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, January 22, 2013

I share a coffee

I'm standing outside a low-income building in downtown Seattle, waiting for my disabled friend to meet me.

The sidewalk here is so fantastic, in a  Frederico Fellini sort of way. I'm away from the doorway, with my back to the curb, partly for my sense of safety, partly to watch the floor show. I'm drinking a non-fat, short latte, leaning on a mail box.

Suddenly in my face, a bearded figure I've seen before. He's memorable for his great beard, his diminutive size, his persistent pan-handling.

"Hey-you-done-with-that?" he asked, quick staccato words. He's pointing at my half-gone latte.

He's panhandling a coffee?  What the heck.

I gave him the coffee.

He turned on his heel, went over to the building, sat down on the sidewalk with a fully contented look. I nodded at him. He smiled, imperceptibly. It was like we had become coffee partners, like some sort of sci-fi ritual.

Maybe he'll save my life in the future.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Jesus and The Spa Treatment

Last Sunday night I spoke at a retirement center near here. One of the seniors quoted Jesus "The poor you will always have with you. . . " and asked if it doesn't all seem a little pointless,  helping poor and homeless folks.

I've had the question before. In the gospel, Jesus was lounging at Lazarus' house, apres-Laz's resurrection. Sister Mary comes in and pours a pint of very expensive oil over Jesus' feet and wipes them with her hair. For this loving act, she is chastised by Judas. Then Jesus says “The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me.”  He is quoting from Deuteronomy 15

Give generously to (the poor) and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be open handed toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.

It’s pretty much the opposite of how the verse is used by some.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Flat Tire

I had a flat tire today. It's good to practice those mechanical skills occasionally. It couldn't have happened in better circumstances.

It was uncharacteristically sunny in Seattle today. I notice a strange noise, and immediately there was a parking space. This being the International District, I took it. Duh. Plus, it was level.

3:30 pm. Heck with this. I'm eating lunch. So I (finally) ate my lunch sitting in the car. The flat tire can wait.

Dug around in the car. Yep, I had everything I needed. Spare was good. Indeed, the tire was simply knocked off the rim, nothing wrong with it. The Jackson street potholes took their toll.

About 10  years ago it wasn't such good timing. I was on my way back to Operation Nightwatch from doing my rounds, alone. The flat happened right outside a Belltown club, near midnight. There were all these beautiful young ladies in short, shimmery dresses and high heels.

"Need some help?"  I'm still pretty sure it was the clerical collar that made me appear helpless to young party girls, not my gray hair.

Still, it made me smile, just imagining them changing a back tire for me in their sequins. Nice image.


Monday, January 07, 2013


It took a few minutes for my brain to figure out
   that the hulk of a person sitting in front of me
              was the same young street-wise brunette I knew 17 years ago.

I've spent so many late nights,
    comforting the dying,
that my memories are blurred.

  Then, Yolanda cocked her head,
    wagged her finger, 
   and vented her rage.
This kick-started in my brain cells. Ah yes, Yolanda.
Still homeless. Seventeen years.
Now she has new stories: marriage, a jailed husband.
A hospital screw-up. Body parts have been carved off.
“I have diabetes you know,” she informs me,
   between bites of triangular fried fish.
The midnight snack includes two pounds of Skittles, a jug of soda,
   and several other white bags of death, contents unknown.
I could not watch this display of denial
   -- so evident --
      without recognizing a bit of myself,
                     rationalizing my own poor choices.
And I’ve never been raped, abandoned, beat up, abused in any way
Like Yolanda.
God have mercy on us all, and grant us Peace.