Friday, May 04, 2012

The "Corner"

Thanks to Billy Merendino, owner of the old Mobil service station located at the corner of Louise Avenue and Malcolm X, I am able to sit on the steps of a house he owns right at the corner of Malcolm X and Dawson Street.  I always bring bottled water iced down for those who stop to chat or sit.

My seat positions me right in the middle of a human thoroughfare from the Austin Street Center toward the Downtown business district  and the web of underpasses that far too many of our neighbors without homes call "home."

Just yesterday I met some amazing people as I sat on "the porch." 

  • Two men who expressed genuine interest in accessing the opportunities of the new Opportunity Center under construction across the street. One of the two visited with me for almost half an hour about his work history and his hopes for the future.
  • A woman who shared some of her writing about homelessness that she had published. She also offered to share her bag of chips and passed out chewing gum for my benefit.
  • "Buck," a new friend and a regular guest at the porch, still checked me out just waiting to see what I'm "really up to" coming out every week at the same time.  I call him the "Sage" of Malcolm X because of his wise words.
  • The same man who cursed me out the week before came by again carrying a gigantic plastic bag of cans on his way to the recycle shop to cash out for the day.  This time I had the good sense to let him pass without a word.  The week before he had made it very clear that he didn't want my water, my charity, my camera or my words.  He didn't even want a friend's bus pass.  "All I want is some money," he screamed from across the street at the top of his lungs.
  • Billie, a woman suffering from schizophrenia finally worked up the courage to approach for a bottle of water and to panhandle for pocket change to buy a snack in Billy's station.  I watched as another woman called out to her and joined her down the street to make sure she was okay.
  • Numerous people who just stopped to pick up a drink, express their thanks, usually with a "God bless you!" added as they walked on.
  • A frustrated gentleman who the week before told me about frustrations he had with staff in a shelter facility.  Yesterday, he told me that he was glad to see me because he "just needed to talk to someone" as he dumped his trouble on someone who would listen.  Before we were done he had shared the story of his 20 years of selling narcotics, and how the presence of small children during his last deal drove him out of the business and back to his family. 
  • Two young people who had followed the developments on the corner via this page or on Twitter showed up as well.  One a medical student doing a 3-year internship at Parkland, the other an accountant who had worked at The Bridge, Dallas' homeless assistance center.  It was good to have them, and more than one person stopped to meet them and to express thanks that they had come. 
This is a corner in the inner city. 

But it is a very special place. 


Mark Meador said...

Hmmmm...sounds like something Jesus would have done. Larry, thanks for your commitment to meet people where they are.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how many critics who post here have actually spent time with real poor, even homeless, people. It certainly lends credence to Larry's opinions that he actually does.

Anonymous said...

You are doing the most important and in fact only thing that allows you to really know the community you want to serve -- you are talking to people who are a part of that community and in their own setting. I don't think there's any thing that matters more or any other way to do it.

It changes everything, including you and them. Good for you!

Karen Shafer