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, March 14, 2014

Malachi is reborn

It’s 10 p.m.  I’m at a shelter, having just delivered the excess pizzas from Little Caesar to the residents. Some guy sees me, all excited: “I reborn today, I reborn today!” in heavily accented English.

To tell you the truth, I thought maybe he was reacting to my clerical collar, and had experienced some a transcendent spiritual moment, some movement of the Spirit. He shuffled through a clutch of papers.

“I reborn.” He repeated. Then he pulls out a sacred document “Certificate of Naturalization.” His smile is lighting the room. Wowsers. Congratulations!

It has all come together for Malachi.  He is now an American citizen, and a priest appears, bearing pizza in honor of this special day. With gestures, Malachi gives thanks to God above and to me, as though I had planned all this out, just for him.  Five pizzas, deep dish pepperoni, lowered from on high. Render unto Little Caesar’s that which is Little Caesar’s and render unto God that which is God’s. 

From Somalia to the United States. Malachi belongs with us now. Eat pizza. Be happy.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Hole in the fence

There’s a hole in the fence in my town.
It looks too small for a person to crawl through
but we do --
pushing hard to get through
like oversized
When we go through that
hole in the fence
we enter a world of despair.
Last night at midnight
we pressed corpulent flesh
through that hole
and entered into a dark world
under a highway.
Homeless people sleep here
wrapped up in cardboard, plastic, and blankets.
A community of sorrow and regret,
they clump together for safety
more than warmth.
Our blankets were received with thanksgiving
and amazement. It’s 26 degrees.
My friend and I were quiet
until we squeezed back through the
hole in the fence.
What was there to say?
This is the world we live in,
where 700,000 people cram the streets
to celebrate civic pride
but not a single one
knows about the hole in the fence.

6 Feb 2014

I wrote this after crawling through a hole in the fence to take blankets to some guys who were camping out under a roadway in Seattle on a bitterly cold night - maybe in the low 20s. It was about midnight. My companion, Deacon Frank had never seen anything like that. So sad. This was one day after the massive Seahawks Super Bowl celebration parade. Never has Seattle been so packed with people, and none knew about the hole.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Will you help Ronnie?

In many ways, Operation Nightwatch resembles the homeless folks we serve. A little rough around the edges. Humble. And in need.

We rely on regular folks, sending support, so we can get homeless people off the street. One guy, Ronnie, confronted me in the night. To find out what happened, click on the star, and watch the video. It's barely four minutes. Would you do that for me? Please don't turn away. Thank you.

Friday, October 11, 2013

It takes your breath away 10/11/13

You are standing in the parking lot of a great cathedral
Home to a hundred homeless friends.
And in the dark and gloom outside
The grand organ echoes.
It takes your breath away.
You deliver homeless men to another sanctuary
And in the dark, they sigh, contented beyond measure
As one of their own sits at the grand piano.
He plays a gentle flowing stream of music
That whispers Comfort in that sacred place.
It takes your breath away.
There will be music on that Day
Resounding trombones, New Orleans-style.
God’s trombones
Playing the notes between the notes
Another flowing stream
It will take your breath away.

I wrote this in honor of my cousin Robert Crane, and in honor of his new grandchild.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Lauds and Compline

I walk in the heavy morning air of mid-August,
     suffocating, yet elated.
Despite my awkward old-age heaviness,
    exhilaration exudes  from the marrow.
A good Creator has,  despite my contrariness,
     granted a new day.
So I walk, in gratitude,
      singing to myself the hymns of my childhood.
I conclude with the remembrance, long dormant,
            of an obscure fourth verse. So satisfying!
Then, I detect a fellow walker,
            emitting an indistinct sound from some device.
“How dare he infringe my worship with his din?”
Then, I draw closer, and the noise resolves
                                                      into Gospel.
Tempo, chords, and composition, are foreign
           yet the same good Creator
                     is praised, with joy and power.
And so for a quarter mile, I lurk
                           within worshipful distance.
We meet by and by.
So sweet.
My new brother, Solomon.

Late that same night, world-weariness presses down the old preacher.
Yes, there is still joy, but the feet are sore and the bed beckons.
“Just a bit further. The time for resting is not yet.”
In a dim shelter, residents fill my ear with stories
     of logging, and methadone programs, and favorite authors.
Yes. It is as random as it sounds.
Then, bursting in,
                 a new, angry friend,
like a prophet, but all noise,
                       never resolving into Gospel.
Dramatic confusion born out of hurts
--  personal and tribal --
  he quotes myriad unrelated scriptures without  understanding.
And yet, there is something loving and lovable
     about a man who bears the burden of a daddy shot by drug dealers,
      and the desire to make sense out of the inhumanity and cruelty
                        poured out on a race for generations.
I can do nothing about the slave trade. Nothing about the drug dealers.
Nothing about the hurt and pain he experiences daily.
Nothing but love.
I can hope that when the Morning comes,
  and this long night is over,
                John will be my brother too.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Do all the good you can. . .

“Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.” 

John Wesley didn't say this.

But it's still a pretty-good sentiment, and knowing how liberally Rev. Wesley borrowed from others, I don't think there's much harm in attributing something to him that he didn't apparently say.

I’m running with homeless runners from Operation Nightwatch on July 27, in the Seattle Torchlight run. I’d love to have your support and help me get the word out.  

One of our runners told us “I’d run 100 miles for Nightwatch.” 

To donate: follow the link below, to make a secure donation.

Spread the word. Make Wesley proud. 

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Homeless survival

Home to Nightwatch, 1994-97.
The Nightwatch home at 91 Wall Street was a rat and cockroach infested hell-hole, with church banners to dampen the noise. Didn't work.

Homeless people crammed in here every night, to get a meal, to get out of the rain, to find shelter.

After speaking to the Kirkland Kiwanis today, one of the members told me a story from his nights of volunteering here in the mid 1990s.

A 14-year-old girl wandered into 91 Wall, with no place to go. "You found her a place in a teen shelter, but she didn't know where to go, and there was no way for you to leave," the Kiwanian recalled. "So you sent her away with three trustworthy homeless guys who knew where the teen shelter was."

Eighteen years later, the old guy's eyes are still big as saucers, and his heart is pounding as he recalls the moment. Especially as he recounted how I got in the girl's face and told her she had to get inside.

Experiencing homeless survival first-hand will change you forever.  Thank you, Chuck, for telling the story!