silent screem, "Won't somebody notice us, won't somebody help us!" Somehow she reasoned that if someone knew that their family needed help maybe it would come by way of employment for her mother that would allow her to be home at night or someone would help in some wonderful way and she would not have to be so afraid anymore.
The little girl was not able to tell time, but instinctively knew when it was time for her mother to come home. It was of course always after midnight. When she was sure the time was near enough she would put the chair back under the kitchen table and run to get in the bed. She never wanted her mother to know how much she suffered at night from the fear that controlled her very breath. She did not want her mother to worry about her or to quite her job. The little girl would listen for the key to turn in the lock hoping with great hope that it was her mother and not a thief or murderer. She would listen to the foot steps coming towards the room and she would pray, Lord let it be my mommy. Her mother would come in their bedroom to make sure her two little ones were okay, to pull the covers over them both. All the while the little girl pretended to be asleep.
The above story is my story. I distinctively remember the voice crying out, "Won't somebody notice us, won't somebody help us!" This same desperate cry is what I often hear as I mingle among the people in the city. In memory of the cry of that little girl that still lives within me and as the men and women, boys and girls silently cry out, the question Wholly Committed Ministries ask the people who come to our attention is how can we help you? We may not always be able to help, but we try. The hope of my heart is that you will be one to care to help someone else in whatever way that you can. And sometimes it will just be a smile, a kind word, a soft answer, or a show of compassion and understanding.