And for you, dear reader, may these words inspire you to kindle Kingdom-building ventures wherever you may go, and to join with your neighbors in welcoming the most vulnerable among us to their homes.
This is a small excerpt from Elizabeth’s “Stories from Moore Place: The Search for Home.” We can guarantee that time spent reading the entire 8 pages will be time well spent.
…[I] entered into a collection of apartments of individuals who have recently moved off of the streets of Charlotte. Serving at Moore Place, a permanent supportive housing community for the most vulnerable of those on the margins of our society, I came to know men and women who have been chronically homeless and also have one, often more, disabling conditions.…
The conversations from this summer converted me to revise my ideas of dwelling places. One afternoon, while constructing a puzzle together, one passionate tenant named Melanie shared her view of homelessness. “Homeless is a meaningless label,” she spoke. “Home is not about the physical structure – What makes a beloved place below the bridge any less of a home than the one with a roof and four concrete walls?”
Melanie’s answer spoke to the idea that perhaps “homeless” individuals cannot be spotted by outward appearance. By her view, home can only be felt as a belonging within, an oasis where the soul finds rest.
FRIDAY GRATITUDE. 3:45 PM: I am perched in the lobby, asking anyone who passes by if I can trace their hands. Some come immediately, others require some coaxing. Each one looks at me curiously until I show them that I will place their hands on colored paper and trace one finger at a time. They then fill in the space on their palms with words of gratitude. Each set of hands are worn by their stories, holding the burdens and the gifts of each unique journey. We assemble them like leaves to form a blossoming Gratitude Tree.
The words that emerge are captivating:
“I am grateful for my High Power, my daughter, and me.” I hold his daughter’s hands from her wheelchair, while he, a proud father, beams with gratefulness beside her.
“I am grateful to not be homeless.” Her hands shake as I trace them. They are every ounce of beautiful.
“I am thankful for loving life.” He is on multiple pain medications for a knee surgery and has lived in countless varieties of foster homes. His mother died of family violence in his arms. He is more than a survivor.
“Just doing God’s work.” One of our security guards, the quietest one, with great big palms writes this hidden on the index finger.
“I am grateful God woke me up this morning.” After sleeping under a bridge 18 years, she now has her own bed (though it is sometimes shared with one tenant who apparently keeps her up with his bony elbows). God woke me up in that moment. Gratitude: the shared language of the Kingdom. One woman writes that she is “greatful.” Great, and full. Greatest because they are the least of these. Palms open, ready to receive.
Friday morning: While I paint the Gratitude Tree branches, a tenant tells me that there aren’t enough years to tell me about his addiction story. I tell him that I know more about addiction than he may think. I tell him that anorexia is just as addictive as other drugs of choice. For a moment, barriers melt between us. He sees my now-healthy waist, and how I once was wasting away by running eight miles a day. He calls me a “phenomenon.” It’s perhaps the best compliment I’ve ever gotten. He nicknames me dimple, and I take it.
On my hand, I write that I am grateful for smiles. Including my own one-sided dimple, the dimple that makes me a “phenomenon.” I am grateful for the God-given gift of recovery. And I am grateful for the many hands that I traced – for their struggles and their faith. The faith that makes the Kingdom rise, one smile, one hand at a time.
A journal entry: Arthur found me at the picnic table and joined me for lunch today. He said he’d only stop by for a minute. He took one of the berries I offered him. He said he doesn’t like no sweets – his momma who passed away a few weeks (months) ago (God rest her soul) gave them apples and oranges instead of donuts. He said he’s so grateful to the Lord for blessing him with fruit and food in his apartment and his finds at the Thrift Store and for keeping him clean. Especially the last one. He’s been clean for two months. “I got change now I never had before. I’d been runnin’ to my sister to get dope. But the Lord been so good to me, blessin’ me. I never thought I’d make it to sixty. I’ll only be here a minute, just saw you sittin’ under the tree.” His visit, just a minute, changes me. He’s got change in his socks and change in his heart. The Lord been so good, keepin’ him clean.