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, June 13, 2014


Last night at midnight

  we looked into the face

       of a homeless wretch --

    a man, living in total subjugation

        to his primal disordered brain.

With hurricane force

   he spewed raw anger,

     screaming irrationally at those

       who want to help, but can’t.

There is no shelter to contain him.

     No options. In any program. Anywhere.

Until he throws a punch,

    pulls a knife,

       jumps out a window,

he is free to wander through the night.

His name is Legion. We have seen him before.

He is gathering strength.

God bless those shelter workers

who persevere
in the face of Belial.

Monday, June 09, 2014

The panhandler

There is a space
between the lines
between the words
where there is room
for the real story of a life
to be discovered, 
tasted, smelled, handled.
That guy on the corner --
an aged drunk, using all guile to
extend his buzz --
quoted, with all eloquence
fifty years ago. Today,
I held the magazine
and read the quote
and heard it read
and shook my head.
There is an instant
between the days
between the moments
when there is time
for the real story of a life
to be discovered, 
tasted, smelled, and handled.

Friday, June 06, 2014

Making friends


When you help Operation Nightwatch,
you are making friends, and opening doors.

You are making friends with strangers and aliens,
people who live in the shadows,
and have no place to lay their heads at night.

You are opening doors to homeless people,
welcoming them into shelter and housing,
and guiding them in the path of wholeness.

Making friends. Opening doors.
Together. Thank you for your help.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

From "Low Life" by Luc Sante

"Night is the corridor of history -- not the history of famous people or great events, but that of the marginal, the ignored, the suppressed, the unacknowledged; the history of vice, of error, of confusion, of fear, of want; the history of intoxication, of vainglory, of delusion, of dissipation, of delirium. It strips off the city’s veneer of progress and modernity and civilization and reveals the wilderness. . . . In the streets at night, everything kept hidden comes forth, everyone is subject to the rules of chance, everyone is potentially both murderer and victim, everyone is afraid, just as anyone who sets his or her mind to it can inspire fear in others." Luc Sante, Low Life

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Upon the Death of Maya Angelou

Two days ago I picked a peony
from my garden --
a descendent of the peonies
that graced my grandmother’s yard
forty years ago.
I laid this peony upon my grandparent’s grave,
and stood, pondering my mortality
for just a moment,
with thanks for a beautiful heritage.

The peonies are still bright this morning
and I am still thankful,
despite the sadness of the day.
Maya left us a beautiful heritage -
a riotous garden of colors
seen through momentary tears
and smiles of remembrance.

Friday, May 23, 2014


A homeless woman groans,
inching her wheelchair
toward nowhere in particular.
It's eleven-eighteen at night.
I look at the Emergency Room workers.
They look at nobody,
afraid of the condemnation and hopelessness --
--the  bitterness -- brewing in that room of sufferers.
The woman groans some more, yet mildly.
breaking the concentration of the rest of us
who stare at workers not looking up.
Those gentle groans come from deep within.

The groaner knows.
There is no place for her.
She is not sick enough for a hospital
She is too alive for the morgue.
She is too needy to stay with friends
She is too unwell for a shelter.
There is no shelter.
There are no friends.
No hospital bed, no nurse, no doctor.
No tidy little apartment
where she could water a plant
drink tea and induce purring.
And so she groans. 
She can do nothing else.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A Shadow

A wisp, a shadow, stood pawing through a garbage can at 3rd and James late last night. He muttered to himself and walked away.

“Hey, buddy. BUDDY.” He looked at me with empty eyes. “You hungry? I got a pizza for you.”

I opened the hatch on my car. The shadow’s eyes grew wide, staring at 37 pizzas, destined for other homeless friends. I picked up a deep dish pizza box and handed it to him. For a moment he was coherent, substantial, alive. He thanked me, and turned away.

Human beings should not have to eat from garbage cans in our community.

When you give to Nightwatch, you reaffirm the dignity and worth of every human being who haunts our urban streets. You sustain them with food, offer them shelter. You grant hope and love to folks who have not experienced hope or love in a very long time, if at all.