Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Gift from a Friend

Terry's my friend. 

For several years Terry "lived" in the Deep Ellum/Fair Park area. 

Homelessness forced him to the streets. 

Everyone knew him because of his deftness at card tricks and stand-up comedy routines--Terry can tell a mean joke! 

After a long haul, Terry landed an apartment in CitySquare's housing program. He's successfully maintained his housing for several months. 

Thanks to a special  program offered by AARP, Terry is set to join our team as an employee in the Food Pantry. 

As is typical with Terry, he dropped by on Monday to visit.  I was swamped, but finally we got to sit and talk. 

He presented me with a Christmas gift:  the Snoopy socks pictured here.  I wore them proudly today! 

Terry is my friend. 

I am fortunate to know him. 

Merry Christmas! 

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Lines, Hated Lines

Long lines infuriate me.  Especially when formed by men and women who've spent the night in "the rough" under a freeway bridge or behind some business. 

The fact that fellow human beings live without a home in one of the richest places on earth not only makes me angry, it embarrasses me.

Then, when I walk up on such a line at my place of business, you can add paralysis to my anger and embarrassment. 

Really, what am I to do? 

No way to walk past a line of human misery like this without a word. 

But what word? 

This morning I chose apology mixed with challenge as I shook hands with the two dozen very cold people who stood in line awaiting the opening of our housing center.

I touched each person in some way or another--physically. 

But that could not be the end of it.  I found myself urging them to "stay in CitySquare's  face," "get up in our grill" and demand housing placement. 

Self-incrimination seemed what the doctor ordered in view of this prevailing equation:  X minus 2X equals -X when X is housing units available and 2X  is people needing housing units. 

We brought in hot coffee service this morning. 

Charity gets us nowhere.  But it did cut against the cold this morning. 

And, being charitable of spirit may get us riled up enough to fight the injustice of that damned line in our space. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Respect

Not sure why I'm always surprised.  Maybe "reminded" is the better word.

But every time I have the opportunity to interact with my extremely "poor" neighbors I come away realizing that what is needed most in our relationships is respect--respect that bumps hard up against the kindness of genuine friendship.

It happened again just yesterday.

The United Way of Metropolitan Dallas showed up with maybe a hundred volunteers to serve a "North Texas Giving Day" dinner.  The music blared.  Folks were dancing!  The event chased hunger away for a few hours, as men, women and little ones filled up on a hot meal at the end of a chilly day.  It looked like over 200 passed through the service line.

I decided to walk the line and simply welcome as many individuals as possible.  By the time I had greeted 10 guests, it hit me again:  people need respect, people need to be seen and acknowledged, people need to be the single focus of attention routinely.

As I shook hands, making my way down the line, smiles lit up.  People re-positioned themselves so as not to miss my greeting and handshake.  It was all very natural.  Just an expression to guests that I was glad they came by and their various expressions of gratitude and a bit of surprise that anyone would care or should be grateful for their presence.

Many asked about our housing programs.  [Get ready Bldg. 100--folks will be showing up today to get their names on the priority list!]

But mainly, we all enjoyed a few moments face-to-face with one another.

Respect carried the day.

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Tomorrow

Democratic societies and governments depend upon elections for their sustainability.  We all recognize this fundamental truth.  This explains the excitement, turmoil, debate, passion and release of energy so obvious during election season.

But Tuesdays have a way of turning into Wednesdays.

Tomorrow remains extremely important at CitySquare.

Tomorrow. . . no matter what. . .

. . .we will treat and care for the ill.
. . .we will work with families to provide nutritious food for otherwise sparse dinner tables.
. . .we will speak up with clear voices in Dallas County Courts on behalf of women and children.
. . .we will provide classroom training for men and women aspiring to better jobs and income.
. . .we will help someone get a new state ID or drivers license.
. . .we will assist students we train with placement into good, living wage jobs.
. .  .we will "coach" our neighbors/students in wealth management strategies.
. . .we will offer respite and protection to young people with no one to whom to turn.
. . .we will house hundreds of formerly homeless neighbors in permanent housing with friendship.
. . .we will house hundreds of low-income working families in high quality dwellings.
. . .we will house almost 200 senior citizens in affordable, high quality homes.
. . .we will offer support services allowing neighbors to map out a pathway for better lives.
. . .we will deploy AmeriCorps members across the city for deep, enriching, effective service.
. . .we will cry with and comfort the grief-stricken.
. . .we will support our partners with gladness.
. . .we will craft big plans, driven by expansive visions for future tomorrows.
. . .we will pray.
. . .we will work.
. . .we will advocate against the forces that keep people poor.
. . .we will witness to our faith.
. . .we will celebrate the wealth of the poor.
. . .and then, we will resolve to show up again tomorrow.

Thursday, November 01, 2018

The Children, oh, the Children!


