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.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Faith and mental illness

"Brad" is a 65 year old guy who suffers terribly from his mental illness. He has recurring and persistent delusions that someone is trying to kill him. 

It's absolutely absurd, but it's as real to him as the computer screen in front of you right now. 

Imagine what it would be like if someone were REALLY trying to kill you. Your heart would pound, your palms would sweat, you would be on edge. Well, this is how Brad lives his life every moment of every day. He believes that a French actress, Audrey Tautou is actively trying to kill him. It's as real as real can be. At least to Brad. And totally absurd.

Yesterday,  Brad met with me for a simple quiet time of reading the lectionary readings for that Sunday. Various scripture passages are laid out over a three-year cycle, which follows the church calendar - Advent, Epiphany, Lent. This Sunday was Passion Sunday - the beginning of Holy Week for the western church. 

These words from Psalm 31 especially struck home:

For I hear many whispering,
    “Terror on every side!”
They conspire against me
    and plot to take my life.
 But I trust in you, Lord;
    I say, “You are my God.”
  My times are in your hands. . . .

Brad gave me a knowing glance, and afterwards, remarked on it."That passage in the Psalms really spoke to me."  He was more calm.

Even in the midst of bad brain chemistry, I believe the knowledge that God is present, and brings relief to Brad. Our times are in his hands.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Dirty Homeless People

It is always interesting to listen in to other communities and their debates about the homeless people in their midst.

Politicians are great benders of reality. In Lakewood, New Jersey, they're trying to close down a homeless encampment. I found this quote interesting:

Lakewood's mayor called conditions there "disgusting" and "horrendous."

The truth of the matter is that homeless people generate no more garbage or (excuse me) poo than the rest of us. In fact, because of poverty, they probably generate LESS garbage than the rest of us.

But, they have no access to the subsidized sewer and garbage collection system the rest of us take for granted.

Seattle's former mayor wanted to justify the clean-up of the greenbelts in the Queen Anne neighborhood, so he took the reporters out to an informal camp site and pointed out the horrible conditions - garbage and human waste. Oh the humanity. Literally. It was quite a media event, everyone wringing their hands.

That same day, 10 million gallons of human poo, from the same humans that were wringing their hands, was unleashed into Puget Sound. Now, who was being "disgusting" and "horrendous."

Whether you're homeless or not, your garbage and your poo stinks. Remember that, next time your local politician wants to get tough with homeless people.

For more on the story, click here.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Ed, the One-Eyed Geoduck Diver

Last night at Nightwatch, there was a bit of an after party. I had spent the evening out on the streets with my two compatriots. It was fairly routine.

We got back the the Nightwatch Shelter Dispatch Center, and said our goodbyes. It was 11:45. They left

Inside, there was one last client, eating.

Now, "Ed" is a big boy - maybe 6'3" and 275 pounds. Not that it matters, but he's blind in one eye. And he's just noshing away.

"Hey, what's going on, Ed?"

"I'm not homeless tonight," Ed says. "I have to drive to Olympia. We're going geoduck diving tomorrow."

Now, this is something new. Ed, the one-eyed giant geoduck diver.

"I've got the helmets in the truck."

"You need helmets to dive for geoducks?"  "Sure. Diving helmets." Oh. Of course.

We talked about the ins and outs of geoduck diving - fire hoses, and how much per pound these critters bring in. They are pulled out of the mud and immediately flown to Asia.

It's raining out. Ed isn't worried about diving. He's worried about the rain, and having to drive to Olympia at midnight, with only one eye, and a truck load of geoduck diving helmets.

I thank him for the informative conversation and bless him for his venture. Preserve Ed, O Lord, and geoduck divers everywhere. But not the poachers. Amen.