For most of us, we’re able to find a large rock of stability in our lives, when high tide starts lapping unexpectedly at our feet.
We scamper while laughing at the foamy salt water nipping at our feet. We pause to breathe in the scenery, balancing ourselves on a scenic perch of an ocean side bench, a cup of coffee with a family member or friend, a restaurant or pub visit, taking in a movie or theatre or ballgame, or any many other “buoys” we may take for granted.
For five million members of our Communities, including 1.5 million children, the force of the sea swallows up the most vulnerable in our midst. Shelters provide a small chance for these folks to hang onto and perhaps catch their breath; like Rose and Jack at the end of the Titanic movie, some are able to hang onto a sliver of whatever floats by, while others give all they have and eventually slide off and perish in the depths of the ocean of Life.
Today I saw 80 such people at work- one was a young man who was healthy and working 60 days ago, when he took his young son to a baseball game. When a fly ball came his way, this Dad tried to catch the ball for his son, fell over the rail, and broke both…..his heels. Did you know you could break heels? Both at once? Causing you to lose your job (with no health insurance) and sit in a wheelchair for six months?…in a shelter as you have no income? Me neither.
A 75 year old man, who reminds me of my own Dad when it was time for a haircut of his white locks, served and protected our Country for many years in the service. With no family around now, and no money for assisted living or a senior community center, wanders the shelter looking for meaning in Life. He wants to help arrange the bicycles on the bike rack, pick up debris that floats onto the property from the roadway, seeking only dignity, respect, and value in the years he has left- mingling for now with others struggling to catch a breath in the ocean depths.
A young Mom struggles to move things into a van that rattles, hoping to move her children’s and her belongings to their humble transitional home before the kids get out of child care. She wants to surprise them. Exhausted, she finds a small rock at the edge of the shelter to sit and cry. Joy and the gasping for air share the same inhale and exhale. She gets whatever help is available, but there’s never enough. She gathers herself, wipes her tears away, and goes back to the small space she’s had for three months in the family wing of the shelter, summoning all her strength to gather toys and groceries and hoping to leave behind the anxiety that living in the depths of the ocean can bring.
I am thankful and grateful. I sit by choice with a calming cup of coffee on the edge of the beach, watching a beautiful sunrise and breathing in the health of a beautiful Life.
Then I drive my car ten minutes to a large rock in the middle of the raging ocean waves and watch as the most heroic population I know tries to stay afloat and climb on the rock for a single night, a week, perhaps a month…before swimming away in search of their own stability and permanent bench by the calming sea. Their stories will be told in film. People need to know.
Be grateful today. You are Blessed if you are reading this.