Our Parish, St. Norbert in Orange, CA announced that we could adopt a family for Christmas. As the Bible study group leader I took it upon myself to select a family of seven. We split up the family among us and did our shopping. After the ladies from Bible study dropped off the gifts for the family, Helen and I placed them in two large plastic bags. I delivered them to the person in charge. Wearing light colored sweats without pockets I tucked my phone around my waist. Carrying the two oversized bags, I felt my phone slowly slipping down my pant leg. There are many step to get to the front door of this house, before I rang the doorbell a beautifully put together lady opened the entryway while I was digging the bottom of my pants for the phone. No make-up, hadn’t shower yet because I was going to workout, my hair was gathered in a ponytail with huge lumps. “Come in” said the perfectly together human. Oh man! This was not what I wanted to do. It was 11:00 AM and her entire family was sitting in the living room, her husband, two handsome sons, maybe her mother and her sister along with a well groomed cat that’s coat resembled a tuxedo. I looked down at my sweatpants to catch a glimpse of a sizable grease stain. Then I made the mistake of opening my mouth and explained how I was cleaning up after my party. I left the orderly holy family saying a prayer to myself. “Please Lord do not let these people attend the same service as me.”
December has been a busy month and a week before the Tamale Party we had the service to the homeless. We wanted to purchase blankets to give to the homeless on Skid Row but the price for one was $5 and we needed at least 50 to make it worth while. What we did have were medallions from Rome. These minuscule medals were barely visible to the naked eye but that was all we had. As we handed out the lunches and prayed for people I’d asked if they wanted the world’s smallest Christmas present. They laughed but when they recognized the saint depicted on the metal they were deeply touched. An older crinkled faced lady cried and said that her confirmation name was Bernadette. To each person the medals represented something sacred. I would dig into the small plastic bag and pull out Our Lady of Guadalupe, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Teresa of Avila, or the Guardian angel. Our ministry took a lot longer because these gifts really ministered to the people on Skid Row. A young man by the name of David was so grateful that he could not stop kissing my hand. Our team was extra small this time around with only Robert and John helping, being short handed added more time to distribute the meals. We ran into a group of high school age young men with two older men as chaperones. The strange thing about this group was that they were just wondering around almost like gawking, they were not really interacting with the homeless, not offering anything either. I asked one of the older men what they were doing? He explained that they are hockey team from San Jose and he wanted the boys to experience first hand what Skid Row was about. My advise to anyone doing this is that Skid Row is not a side show and if you do not have anything to offer you should not disrupt those living in deplorable conditions, it’s offensive.
Did you know that Paris, France and Skid Row have something in common? The same public toilets in Paris are used in Los Angeles. I used the ones in Paris and they are modern self cleaning beautiful public restrooms. I was amazed when they were first introduced to Skid Row a few years back. It cost fifty cents to use these facilities in the city of Angeles. We have noticed that some have been removed due to abuse of the homeless population, using drugs and other illicit behaviors.
With all the dog owners on Skid Row you really need to watch your step or you could be stepping into a pile of dog excrement. The homeless are careless with any type of waste and it usually ends up in the streets, that is way on almost every street there are volunteers cleaning up the debris.
My heart is sad when we leave the streets of L.A. because much more needs to be done to improve these conditions. We are just a tiny drop in in this endless sea of dissension but this time I felt the drop was a tear from heaven… praying we could do more.
The Tamale Party was a huge success with my best friend Helen winning for the 6th time. I was told by my daughter Sonja that my manner of presenting the trophy was abrupt. I forgot to take a picture of the climax of the party with Helen holding the trophy. To all the Tamale Party guest my apologies and to Helen congratulations but watch out next year you are going down!
May the God of us all bestow on you and your families a Blessed Christmas and may your New Year be filled with His Love!