Hope Tomorrow is Better – A Post Shelter Reflection

Late in the evening after some church meeting or work when I get on the subway, I often look around and inspect my fellow passengers. Where are they coming from? What goes through their minds as they stare into the middle distance tiredly? They’re all people in the middle of struggling with living life as hard as life can be.

The guests at our homeless shelter are similar in their way. They live in a constant state of anxiety and will hardly remember us or any real detail about Plymouth, except vaguely. I have no idea what being homeless is like but from the behavior of the men, you can discern a little: they guard their things, ask permission for nearly every act, retire to the bunks immediately after dinner. Their days are one long, I hope this isn’t too awful and Just let me get through this and Today was bad, hope tomorrow is better. They have their own business and we are merely caretakers of them. CAMBA, the professionals, knows what it’s doing and most of them will get back on their feet soon.

Every so often I’ll wonder why the world simply doesn’t call a halt to everything and solve every problem it has. What is more important than securing safety and comfort for suffering humans, or than providing care for the ill, needy, or lonely? Why do we hold elections, Super Bowls, and 4ths of July when these problems exist?  What will the world lose if we take time to pause and bolster the weakest among us?  Nothing, that’s what. I think of Wordsworth’s sonnet, “The world is too much with us.” There is such a thing as a National Day of Service but it is sadly underpromoted, and it doesn’t go far enough in my opinion. It should be, International Stop Day.

However, slogans will not solve homelessness nor the shocking poverty that is easy to see here in this city if you’ll only look. Life is complex and social problems require wise adults and effort, neither of which are as glamorous as slogans. Human evil won’t be solved until we enter the next world; until then Jesus has granted us forgiveness for our sinful, wicked natures.



Wonderful Chaos – Bible, Building and Baking

Bible Building and Baking is celebrating its seventh year. For all that time Sunday School children ranging in age from two to ten have been gathering weekly after school, most recently on Mondays. Theoretically we meet to build and bake; what actually happens though during this hour and a half- two if the oven is not cooperating- is much less tangible and far more magical. What happens has also changed a bit over the years as the participants have.

In the early days, we focused on the task and the product- the baking and of course, the eating. Yeast dough was transformed into everything from pizza to stollen. There were field trips to a local bakery and chocolate factory. We learned about ingredients, measurements and baking tools. We created a small cookbook and my mother complained that I had gained too much weight.

Gradually, as the class got bigger and the children younger, things loosened up. They just had to. Sometimes there were over twenty children. Older kids started bringing their younger sibling or two. The field trips were to the bathroom to wash hands, the ingredients became fewer and the knives plastic . I lost some of the weight because there were no longer any leftovers.

Sometimes, I feel guilty that the yeast dough we now use is made by Trader Joe’s; then, I remind myself that the class is about so much more. It’s about learning to love Plymouth as part of our daily lives. It’s about wanting to come to church, befriending other church kids. It’s about making memories.

Here are just some recent highlights: Two weeks ago a child lost his first tooth while eating an apple he had sliced and dipped in caramel. At the same time, one of the lovely caregivers who stays in class because of a younger sibling was photographing the younger sibling’s first steps to send to her mother, away on a business trip. That day, our weekly Bible story was read by a nine year old and a five year old said the closing prayer.

This week, the older kids were eager to help out in any way that they could. They were bathroom- runners, they supervised the hot glue gun, they drew hearts for the younger kids to fill in and they tirelessly filled the water pitcher. The rewards? Admiration, hugs and a long pink beaded necklace from the younger ones.

So, please, if you are ever available on a Monday afternoon, feel free to join us for some of the wonderful chaos!