Saturday, December 21, 2013

It's that time of year


Ralph of ETHEL and I meet to plan Christmas Eve. This is amazing. For the first time in six years, we will have REAL music on Christmas Eve. A true gift. Now can we get some people here?

The mumbling man’s name is Eldridge. He’s a frequent visitor at our sibling Jan Hus over on the eastside. I can guess what’s coming. And am not disappointed.

Rachelle in her layers and layers takes off her mittens. Her arthritis gnarled fingers are cracked and bleeding. We wash off her hands. Slowly wrap band aids around her fingers.


I learn more about Pat O. He’s not just a guitar player. Or professor at Columbia. He’s an organizational consultant. With international clients especially growing field in India. I share with him the big picture. The nascent community coalition coming together to develop a strategy to raise the funds to repair the facade, get the scaffolding down. The commitment of Manhattan president Gale Brewer and our new Councilmember Helen Rosenthal.  And Pat will help develop a business plan to back us up.

Gregory comes in with that overingratiating smile. A little too familiar. Keeps promising to pay me back. Not going to happen.
Rachelle has brought lunch for us all, a bag of out dated Starbucks’ pastries. Pushing them towards me, one after the other. No, no. Just work on your cart.

                                                     * * * * 
One year ago today, Teddy died.  We took time last Sunday to share our memories. We lit a candle. We'll light another today. Can't help but think how things might have been different if he were still around. What deal closed earlier. My steps issues easier. And oh, yes, how many mpore laughs. So many more laughs. Damn. Still hurts. 

(for the story of that day, see

For Zejlko's short film on Teddy, see


We’ve hit that point in the season where the awareness of expectation, the awareness of superficial plenty, of  heightened consumerism begins to wear on the people of the streets. Want, need, a sense of almost anger at inequity pushes people to ask more, demand more.

Eldridge is back. Mumbling. But this time he’s got a Christmas dinner from somewhere. Wants me to take it. No, please, no. Soon enough, it’s found someone ready to eat.

Spend most of the day with Sean and  Rachelle. We’ve got to get Sean’s electric wheel chair out of here. He’s working on it with  a screwdriver. I’m racing back and forth bringing him tools. He’s got an attack. What are we going to do?

Rachelle sleeps most of the day. She doesn’t look well. Danielle and I unsure what to do. She rouses, very woozy. I mention  the need to see a doctor. No, no pastor. They’ll cut off my feet, I know they will…I know what to do. I know what special things  to do. Just need to put my feet up, just need to put them up.

I have absolutely no idea what to do with her. Had her set up with an appointment. But she said  she had something else to do. Was supposed to go to court, but didn’t do that either.  I’m losing it.

So of course this is when the board of the Interfaith Assembly comes in to discuss our work on homelessness. Twenty-five years of living on the edge.  I understand that so completely. But this time feels worse. Like what we’ve lived through as a church. What’s needed is grassroots organizing. Even our formerly homeless board members worry about our level of organization. 

There is a sense of hope with a new administration. We’ve got three main policy points: renew the rent subsidy program, shorten the wait time and move the waiting list line forward and pull a top group together to build a strategic plan.

Meanwhile I ponder life reduced to shopping bags, shopping carts.  Last desperate attempts at some degree of order. Of something that is yours, to hold onto.

It’s that time of year.

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