Little by Little, Lawrence’s Life is Looking Up

Mother Goose wanted to update her dearest and most caring readers on the improving life conditions of her friend, Lawrence Little. You may remember that Lawrence has been living on the streets of Chicago off and on for more than a year…sleeping on the “L” and begging door-to-door for money for food and whatever.

He has now found temporary housing in an apartment building about two miles from the Goose residence — another resident is unofficially subsidizing his rent until he gets things together a little better. THAT is very good news!

Last Thursday evening, there was a great deal of urgent knocking on our front door around about the time when Mother Goose is washing up the dishes and helping the little ones with their homework. Husband Goose answered the door to discover an extremely OVERJOYED Lawrence standing at the threshold.

“Where’s Ms Natalie? Is she here? I’ve just gotta tell her my good news!” I heard him coming down the hall towards the kitchen.

“Lawrence? Is that you?”

“Ms Natalie, I got a job! I got a job! I start tomorrow! I got a job!”

One of the most charming traits of dear Lawrence is his unspoiled and pure view of life. Despite years of hard living and imminent danger and uncertainty, he maintains a precious and hopeful outlook on life. Only the Lord knows the troubles he’s seen, and yet he literally shouts for joy when life takes a turn for the better.

As it turned out, he was indeed starting a job the next day at the Costco warehouse in the city. The only challenge was how to get there on time, and Husband Goose graciously offered to buy Lawrence a one-week bus pass so he could get to his new place of employment hassle free.

As we were driving to church on Sunday, Mother Goose spotted Lawrence walking his hip-hop step down the sidewalk in the same direction as we were going. We stopped and picked him up, and sure enough he was heading for church as well. He immediately began to tell us about an incident that had already happened to him that morning. He had seen a guy on the street who owed him money, and asked if the fellow could pay him back. Apparently the guy grabbed Lawrence around the neck and shook him like a rag doll, and swearing at him, vowed no, he wasn’t going to pay him back that morning…

Lawrence was pretty upset about that, and frustrated with himself for fighting back with the guy. But by the time we arrived at the theater for church, he seemed better. He eagerly told many of his friends there about his new job at Costco. He also began asking folks for help getting a bus pass for the second week of work as we wouldn’t be paid until he had worked for two weeks.

He sat with us for worship, and the heart of Mother Goose was broken for this man, a brother in the Lord, as he prayed and cried out to God and wept for deep thanksgiving and joy that he had found work. I passed him a hand full of tissues and hugged him with all of my feathery might, to comfort him and make him know that he is indeed loved and respected and cherished.

Later on that evening, Lawrence stopped by as we were just sitting down to a light supper. He asked for hot chocolate and in fact, drank two mugs before he left. He also enjoyed an Italian sausage, but preferred not to take any mashed taters or broccoli — of course, Mother Goose chided him a little for not eating his veggies. As he ate, he doodled and talked happily about how excited he is about his new job. He had completed orientation and would begin the actual work the next day.

Costco

He is such a joy to be around!

Please pray that this work will fill him with purpose and hope. Please pray that he will make it to work on time everyday. Please pray that we can continue to support him in whatever way the Lord would direct.

Praise God for a man like Lawrence who has taught us so much about life and love.

The Church Welcomed Lawrence Little

free church

Lo! and Behold! The Goose family arrived at Free Church (an inter-denominational church meeting at the Lake Theater in Oak Park at 9:00 on Sunday mornings for fellowship and worship), and our friend, Lawrence Little, was greeted by several people. Indeed he had visited our church on several occasions and knew many of the regular attendees.

“Hey, how are you, Lawrence?” “Good to see you!” “How have you been?” “So glad that you’re here this morning!” They are a friendly and caring group of individuals.

Lawrence stuck close to my side as we walked through the pre-worship crowd in the lobby of the movie theater. He seemed wary and edgy. I was reminded of a puppy in an unfamiliar environment although it was plain that he had been here often. His eyes darted around as though he was looking for someone or something.

“Would you like some hot chocolate, Lawrence?” Mother Goose asked.

“Oh no thank you. I’m fine. Natalie, will you please talk with Chuck about maybe he can help me?”

“Yes, of course, I will,” and I looked around for our pastor. He was busily working his way through the lobby and chatting with people and heading for the auditorium.

“Good morning, Chuck,” I said. “We’ve brought our friend, Lawrence, this morning. Will you be able to talk with him?”

“Of course,” he answered. “Let’s meet right here after the service.” And he smiled and walked off towards the auditorium, announcing to us all that we were ready to go in now and the service would be starting very soon.

Mother Goose turned to Lawrence. “See?” I looked into his eyes. “Chuck can meet us afterwards and we’ll talk about Safe Haven and helping you out.”

We walked into Theater 7, greeting friends as we entered. We sat near the front as we always do, close to the band. The music started as we were removing our coats, scarves and hats. For the first time in my life, I saw Lawrence without his many jackets on. He was so much thinner than I would have imagined. I would even call him scrawny. I wondered if he wore the many large coats to make himself look bigger and more formidable as he lived and moved about on the streets…

We sang some beautiful songs to the Lord and heard a really good message about love and marriage. I looked over at Lawrence and smiled. I tried not to look too intently at him, but Lawrence seemed genuinely moved and praying passionately.

I was truly happy that he was there with us. I felt very protective of him. I felt like I was his sponsor (if there is such a thing). Though other people recognized him and had greeted him, only one woman had actually hugged him and stopped walking just to chat with him and follow up with him. She asked if he had found work, and if he had found housing. She really seemed to care if he had made the phone calls that she had suggested to him. She smiled at him and treated him as a brother.

Other people just walked on by.

One man stopped to listen to our chatting with Lawrence about heading downtown to Safe Haven. Apparently, they could not accept “walk ins” and he would need a referral from another place in order to be put on their waiting list for housing. Apparently, their office was not open on Sunday. Apparently, there was nothing that Mother Goose could do to help.

“Lawrence,” I said. “We are going to have to go home and get lunch for the kids. Pastor Chuck will be here to help you in just a few minutes. Is it OK if we leave you with this man for now?”

“Oh yes,” he said, nodding and with a small smile. “Thank you, Ms Natalie.”

The next day, Lawrence came back to our home for more hot chocolate and a visit with Husband Goose. You’ll want to come back to hear the rest of the story, right?

The Return of Lawrence Little

The earth circles around the sun, and a homeless man reappears on the doorstep of Mother Goose.

So many of my most astute and loyal readers will remember my three-part series last year regarding Lawrence Little, a homeless man of God who came into my life and forever changed my view of homelessness in America. Go ahead and click here if you’d like to review that story…

Mother Goose has been referring to 2014 as The Year of Miracles, and I’ve been privately documenting miracles, “coincidences”, and random happenstance circumstances since Thanksgiving. Maybe THAT’s why Mother Goose hasn’t had time to write stories for my adoring public!

Anyway, I would certainly consider this “chance” meeting as one of my miracles…

Winter at our house...

Winter at our house…

The Land of Oak Park has received an enormous amount of snow this winter, and the polar vortex has moved into our village to stay. Often, I will finish my inside-the-house-chores in the evening and then don my warm jacket, boots, hats, scarves and gloves and mittens to go out to attend to the daily snowfall.

Last night was no different — I had just begun to sweep the soft fluffy flakes off of my porch when I heard a voice calling out, “Hello, ma’am!” Out of my peripheral goose eye, I noticed a bundled up man walking along the sidewalk. I greeted him with a “hello” but certainly did not want to engage in night-time conversation with a stranger so I didn’t look at him…

I continued with my frenzied sweeping of the downy flakes of snow as though it was the only thing that mattered.

And when I looked up from my focused and serious work, the man was walking towards me and my porch, and I looked full on into his face for the first time — in about a year.

“Ma’am, it’s me, Lawrence Little. Your grandfather’s name is Lawrence, I know it is. Ma’am, could I do your shoveling for you? I’ve been living on the streets and it’s been a horrible winter, and I could do this work for you…”

As he walked closer into the porchlight, I did indeed recognize him. We shook hands warmly and smiled at each other. Yes, indeed, it was my dear homeless friend, Lawrence.

Of course, Mother Goose can never say “no” to Lawrence, never could, never will. I handed him the snow shovel and went inside to ask Husband Goose for $20. “Lawrence Little is here,” I honked excitedly. “He’s going to shovel for us!”

Handing the cash to Lawrence, we began to catch up with our lives over the past year. He’s still living on the streets, sleeping on the “L” at night — the elevated train that transports commuters and travelers over 100 miles of track in, on, under and over the city of Chicago. It’s a dangerous place to sleep, especially if you are a kind-hearted, harmless, homeless, and rather short-statured man as Lawrence is.

I asked him about his church, Life of Liberty Worship Center. He said yes, he’s still going there now and then. He asked me if I had found a church home yet, and I gladly reported that we were attending a church that meets at the Lake Street Theatre in Oak Park.

“Oh FREE CHURCH!” Lawrence knew immediately who I was talking about. “I know the Pastor there. His name is Chuck, and his wife is very tall and beautiful.”

“Urshanna,” I helped him with our pastor’s wife’s lovely and unusual name.

“Yes, and I was walking past the laundromat, and the Lord told me to go inside, and they were wearing red T-shirts and she offered to pay for my laundry. I laughed and said ‘Well, I don’t have any laundry, only the clothes I’m wearing’ and they were very kind and she called her husband and he came to the laundromat and gave me money so I could stay in a hotel.”

He continued to tell me how he sometimes attends worship and though I’ve never seen him there, he knew all the details of our church service and the names of other brothers and sisters there.

What an amazing miracle!

Please stay tuned for my next story about Lawrence Little — we enjoyed a cup of hot chocolate together at the kitchen table. Yes indeed we did.

Lunch with Lawrence Little

(Is Mother Goose a fool? Am I a saint? The story continues…)

Mother Goose was dozing on the couch when the sharp knocking on the door startled her to wakefulness. I had been plagued by a stubborn headache all morning on Wednesday and was resting my head. Oddly, my good dog, Fran, did not bark. Mother Goose got up slowly from the couch and made her way to the front door, noticing the time on her phone said 1:00 pm, and it was still Wednesday.

It didn’t take a rocket scientist to guess who was on the other side of the door. Mother Goose knew it would be Lawrence, and then also remembered that she didn’t have a job in mind for him to work on. There was obviously no yard work, no shoveling to do, no cleaning or painting. Maybe he could clean the steering fluid puddle off the driveway? Nothing was coming to mind as she turned the handle on the front door.

And there was Lawrence smiling brightly.

“Please, won’t you come in?” asked Mother Goose as though she were inviting the President to enter her home.

He stepped across the threshold of our home with a look of surprise.

“Would you care for a cup of coffee?” she asked.

“Yes ma’am, I would,” answered Lawrence Little, the homeless man who was looking for work in the general area of a friendly goose.

“Did you find a place to stay last night?” Mother Goose asked as calmly as if she had homeless people over to her house for lunch all the time.

“Oh, I ended up staying far away from Oak Park last night,” Lawrence replied. “Sometimes I just sleep on the el, but it’s hard to sleep when you are on the el. You have to keep looking over your shoulder to see if anyone might rob you. Of course, I don’t have anything to rob…” His voice just trailed off.

Lawrence carries no backpack, has no baggage, just the clothes on his back. The “el” is Chicago’s elevated train system. There are many routes or lines of this mode of transportation: red line, green line, blue line, brown line, pink line, etc. The blue line runs all night and is known as a semi-safe place for homeless people to spend the night if they aren’t close to a homeless shelter or can’t afford one.

I had asked Lawrence if he’d tried staying at the Oak Park homeless shelter. He said that it’s like winning the lottery to get in. Many people try, but few are chosen.

Mother Goose led him to the kitchen and had him sit down at the table. She poured him a cup of orange juice, set it in front of him and asked if he’d had anything to eat yet today.

“Yes, ma’am, I had a sandwich.”

“Would you like some bacon and eggs?” asked Mother Goose.

“Yes, ma’am, I would. Thank you so much.”

The hands of Mother Goose shook as she scooped the coffee grounds into the coffee maker and then poured in the water. She was trying so hard to appear casual and confident as they made small talk about his family and hers, his life on the streets and hers in a house with children. Mother Goose knew very well the potential for danger in this situation.

But he talked and talked, and Mother Goose listened and made agreeable conversation whilst she melted the butter, fried the bacon, cracked the eggs into the pan, split the bagel and put it in the toaster. Mother Goose is very good at listening to folks make small talk and making breakfast for people — she can practically do both in her sleep…

“What church do you go to, Mother Goose?” Lawrence asked.

I looked him square in the eye and said, “Lawrence, I love the Lord, but I just don’t do well in church. The people there just don’t seem to understand me.” Dear reader, you can read an allegorical account of my latest bad church experience if you just click here.

“Oh, I know all about that,” he said. “But I have such a good church now. Maybe you’d like to visit our church — it’s right here in Oak Park.”

He gave me the name of his church, the address where it’s located and the name and phone number of his pastor.

bacon and eggs

Mother Goose set down a bacon and egg sandwich in front of Lawrence, and then wrote down all of his churchy information.

I asked about his family, of course. His mother moved to Jackson, Mississippi many years ago. She has a whole set of problems of her own. He says that she loves him, but says that he has to work out his own life on his own. He also has an older sister who is a doctor, he said. He didn’t mention a father.

“I’m forty-five years old,” Lawrence announced.

“How long have you been unemployed?” Mother Goose asked politely.

“Since 1998,” he answered. “I used to work at the Jewels in the Chef’s Kitchen, but then I got into some trouble because my mother, she was having some problems. I’m a momma’s boy, I’m the youngest, you know. I made a lot of bad choices, and that’s how I ended up here.”

“But things are getting better,” Lawrence continued as I tried hard to process all of this conversation and this unusual situation I was in. “I have a place to stay. The lady there said I could stay for thirty days if I’d just get some work and pay her some money. And here’s my Illinois ID card.”

He showed me his card which had an address and his picture on it. He told me the name of the landlord and the address of where he could be staying if he could just come up with the rent money for one month. I shakily scribbled it all down on the opposite side of the paper as the pastor’s name and number.

Poor Mother Goose was beginning to feel very overwhelmed. The bagel sandwich was quickly disappearing, and Lawrence was talking about how kind she was, and how they were friends now. Mother Goose got out her wallet to give him some money to help him with his potential rent payment.

“I have to walk over to the school and get my daughter now,” I said.

“Oh I understand,” said Lawrence. “Ok. Thank you so much for the lunch. It was so good. Which way are you going?”

Mother Goose put on her coat and shoes at the front door. We walked down the block together. He asked when he could come back and do some work for me. “Well,” I said, “Tomorrow is my daughter’s birthday so I’ll be busy with that. Maybe Friday?”

“Oh thank you, Mother Goose,” he said. “I’m just so happy that we are friends! Do you know I can draw pictures? Maybe I could draw a picture for your daughter.”

We said “goodbye” and parted ways. He continued to talk as I walked west and he walked east. I knew that I needed to tell somebody really soon about my new friend, Lawrence.

That evening I said to my dear husband, “I made a new friend today! He’s a homeless man.”

You won’t want to miss the next chapter of my story, “The Lawrence Little Dilemma”.

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