Sleepy, our friend at CASS, the homeless shelter on Madison in downtown Phoenix, conveniently had directed Viktor and I to the Phoenix Dream Center on Grand Ave. We drove up to it later that day and I decided I wanted to give that place some of the donations we had received. I just got a “good vibe” from it.
We walked in through the front door and I asked a woman at the desk if she could use some of the stuff we had. She eagerly nodded and so we brought the car around and began unloading. There was a second woman at the desk, and when she saw the car and how many donations we were unloading, she got excited and called some men over to help us. We unloaded probably 75 bags full of toiletries such as toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, floss, feminine products, and utensils, most of which were donated to us in care packages by Bridgeway Christian Church of Roseville, CA.
Leona, the second woman, began telling us what a huge blessing the donations were. Her excitement just confirmed my “vibe.” She said they were going to give out the packages to the homeless “overflow” that they took in every day, and that they would give one to each of the live-in “disciples” at the center.
Basically, we found out that the Dream Center ran a program that took in the homeless and incarcerated, giving them a place to sleep, food to eat, and responsibilities to put them back into the normal routine of life and keep them off the streets. The program as she described it just blew me away. They took in both men and women and the patients would go through different “phases,” first being introduced to the program, then put into a more rigorous routine to become “disciples.” These disciples would then go back out in the streets to bring in more of the broken and poor to the center to receive help.
Leona was completely bubbly and passionate about explaining the program. She, herself, had been in it for a year. Coincidentally, she was a native Californian, as well, hailing from San Bernadino. She ended up in Arizona at the Dream Center though unfortunate circumstances, but it was obvious to see how much her life had been turned around by the place. I don’t know how else to put it other than she wreaked of God’s love and joy.
We felt absolutely blessed to have been able to help out the Dream Center. If anyone ever finds themselves in the Phoenix area, I encourage them to help out at the Dream Center. The people there are amazing.
Another poignant moment for Viktor and I in Phoenix was during the day, when we were just walking around downtown, we saw a man, whose name is Mark, sitting on a curb eating a Subway sandwich. He kept shooting us glances, muttering something about my dress, but averting his eyes every time we made eye contact. We walked right up to him and offered a water.
He mumbled something about how he had a drink, pointing to his cup, but kept nodding his head and muttering, “Thanks for talking to this old fart, you two young people. Thank you and God bless.” He then looked away, but noticed we weren’t just walking away like people normally do. So he turned to us and said, “So where you from? Where you traveling to? You’re not from around here.” We told him we were from Long Beach and he got excited, talking about the Pike and how it’s not anything like it used to be. Apparently, he had been there when he was a little kid.
Then, randomly, he asked if we skateboarded. Since Viktor and I both longboard, and mine was actually in my car at the moment, we said yes. He got excited and quickly told us to pretend we were on our boards because he wanted to show us something. We effected the pose, and he preceded to teach us a little skateboard trick. It was comical to see, I’m sure, but when we took our leave of Mark, he was grinning and very grateful to us for stopping to talk to him.
I’ve heard from a number of people that poor people truly appreciate when you give them more than just the change in your pocket; they really appreciate your time and your conversation. They have names and they want you to know them. They have complaints about the weather, favorite coffee drinks, opinions about today’s politics, and spiritual insight to scripture. Yet so often in the past, I’ve seen them as less interesting than a stray dog in the street; I have just walked past them like they may as well be a stain on the sidewalk — curious but not worth my time. I hope that statement offends you, makes you uncomfortable, makes you stop and think. I’ll tell you now how truly wrong I was.
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