Saturday, August 29, 2015


If I quit, I suppose it would be a good time for me to reflect on some great things of my work over the last 20 plus years:

-Seeing so many clean and sober after deciding to live instead of continue drinking or using.

-Karaoke with the Childress' after they have moved out of our house and settled in their own apartment.

-Showing movies, especially the Wizard of Oz, which is the only movie I found which could silence a random crowd.

-Seeing teenagers come on a winter shelter night, freezing and alone, only to see them grow up, have daughters of their own, committed to raising their children better than they were raised.

-Having a couple come back, talk about how they moved to Alaska, got a great job and are well on their feet now.  Thanked us for all we had done for them.

-A couple who was having severe issues.  I gave them counselling, and eventually got a bus ticket to go to Reno.  They came back, she had a daughter, but wouldn't quit the drugs.  He got put in prison for a gang related offense.  In jail, he wised up, decided to do everything he could to raise his daughter.  He maneuvered through all the bureaucracy, jumped through all the hoops, took all the classes and gained custody of his daughter.  After a couple years of raising his daughter, he was attacked by a member of his old gang, and he suffered severe brain damage.  He still remained committed to his daughter, and after a number of months in the hospital, he got another apartment with his daughter.

-Troll disappeared after a visit in Tigard.  His sister was deeply concerned, because she hadn't heard from or seen him for eight months.  One day, out of the blue, he calls me on the phone.  He had been in a car accident, was in a coma for six months, and suffered severe damage to his memory.  After months of trying to think, the only contact information he remembered was my phone number.  He called me, and asked if I remembered who he was.  I said, "Of course, where have you been?"  After he told me, I immediately gave him his sister's number and they were connected again.  He now lives in a group home and comes over once a week to help us sort out clothes.

-Picking up people from the permanent locked down state mental health facility in Portland.  On the day of my ordination, one of the gals from the facility told me privately that the bishop ordaining me was a disciple of the devil, and that I couldn't have the ceremony done.  Despite weather problems and another woman with mental health issues disturbing things as well as Diane having pneumonia, the ordination went as scheduled.

-Diane and I seeking out a house for us to purchase, at my father's generous offer.  We wandered all over the city, but I felt that we should look close to downtown.  We were driving by on Williams and saw a huge house with a for sale sign out front.  "That one's big enough," I said.  Diane said that we could never afford it. On an off chance, we decided to ask about it anyway.  It was owned by an African American, Seventh Day Adventist couple, who was using the house for their family and for a foster care home.  They also would allow the homeless to stay in the basement overnight to get warm.  We knew that we were meant to have this house passed on.

-The wedding we performed on the steps of someone else's church, and held the reception in the meal for the homeless.

-The very expensive wedding of Bill and Sue Palmer in a local fancy hotel, catered with a chamber orchestra for the reception.  And all the homeless of the community were invited.  I remember the father of the bride having a great time with one of our regulars, getting drunk and reminiscing about how different the country used to be.  I saw the same father four years later when the groom died suddenly.  We shook hands gravely.

-Being called in the middle of the night because my friend's van, which was his home, was going to be towed in an hour.  I pushed it without a rope for about a half mile at two in the morning.  A week later, I did it again.

-Pulling strings so a friend could get his van, which he lived in, repaired so he wouldn't have it towed from him in the middle of an ice storm.

-My many conversations with the police, some hostile, some friendly, depending on their own prejudice against my homeless friends.

-Smiling as my homeless friends played and chatted with my young children, knowing they are substitutes for children my friends had but would never see.

-Walking down the steps of our house with a huge pot of soup for the meal that night, slipping and falling on the painted steps, soup everywhere.  I quickly checked the bank account, and found that we had just enough for pizza that night.  The pizza was delivered to the day shelter door.  We didn't get our bills paid that week, but everyone was happy.

-The Fire Marshal approving of our facility for a winter shelter after much struggle with city bureaucracy.  They approved us to have 75 people in the facility.  I laughed and said, "I hope we never have that many."  I ate my words when a hundred showed up at our door the next year.  We hosted a number of our folks in our prayer house next door.

-The many housed folks who learned to love and hang with the homeless.

-The many men who learned that violence isn't as effective as the way of peace.

-The many women who learned independence and power in their faith.

-The thousands of stories I heard about life on the street.

-The thousands of people who came our way and were changed.  Some just a little, some, their whole lives were unrecognizable.  We never did a lot.  But to be a small part of a change that God is working in anyone is a powerful business.

-Seeing Gordy still riding his bike with his huge bags of cans to the store, after twenty years.


Word Woman said...

Thanks for including Bill and me in your memories, and my Dad. He really did enjoy that wedding, and hanging out with the guys from Anawim. He joked that, had he realized all the homeless would be invited, he could have written the cost of the wedding off on his taxes. That was Dad. But he was a generous and kind man, as well, and was glad to have the homeless there. The day of Bill's death was indeed sad. Only five months later, we would lose my father, as well. That was a hard year. Thank you, Steve, for sharing those very important years with me. Your friendship and wise counsel have always been and will always be a blessing to me. (By the way, by New York City area standards, the cost of that wedding was very modest )

Steve Kimes said...

Well, it was the most expensive wedding I've been to.... oh, wait, no. My brother's wedding was insanely expensive and big. In my mind, unnecessary, but yours and Bill's was just fun.