The holidays are over yet I have been thinking about Jenny and Luke since my participation with 13Fridays on Christmas Eve. I must admit that upon approaching the CASS homeless shelter I felt a bit intimidated and overwhelmed when I saw the amount of people outside of the entry along with the 60+ visible on the campus grounds. I had uneasy feeling and a moment of uncertainty as I drove past the couple playing frisbee at the gate and the others sitting on the curbs in various groups on surrounding streets.
It was a beautiful day and the weather was perfect. Ann and other dedicated members of the project and the W.O.W. had just celebrated their Christmas Eve celebration, lunch was being served in the cafeteria and there was much commotion but it was well organized. I took a box of leftover donated items out to the lawn and proceeded to sit on the grass and situate myself with the scarves, coats, sweaters and other miscellaneous goods.
As soon as I sat down I was approached by a woman in her 60's who was curious about the items. She asked me how long I had been at the shelter and I no longer felt different or out of place. I told her I was not homeless and briefly explained the 13Fridays project and she began to help me lay out the scarfs and other items for others to use. A few minutes later a gentleman approached and was looking for a coat as it had been extremely cold the night before. The first one we tried was a bit ill fitting as it was too short in the sleeves but the next one was perfect and lined with soft black fleece. The three of us sat down and began talking. The woman, Jenny, was originally from Connecticut and had been homeless for a few months and was hoping to get back on her feet soon. She had been in an out of mental institutions as she suffered from schizophrenia so this often made her life challenging. She found a sweater with an deer in a winter forest scene embroidered on the front and told us how the scene reminded her of winters she had back east as a child. She also asked us if we were believers and proceeded to tell us about a miracle that she witnessed as a friend of hers feet were healed. Many stories were exchanged.
Luke was from Sudan and had an interesting tribal scarification design on his forehead. He was calm, soft-spoken and kind. He said he had lived in Arizona for several years. He spoke of the difficulty he had the night before sleeping outdoors in the cold. He did not have any socks so I found some in one of the bags and he chose one of the hats I made in a teal color. He thanked us and then said he needed to go find someplace to stay because he did not want to sleep outside again.
Jenny sat with Ann and I as the day closed. We continued to talk and I had one of the most relaxing afternoons I have had in a long while. When I left and said goodbye to Jenny she asked me to pray for her. I can still see her standing there... So many faces and circumstances fill the campus lawn each day. The time I shared with Jenny and Luke was a connection, although brief, that I hope to make again. Tane Clark