Last night we were “invaded” by hundreds of “birthright” children. . .almost all accompanied by beaming parents.  You know, the kind of parents who translate uncontainable pride into pragmatic responsibility for the safety of each of their children. 

As the stream of little ones, and occasionally the not so little, bounded up my sidewalk and onto my porch, questions raced, in a thought stream of my own, across my mind.  Who are these people, parents and kiddos?  How did they get to my house?  How do they fit into my world? 

The answers aren’t so hard to ascertain. Virtually all of the little ones, having been born in the United States, belong to this nation as citizens.  The same is true for many of the parents I engaged at my front door.  Of course, many are not citizens. . . yet.  

The children fill our public schools, adding a rich, unsurprising, qualitative diversity to classrooms across the city.  The ancestry of many dates back to colonial days and beyond.  They represent the hope and the future of our nation.  More and more, these children add the priority of academics to a deeply engrained expectation of and appreciation for hard work. 

But, what about the parents?  Who are these people?

·         They are the laborers who build our highways and bridges.
·         They work construction projects that result in the changing skyline of our city.
·         They clean our homes and businesses and hotels. 
·         They maintain our properties.
·         They prepare and serve our meals.
·         They teach and care for our children.
       They work in our hospitals and provide love and care when we are ill.
·         They conceive breakthrough products and processes.
·         They park our cars.
·         They apply their craftsmanship to our homes and buildings.
·         They remodel houses, maintain plumbing, make bricklaying look fun!
·         They love music.
·         They are community organizers and political leaders.
·         They care for one another.
·         They love their families.
·         
In short, they are just people like the rest of us.  

And like the vast, vast bulk of the rest of us, they are not rapists, thieves, drug dealers, violent murderers or gang members.  

The majority of those I saw last evening likely are citizens.  Those who aren’t seek only a better life for themselves and their children.  Kinda like me and my children and grandchildren.

So, I’m thinking, why would anyone want to get rid of these wonderful people?  Especially since our nation is aging, and it’s population is not growing outside the immigrant community. 

No, for me I’m feeling appreciation, gratitude and great hope as I think about who paid me a visit last evening on Halloween.  Frankly, I’m pretty sold on the so-called “browning of America!”

Friday, September 14, 2018

Jesus said, "Welcome, my beloved! Enter what God has prepared for you--

for I was a black man and you automatically welcomed me without hesitation or thought;

for I was a child living with the toxic stress of my extremely poor neighborhood and you intervened with just economic renewal efforts;

for I was a student in an impoverished public school and you insisted that my school was fully funded and filled with hope and genuine opportunity;

for I was a child without parents and you gave me your love and a home;

for I was homosexual and you accepted me as a true friend;

for I was an immigrant seeking what all immigrants seek in coming to the USA--better life, asylum, peace, and you took me in and welcomed me with joy and fairness;

for I was homeless and you housed me and got to know me as a friend;

for I was woefully under-skilled and you helped me learn new skills;

for I was sick, uninsured, isolated and dying and you brought me to a doctor, and worked to create a "medical home" with adequate coverage;

for I was your employee and you paid me a living wage in return for my work;

for I was mentally ill and you insisted that I be welcomed and cared for;

for I was in prison and you visited me, advocated for me and helped me with work and a home when I was paroled;

for I was a single mother and you helped me find child care and transportation and healthy groceries;

for I was confused, afraid, and depressed and you became a real friend;

for I was far from home and you reminded me of goodness left behind and bought me a ticket to go back.

[Matthew 25 adapted]

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

The Divide

For almost 40 years I've witnessed the expanding, deepening equity divide in this nation.  Much like a canyon dividing people on either side, this gaping crevice separates people and communities from one another. 

Life on either side presents drastic differences for the people involved.  Whats-more, the divide keeps us from knowing one another.  Consider for a moment the fundamental institutions that exist wherever people are free and working on the realization of better lives for themselves and their families.

  • Education
  • Employment/Career/Earnings
  • Housing
  • Health Care
  • Nutrition 
  • Transportation
  • Recreation
  • Public Safety
  • Civic Live/Culure
  • Entertainment
  • Spiritual Life
  • Family
In every case how people experience these basic, necessary institutions for productive life turns out to be quite different, depending on which side of the equity divide you occupy.  

Every day I see "the poor" just trying their best to make it through to something better.  Surprisingly, there is real joy to behold where I move about.  

But, a deep, deep sadness and recognition lives here as well. 

Over the years, steady sadness creases faces.  

It dims eyes.  

Such sadness presses people into the resignation of humility, but a humble spirit overdone.   

I know about the equity canyon.  It is very real.  

I see it every day.  

Friday, January 12, 2018

Time for Revival!

Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II will be speaking in Dallas Monday evening at 7:00 p.m. at Moody Performance Hall, thanks to the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture.