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Only In Heaven

Only in Heaven

By Michael P. McCrory

In windswept Denver – all who pass
Seek shelter from the stormy blast
While in an alley – out of sight
A homeless man will spend the night

In lying there he suffers on
In mind and heart and will
And prays,somehow that things may change
And justice have it’s fill

He knows deep down- this is so wrong
That he should live this way
Without a home, a friend or hope
To see him through each day

The future for such lonely ones
Must seem so bleak and empty
Denied the bare necessities
In our land of plenty

But hark, there’s hope — good souls who wish
To show a little pity
They’re young and full of love and joy
They are Christ in the city

Their simple task to be a friend
To everyone they meet
In pairs of two you’ll see them
In downtown Denver streets

They’re there each day to chat with them
To prove they really care
To listen to their stories
And maybe say a prayer

It may not sound so very much
But it means a lot to them
To have such lovely people
Treat them like a friend

…………………………………..

But the ones who ‘pay the piper’
– The engine in the train –
Are all the generous donors
Who time and time again

Support these brave young people
With the backing that they need
Without such rich investment
They never could succeed

And for their generosity
The return is great we’re told

“ For every single cent ” God says
“ I’ll repay one hundred fold
Yes! all you do for others
Out of love for me
Will then go on
Re-echoing
Through all eternity
For everything you’ve ever had
You owe it all to me
So I can never be outdone
In generosity
And now
You are
Not only
my friend
You and I are One
Only in Heaven
Will you know
The good that you have done. “

Michael Patrick McCrory is from Belfast, Northern Ireland. He currently lives in Newport Beach, CA, with his wife of 48 years. He wrote this poem after visiting Christ in the City. This poem is his thank you to the missionaries and their donors for loving the poor as they do.


Encountering the Homeless

Encountering the Homeless

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By Torch (previously homeless friend of Christ in the City)

Everyone is a unique individual. Of course it is better to be careful about labeling people and making generalizations based on those labels. Each homeless person has his or her own specific circumstance, but all homeless people do have something very significant in common that defines them as a group: homelessness.

It may be difficult for someone who has always enjoyed access to a warm bed and who has never had to wonder where their next meal was coming from to relate to the problems of the penniless, marginalized members of our society.

However, noble intentions sometimes lead the self-sufficient into contact with the more materially impoverished members of their community. These volunteers providing services for the destitute may at times want to go beyond merely handing poor people blankets or serving them food and engage with them on a more personal level, such as in casual conversation.

But such a volunteer may also feel somewhat self-conscious about attempting to bridge the gap that so clearly separates the haves from the have-nots.

Is this you? Do you worry about getting personal because it might get awkward?

What if the conversation turns toward social justice issues and class resentment that remains unspoken is nonetheless clearly implied? Or what if the person you’re helping needs help mainly because of their chronic alcohol abuse which drives them to behave obnoxiously and ramble incoherently? Do you really want to get drawn into that? Or what if the person you decide to chat with has such terrible and tragic problems that virtually anything you might say about them will come off as sounding trite and patronizing?

I can certainly understand why, should these worries cross your mind, you might then be tempted to merely donate some canned corn to your local food bank and leave it at that. Well, the truth of the matter is that you share more common ground with people struggling than you might realize.

If you resolve to relate to homeless people not primarily in their capacity as homeless but rather in their capacity as people, you’ll come to see that most of them are just folks with the same common interests and attitudes as anyone else. Of course there are people on the street who are jerks and flakes and who will be rude to you, but there are people in comfortable suburban homes that you could say the same of.

At the risk of overgeneralizing, if you can speak intelligently about the Broncos, you have an ice-breaker with just about any homeless person in Denver. If you discover that a particular homeless person happens to be from out of town, just fall back to plan B: the weather. The conversation will go pretty much exactly as you’d expect based on your life experiences of making similar chit-chat with your neighbors and peers.

I once complained to a friend about the banality of small talk. He just shrugged and offered me these words of wisdom: “You gotta start somewhere.”

Indeed it is much better to start with “How ’bout that Osweiler?” than “I have a roof over my head and you don’t…thoughts?” because even though someone may be homeless, that condition doesn’t define them as a person and may not even dominate their thinking.

If, as part of answering your call to service, you decide to work with the poor, you will be able to accomplish much greater things by declining to view the homeless people you encounter as your charity cases and instead resolve to see them first and foremost as your friends.

Torch is a freelance philosopher originally from South-Central Pennsylvania, not far from where Hershey’s Kisses are made. He is a two time college dropout but earned a Ph.D. in “So That’s How It Is” from the prestigious but unaccredited School of Hard Knocks. Torch has been haunting the Denver area for over six years now, much of that time on the street. He lives alone and is trying to quit smoking.


Yellow roses and ice cream

Yellow Roses and Ice Cream

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By Makena Clawson

I can’t do much. And realizing this actually brings me peace.

I worry, wring my hands, pace around the room and eat ice cream when I’m stressed. (Mostly the ice cream one – I have my spoon in a pint of Ben and Jerry’s peanut butter cup right now.)

Working with our friends experiencing homelessness can be stressful. Their burdens become our burdens, their pain becomes our pain. How do I sleep comfortably at night when so many of my friends are freezing on cold pavement or stuck on a mat at a shelter with someone an inch away on both sides?

Recently, I’ve been getting to know a young homeless woman who is pregnant. We work with multiple pregnant women, but this one is close to me in age and we’ve formed a close friendship ever since she trusted me enough to tell me she’s expecting.

I was working with this woman to get her into a temporary shelter while she looked for more permanent housing. She agreed, there was a place in the shelter and everything was lining up. But one small problem. She wanted to spend one last night on the street. I tried to convince her, but her mind was made.

This wasn’t any normal night, but happened to be the night the first big snow of the year was set to come in. My fellow missionaries were excited about the first snow and the office buzzed with talk of the airport canceling flights, all as my heart sank lower and lower.

Could I have tried harder to convince her to go inside tonight? Should we go downtown and look for her? What if it gets so cold and she loses the baby? What more could I have done?

These questions all swirled through my head like the first snowflakes hitting the ground. I was preoccupied all evening. Sure, I gave it over to God (or at least thought I did) and prayed for him to take care of her. But I still felt like I wasn’t doing enough.

As we filed into the chapel for night prayer, I looked up towards the altar and saw a large vase full of yellow roses. Yellow roses are significant because three years ago, someone told me about how they asked God for a sign their prayers for unborn children were effective and saw yellow roses as reassurance that their prayers were heard. Yellow roses had become a special sign for me too after praying for the unborn.

I fell to my knees and realized how selfish I’d been. This homeless friend and her unborn child belong to God, not me. She is his daughter and not mine. He loves her more than I ever could. Why had I been worried, anxious and stress eating instead of handing her over to him with trust and peace?

The yellow roses reminded me that he is taking care of her and her child. That she is in his hands and not mine. Maybe he’ll use me as an instrument in helping her occasionally, but she belongs to him.

I saw my friend the next day doing well. She is now in the shelter and there’s a yellow rose bush outside with blossoms still alive even after several snows.

Makena Clawson is a first-year missionary and recent graduate of Benedictine College. She wishes the whole world loved Jesus, speaking in Spanish, and Nancy Drew as much as she does.