At home with the homeless

“There is such a level of unspeakable contempt from the haves in society bestowing shame in the homeless. Homelessness stirs up fear: frightens and saddens us at the same time. Judgments are as harsh as the plight itself. Homelessness conjures up thoughts of isolation. Call it what it is: injustice, racism and a harsh reality. Often the most vulnerable suffer the most, including children, teens, single mothers, elderly and the ill.”
Response by a friend

“May we never get used to the poverty and decay around us.
A Christian must act.”
Pope Francis @Pontifex 04/03/14

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In the evening of April 3, 2014 I spent some time with Homeless Action! colleagues Adrienne Lauby, Jen Parr, Karen Martin and Adam Kirshenbaum. They inspired me, and confirmed that this is a noble effort worth pursuing. I went home and this is the poem which ensued.

012709 Homeless but out of the wind

These are my people.
Not in any sense that I lead them,
Or they belong to me.
These are the people I belong with.
These are the people I align with.

I find their lives and their experiences
To be compelling and important.
I find their value as human beings
On a par with the Pope and me;
To be of equal value, of equal worth, and of equal dignity.
I am no better than they are,
And they are no better than me.

There’s a famous prayer attributed to St. Francis.
The prayer was actually submitted anonymously.
Does that mean that a homeless God might have submitted it?

Make me an instrument of Your peace,
To be among those who need some peace.

If there is hatred, and sadness, and regret
As I sit on a cold doorstep,
Where can I sow love?

If I have done injury
And have injured those I love the most
Where is there pardon?
The truth of my life, lived in the bushes
Is the error.
Can people see the truth
As my parents did the day they named me?

I have so many doubts.
I have so little faith.
Where is faith and hope?
It is here, in me.
If I could only see.

In my despair,
The hope
Is in the intrinsic value of me
Where I rest in darkness,
And cold,
And damp clothes
That make me shiver.
Is there faith in awaiting the light?
Are there leaders
And people who pull the levers of power
Who can act on my despair
To give me some light?

And in the depths of sadness,
From where I am now,
Yes, I know joy.
In the kindness of strangers
Who may not know
They have saved my life,
My hope,
My faith in humanity’s inherent goodness

O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console.
On the streets
I am at one with my homeless brethren

To be understood as to understand;
I understand my sisters’ plight.

To be loved as to love.
I love without words in the grace of each moment.

For it is in giving that we receive.
As giving from the heart and the meager means
Is the true gift.

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.
As I hope to be pardoned by all those to whom
My mental illness
And use of altering substances
Or ordinary human frustrations
Have caused me to offend.

Even as I too have been offended
And then have pardoned,
Because that is the thing to do.

And it is in dying
That we are born to eternal life.
It is not the dying in physical death.
It is the dying of selfishness and self centeredness.
That is the death we should desire

This is where I belong;
Among those without a residence.
To bring the realization
That first, and foremost,
And always,
A just society gives a roof
And warmth
And a daily resting place to each person
No matter what.
061913 Downtown Santa Rosa

Gerry Avatar

4 responses to “At home with the homeless”

  1. Adrienne Lauby Avatar
    Adrienne Lauby

    I’m honored. Speechless. Grateful.

  2. Georgia Berland Avatar

    Deeply Beautiful, Gerry. Thank you so much.

  3. JT O'Neill Avatar
    JT O’Neill

    Even in my most difficult wandering and wondering days, I have always appreciated the core prayer here. Your thoughts make the prayer real. I like it.

  4. […] line from At Home with the Homeless was “Can people see the truth as my parents did the day they named me?” It inspired […]

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