And Then There Were Three

As I was picking up supplies for Skid Row, a thought came to me that in the past 20 years, so many people have been touched by this small outreach; truly only God knows how many have been blessed.

Me, Jane, and Robert

When I arrived at Nohl Canyon Elementary School, Mrs. Donaldson was waiting for me at the back gate of the playing field to open the chain link fence. If you can imagine 20 sixth-graders rushing to unload the supplies! They were eager to help; their excitement was delightful. When I come to this school I try to make small talk with some of the students, but due to the complexity of this undertaking, it’s almost impossible. I did meet Maya, a new student. Maya was born and raised in China but she speaks fluent English, I asked her where she learned English, and she said that it was from watching videos on “You Tube” in China. I was not surprised because last year, while I was in Israel, I met a group of Israeli students on Mt. Tabor. They were speaking fluent Spanish, and when I asked them where they learned to speak in Spanish they said that they watched telenovelas. Note to self: watch more Univision to improve my Spanish.

All of these children, along with several parents, are dedicated to this service. There is always a spirit of peace and excitement; knowing that they participated in helping the needs of others is their greatest reward.

The sixth- graders unloading the supplies

From their loving hands into the hands of the poor, I get to experience the end results. As I have explained in the past, Skid Row is a community of people who have, for whatever reason, ended up one level above Hell. They live lives of drugs, violence, and neglect. They have become outcasts for the lack of resources and their inability to move forward. So the next best thing to numb the pain is drugs, lots of drugs. They feel abandoned, and for this reason many of the displaced have adopted dogs. They understand the reciprocity of an animal. A dog is truly man’s best friend on Skid Row. The dog will never verbally abuse you, it will not steal from you, and it will not beat you. These dogs protect them and their property.

Saturday’s outreach was powerful. Even though we were only three, Jane, Robert, and myself, the Lord blessed us. We never felt intimidated or overwhelmed because of our number. We did our part in handing out the meals and praying for those who needed prayer.

James and Jane
Baby Girl, one of the many dogs on Skid Row

We did encounter hazardous obstacles. A woman who got in my face when I reminded her that I had already given her two meals, said, “You didn’t give me two lunches, I know how to count, you stupid a**!” I looked blankly back into her eyes, and the white, crinkly-faced woman was filled with anger. You should never look away when you encounter this kind of situation, because it shows them a sign of weakness. We never engage in an argument either, because that is how they operate on Skid Row: it’s one fight after another. The homeless read body language too, and anything that they feel offended by provokes them to come at you.

As we were walking past one of the tents, we heard someone suffer a physical blow. Then an attractive long-legged, tall black woman come out of the tent in her underwear. A huge fight broke out between her and her boyfriend. The colorful language, fit for an “R” rated movie, is never shocking, but it was the tone in her voice that warned us to stay clear. The young woman was fuming mad because her boyfriend took her suitcase. The lunch made by the sixth- graders was thrown at her partner, and it barely missed me, but landed on poor Robert’s leg. Sometimes it is difficult to escape these ongoing incidents.

Skid Row residents rarely follow rules. People walk in the middle of the street, and if you honk your horn, a mini riot will break out. The trash is discarded on the street, the dogs’ dung is usually on the sidewalk, and there are no cute little plastic bag dispensers to pick-up the dog waste, so you must watch your every step.

As we were handing out lunches at “Refresh Spot” Robert encountered the same fate as I did earlier. A transgender person wanted another meal, and when Robert refused the person, she got in Robert’s face, with one hand on her hip, wagging her finger, and shaking her head side to side. She staring yelling, “Don’t you ever disrespect me like that again!” Of course, this was followed by the most disrespectful language ever. Robert stood his ground, no explanation of defense from him, because they are always “right,” so any words would fall on deaf ears. We have two choices when this happens: walk away, or wait for them to finish the chastisement. You need to have godly discernment because if you do walk away, sometimes they will follow you until they get tired. We are always praying in the Spirit, because this is the only way you can make it safely though Skid Row.

Someone’s son

Jane and I always carpool to Skid Row, and I always travel with my huge handbag, but this time I decided to leave my purse behind, Jane followed suit. We got so caught up in conversation that we forgot to pray. Normally Jane reads from a prayer book, and then we pray the Rosary; no handbag, no prayer book, no Rosary, equals chaos.

Robert, Tristan, Johnny, Jane, and me

Romans 15:1-2

 1 Now, we that are stronger ought to bear the infirmities of the weak and not to please ourselves. 2 Let every one of you Please his neighbor unto good, to edification.

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