Tacos in a Blizzard?
Breakthrough has a schedule for conducting organized outreach listed on our website. Generally in the winter we meet every other Sunday to offer a warm meal to the homeless. Of course when we post our schedule we have no idea what the weather conditions will be like on the day of the event. Non-the-less, we plan these events and we have never missed one.
On Sunday, February 20th our event was scheduled to start at 2:00 pm with volunteers scheduled to show up at 1:30. The whole week preceding this event we were hearing about a giant storm that was approaching from the west. The weather stations kept increasing the expected total from day to day. Of course it was scheduled to start snowing the morning of our outreach event. It did!
At 9:30 am it started snowing hard and by noon we had already received about 4 inches. It showed no sign of letting up. By this time I trying to get word to our core group of volunteers to let them know that if they felt travel safety was a concern that I would understand if they stayed home. As the morning wore on, we were texting each other almost as if to gage our resound. Tom and Jessi (core team members) had a long drive planned after the outreach and because the driving conditions were treacherous and only expected to get worse as the day progressed, they opted to get on the road early and were unable to attend.
My wife asked me what I was going to do. At that point, I thought for a minute about the homeless. They do not get to forget about being homeless just because of the bad weather. In fact it makes being homeless that much more difficult. I thought; they don’t get to stay “home” just because of the snow and cold in a warm place. At that point I made up my mind. I will go!
I spoke to the other team members and told them to do what they thought they had to do but that I was going. Everyone else said they would see me there.
So off I went to the office to get the truck and load it up with the tables and bags of blankets, hats, and scarves. It took me about twice as long to get to downtown St. Paul but I made it there safely and on time.
When I arrived the team was already setting up. We have been doing this so long that everyone seems to know their role and what needs to get done. My first thought was “what a blessing to have such committed people who would risk their life for those less fortunate than themselves”. As I looked around downtown St. Paul it was like a ghost town. There was nobody outside in this miserable weather. As we were setting up, it was the most glorious site. People (most homeless) started coming from nowhere. It was like angels just appearing. Some were helping us set up while others were milling about the large variety of supplies we had brought for them. When the proverbial “table” was set we called everyone together for prayer. Pete has been anointed to pray like few I know. Here we are about 30 or 40 people huddled together to pray in Jesus name. What a site!
Everyone was so pleasant today. As the team started serving I grabbed my camera and started taking pictures. I didn’t want to forget this day. I stepped back again to take it in and that’s when I heard this guy who was riding up on a bike say “Are you kidding me?” “What are you doing?” “I can’t believe this!” He stopped next to me and I introduced myself. He said his name was Frank. Then he said, “This is awesome man, I needed this today. I have had the most depressing week and this just made it all worth it”. We talked for about 30 minutes and I learned more about Frank. One thing about Frank that I learned is that he is a brilliant man. He was a programmer for a large company that laid him off awhile ago and since he has been homeless he has been writing. He promised to send me an 82 page document that he has been working on regarding the world economy and how to get out of this recession. I have to say I am excited to read it. His biggest complaint is that he has to use computers at various places like the library to do his writing and they are always packed with people. We talked about getting his material published and how we might be able to help.
Human beings in general tend to wear different masks to hide behind. We do this to protect ourselves or to portray ourselves as something we think others may want. That is no different for those experiencing homelessness and for them tends to be part of the survival mechanism.
Pete told me about “Dre”. We have seen Dre for some time while we have doing outreach. He is a proud man who tends to portray himself as an alpha male within the community of homeless. When Pete approached Dre to invite him over for lunch, Dre asked him what we were serving. Pete said Taco’s and immediately the mask fell off and Dre said “Get out of here, Taco’s? Tacos? You have to be kidding me, I love Taco’s”. And Dre immediately jumped up and started to follow Pete. Dre’s demeanor completely changed. Before long, Pete and Dre had a beautiful conversation.
It seems as though what we bring (besides food and supplies) is Joy. Through that joy comes companionship and after awhile friendship. What I have learned is that with friendship comes concern. I am truly concerned for my friends. I love them. I want to do whatever I can to help them. When the masks fall off, we see the real person who like me is hiding behind many masks. We see people who are afraid of being left out. People, who have no one to share good or bad news with or even worse no one to confide in. Yes, they have each other and that counts for a lot but they are all stuck here together.
The people we meet have allowed us into their world. I didn’t realize what an honor that would be. There is no feeling quite like it in the world. To be able to spend just a little time with those who want to give some time is awesome. At Breakthrough, we have talked about God painting a portrait for you. Only you can see it, and it is the most beautiful portrait in the world. I would encourage anyone who reads this to consider getting one yourself. All you have to do is call us and we can go together.
I want to thank those who are willing to risk so much to spend time with those who have so little to have taco’s in a blizzard. Thanks Pete, Suki, Todd, Terri, Todd, Bubba, Tom, Becky, and Matt (who stays at DDC).
I also want to thank those who were there with us in spirit and make these events possible. Brenda, Tom, Jessi, Wade, Cindy and my family – Christine, Amanda, Mackenzie, Mitchell, and Hailey. Without you we would not be able to do what we do and you don’t get enough credit.