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.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Some sort of parable

A good-looking middle aged guy shakes his head while drinking at the bar.

He's incredulous.

The bartender, female, attractive in a matronly way, has just revealed that she commutes 90 miles each way to her job.

"Hey," the guy says, suddenly inspired. "You could stay at my place, 1/2 mile from here." {You, dear reader, can insert your own lewd comment here. I am too demure to do so.}

"Uh, no thanks," she tells him.

"Had to try." He smiles. His blackened stubs only remotely look like teeth.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

When Did You Start Smoking?

My dad says he quit smoking at age seven.

Tonight I was exchanging pleasantries with one of my friends outside a bar while he had a cigarette.

We talked about this and that. He said something about not starting to smoke until recently.

"When did you start?" I asked him.

"When I was going to AA."



Saturday, October 14, 2006

Wedded Bliss? NOT!!

Dravus Street bar has been heating up -- bartender says she has to testify about a shooting in the parking lot, where tonight the drunk motorcycle riding Army private told me he is heading back to Iraq for a 2nd tour, that he just got married four weeks ago.

He is formal, foggy, and maybe full of gas. He asked for prayer, wanted assurance God would be in Iraq. After this "significant" conversation we went into the bar, where within minutes he was approached by a hooker and left.

Playing the story out in my mind in the past day or two, I'm not sure there was anything I could have told him to turn him another direction. Pretty sick moment. Hope he wakes up to reality before he kills himself, but I think his reckless behavior is going to get him. Sadly yours, Rick

Thursday, October 12, 2006

What Now?

He’s 47, an ex-con, former electrician mired in unfathomable licensing mixups. She’s twenty-five years younger, never worked (never will?). Their five-month-old baby has never lived in his own home.

They stayed with relatives – sleeping in an apartment hallway for months. Then they lived in a tent, camping through a rainy September and October until Child Protective Services threatened them.

Transitional housing was found for Mom and the baby son for several months, while “Mark” went to work and slept in a shelter thanks to Operation Nightwatch.

They saved their money, bought a cheap car, decided to drive back to Colorado where they used to live, where friends were ready to help. With much fanfare they left.

Problem is, they only got as far as North Bend. The engine threw a rod. It was a total loss. After four months in Seattle they were starting over again. What now? Rick

Friday, October 06, 2006

Compass points north

"Buddy" just got back from work in Alaska.

Tonight at Dravus Street he spoke the truth to another patron.

"When I was sixth grade I read everything, and decided to read the Bible. My family didn't have any church connection or anything.

"Then in seventh grade I got it." He points to his heart. "Since then I know I am alright."

"It's like when I'm on the boat; I know I get off course, but I check my compass, pointing me north.

"I always got that compass, getting me back on course."

Weird Call to John, Night Supervisor

There was a confusing message on the phone, and then the woman called.

"I'm living in motel in Seatac, and I'm afraid people are trying to get into my room at night."

Ok. John thought maybe she was going to ask for a hotel voucher, or had some other need.

"I just wondered how soon you could get someone down here to watch me?"

Say what?

"Isn't this Nightwatch? I thought you would send someone down here to watch me at night so no one would come into my motel room."

A little confusion. We don't do that.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Three months clean

Joe came up to me full tilt, looking ragged and too excited to see me.

“You told me I wouldn’t die.”

My mind went racing for his name, a face, something to help me remember this guy and the conversation. Nothing.

“Remember?” he asked. “I told you I was sick of heroin, and wanted to get into a treatment program. I’ve been clean for three months now.”

Suddenly the light went on. “I was right! You didn’t die,” I pointed out. Joe’s face broke into a grin. “I was mad when you told me that, but it was the truth. I didn’t die.”
No one dies from quitting heroin. Don’t relapse Joe.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Powerful Word

At the last minute Lorri (my wife) and I were pressed into duties at the dispatch center, cooking and serving a meal. It wasn't much, heated up stew, made rice. Had some odds and ends of juice, pop, milk to offer, along with a slew of sweets. Oh yes, and delicious and much coveted Dick's Cheeseburgers.

It can get pretty frantic.

At 9:05 the onslaught began. By 10:00 we were cleaning up -- even got to wash a pot left behind by the group from the night before.

As we were leaving one of the remaining homeless people came to me and quietly said, "Thank you."

It blew me away.

If I haven't said thank you lately, I am so sorry.

Thank you John, Ben, Salvadore, Jeff, and Theo for all the guff you have to take at night. I know you don't really do it for the money.

Thank you Sherry for your care for the tenants.

Thank you Ann for sharing your life, wisdom, prayers, and commitment for this ministry.

Thank you interested readers, donors, family, friends, for loving and supporting us, even with all our wrinkles.

Thank you, Board of Directors, for your confidence in us.

Thank you, God, for making it happen.


Little things matter

I really don’t like wearing neckties; wearing a clerical collar is not much relief. Each new clerical shirt comes with a pair of plastic tabs, the little white square which makes that distinctive look for the ministers on the street. When I pull out that tab and unbutton my minister’s shirt, it looks rather ordinary. Pop the little white tab back in, and voila — street minister/chaplain/priest.
Those little plastic strips keep disappearing on me. They turn up in the wash, random drawers, under the sofa. On my way to a speaking engagement I discovered I didn’t have a collar tab with me. I searched in my car in the church parking lot, wondering what to do. I figured out that my business card, carefully folded, would do in a crisis. It’s such a little thing — but it makes a big difference.