Street Stories

Weblog of Seattle minister to the homeless Rick Reynolds, Operation Nightwatch

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Location: Seattle, Washington, United States

Caring for human beings seems like the best use of my time, homeless or not.

Friday, August 11, 2017

What should I do?

People struggling with life ask me this question all the time: "What should I do?"

I have one answer. "Pray for wisdom to know God's will, and pray for strength from beyond yourself to accomplish it."

In other words, there are no easy answers when faced with difficulties. We listen through the rushing wind, the earthquake, the fire. Then it is quiet, and we still don't clearly know. Not always. Not even usually.

But I think there is something about the process, of asking, seeking, knocking. Then you go with your gut.

In the Old Testament, certain matters were settled with the Urim and Thummim. These were some sort of divine coins to flip. Heads and tails or some such.

What should I do?

Last night I said, "Pray for wisdom, in-between beers." 

I guess under the circumstances, it was the most anyone could hope for.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Car camping in the city

When rent gets too high, people often move into their vehicle. It’s portable. Provides more comfort than a tent. But also sometimes can break down. And neighbors seem to hate having homeless people on their block. There are the usual complaints about crime, drugs, litter, defecation, and noise.
The City of Seattle is of two minds. Compassion or enforcement? Neighborhood groups are kicking up a fuss – sometimes justifiable. But who is really vulnerable? It’s not like there are options for the poor people in the vans. But why do they have to throw their empty beer cans into the yard and pee in the rhodies?

As long as we have these disparities – between income and the ever-increasing Seattle rent -- cars will continue to be an affordable and attractive survival strategy. 

When I talk to people living in shelters, getting into a car is a step up for them.

There needs to be some sanity on this topic. Standards. Less hysteria. Homeless people can be part of the solution to neighborhood concerns, but not when they’re getting screamed at. Can we figure out solutions instead of screeching?

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Life at Kelly's

There was a guy in the bar who was always glowering at me. This was about 15 years ago at the old Kelly's Tavern, a long-gone dive bar at Third and Bell in Seattle. I never saw this guy talking to anyone, just nursing a beer and looking a little menacing.
In other words, a perfect guy for me to connect with, or so I thought.
For months he would see me across the bar, and watch me. I never said anything to him, he never said anything to me, or to anyone for that matter, except to order whatever draft beer was cheap.
After weeks of this, I had my perfect moment. Just as I walked into Kelly’s, he walked into the men’s room. I could see where he left his beer and back pack, so I settled in next to his spot with my diet Pepsi.
He comes back out, plops down next to me.
“Seen you around.”
It went downhill from there. He responded to “internal stimulus” as they say. Little green men were making sure we were unable to find our way to the escape hatch through to the 4th dimension under our flat earth. It was like uncorking a bottle of very colorful carbonated home brew, which someone had set on a warm windowsill before shaking up. Once all the foam had sprayed out, there was nothing left, so he bid me goodnight, and moved on. Never saw him again.
For people who think there are easy answers to every social ill, I want you to consider hanging out in a dive bar for a month or so.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Thank you Pastor Bob Bradbury

Pastor Bob Bradbury was one of the earliest Nightwatch outreach ministers, starting in 1967. He was a classmate of Bud Palmberg, our founder. Pastor Bob passed away in December, 2016, and his widow Jane Ann sent me this amazing story. He told the story on Father's Day last year - his final sermon. I'm guessing he has told this story many times:

The Story of Pedro in 1967: While coming upon First and Pike after midnight, Pastor Bob heard this loud, foul-mouth exclamation from the alley, and encountered a huge African American man, pounding his fists bloody against the rough wall of a building. 

“STOP IT” Bob yelled at him loudly.  “YOU”RE A CHILD OF GOD AND GOD LOVES YOU--  NOW STOP IT.”  

Pedro replied, “I just thumped a guy and I said I would never do that again, but I just did.”  Seeing his clerical collar, Pedro continued, “I am a child of the devil.”  

“You were conceived out of love, and you are NOT a child of the devil.  Now STOP hurting yourself.” 

By this time the cops were on the scene, and Pastor Bob could hear the sirens of an aid car coming. “Now we are getting help for your bloody hands, and you need to know you are loved,” Pastor Bob told Pedro.

The cops had their clubs drawn, just in case, but of course they were not necessary.  “That was the finest sermon I have ever heard,” said one of the cops.  The cop said to Bob that they had had much trouble with Pedro, and told Bob that they never have seen him calm down the way Bob got him calmed down.  

Pedro turned to Bob just before he entered the aid car, and said, ”Father, I will never forget you and the way you helped me.”  And Bob never forgot him, either.

Jane Ann said that Pastor Bob told that story as though it just happened. But it was 50 years later. 

Nightwatch turns 50 this year. We hope you will help us lay the foundation for another 50 years, through your generous support.