Risky Business with Lawrence

My dear Husband Goose had a RISKY adventure last night in his ongoing efforts to help our friend who wanders, Lawrence Little.

We had returned from a lovely afternoon dinner and visit with Cousin Laura and her son Anthony — in fact, we were still digesting the delicious fried chicken, stuffing, carrot cake and saganaki when there was very loud and insistent knocking on the front door of the Goose family dwelling. Mother Goose was busily making up the beds upstairs with fresh and delightfully soft sheets and could not answer the door.

I could hear talking downstairs but could not quite make out the specifics of the conversation. And then Husband Goose popped his head into the bedroom and announced that he was taking Lawrence to a place somewhere on Central and “Where’s the leftover chicken and stuffing in case he hasn’t eaten?”

“Omigooseness, it’s in the fridge,” I replied, but he was already heading down the stairs. I smiled to myself at his sweet eagerness to serve our homeless friend some homemade dinner and drive him to his desired destination. Husband Goose has a very large heart, and it seems to be growing larger everyday as he sees that he can indeed make a difference in the life of one single person.

Peeking out of the bedroom window, I watched Husband Goose back out of the driveway in his ten-year old Cadillac Eldorado with Lawrence riding shotgun…heading for one of Chicago’s most dangerous neighborhoods on a Saturday night! HOnk Honk!!!

Imagine my concern when I looked at my cell phone ten minutes later and saw that I had missed a call from my husband and there was also a text saying “Out of gas.”

out of gas

Of course, in a frantic flap of feathers, I tried calling him, but didn’t get an answer. I replied immediately to his text asking where he was and did he need help. I listened to a voice mail that he had left accidentally — one of those recorded messages that happen when the phone is left on unbeknownst to the caller. I could hear my husband talking with somebody, asking where the nearest gas station was.

There was nothing I could do but wait.

Finally a text message.

“The Lord helped me.”

With great relief, I received his follow-up call describing the situation. He had dropped off Lawrence at a temporary residence he’s staying near a White Castle restaurant and then made a left turn onto a dark street and then another left turn onto a darker street. There are many streets like this in Chicago — one way streets that can lead you deeper and deeper into gang territories.

This street of traffic was blocked by a small commuter van unloading a disabled and wheelchair-bound passenger. At that point in his adventure, the car chugged, sputtered and then nothing but silence from the under the hood.

Indeed out of gas…

A predicament indeed in this neighborhood, no matter who you are.

Suddenly behind him was a dad in a van with his young son.

“Hey buddy, you’re blocking the street. What’s going on?”

Husband Goose explained his dire circumstances. The man was willing and able to help this older goose in a crisis, sharing what little gas he had in his gas can and then even driving him to a gas station nearly five blocks away and back to the stranded Caddie still parked on a quiet dark street in gangland. I’m sure that Husband Goose wondered what might be left of his pretty car after twenty minutes of apparent abandonment.

But lo! and behold! All was well, the thirsty car was satiated, hands were shook, thanks were extended as well as a few dollars for the stranger’s kindness. Indeed I can only assume that he was an angel of mercy on a treacherous mission to help a goose who stepped out to help a homeless man.

Let’s just say that when you make the personal decision to do “whatever it takes”, in essence to lay aside your personal security and go on the mission to assist a homeless person, you will undoubtedly find yourself outside of your own comfort zone.

It will surely cost you to walk alongside a person who walks miles everyday in search of shelter and food — the true necessities of life. It might mean you give up your left overs or your hot chocolate. You might have to spend time, and it’s never ever convenient to stop doing what you had planned for the sake of someone else.

We give of ourselves when we consider the plight of another. The unfortunate homeless have a unique set of problems, but they are not impossible problems to solve. Indeed, if we help one person at a time, the problems are not insurmountable at all.

There is a solution.

The solution might be you.

God bless you today with love,
Mother Goose

P.S. Lawrence asked if we could take him to church again today, and also he is considering going back to college. Just sayin…

Is There An Answer to the Dilemma of Lawrence?

Dear and kind-hearted readers, what is the solution to chronic homelessness in America? Wow, Mother Goose, that’s pretty huge for this early in the morning. Can you tone it down a bit?

OK.

Our friend, Lawrence Little, returned to our home on Monday which is the day after Sunday which is the day that we brought Lawrence to church with us. He sat at our kitchen table and drank a large mug of hot chocolate with Husband Goose. (Mother Goose was not present for this meeting as she occasionally works at a part-time job…) Recounting the previous day with our church pastor, Chuck Colegrove, Lawrence said that indeed the pastor did take him into the city to The Safe Haven Foundation, but there is a two-week waiting list to be allowed into their program.

Mother Goose is indeed grateful for all of the help that our church has shown Lawrence in the past eighteen months. Here is an excerpt from my pastor’s email describing just some of the care they have provided to our friend:

We have helped Lawrence on several occasions since first meeting him back in the Fall of 2012. We paid for 1 month of housing while he was seeking a job, paid for bus passes on 4-5 occasions that he secured a job or was about to secure a job….you’re right, helping with money isn’t necessarily the best option….when we’re able to, we help.

I’m hoping that Safe Haven will get him on the right path. He’s had several opportunities in the last year with jobs but can’t seem to hold it down.

Chuck has also offered to write a referral for Lawrence if he needs something like that to speed up the housing process at Safe Haven. Thank you, Chuck, for all you do to bring joy and love to a dark and fearful world.

I may have mentioned that Lawrence does his “rounds” through the city — knocking on the doors of kindly people who have helped him in the past. Husband Goose described him as having a “rolodex of helpers” in his head, and I believe that is an accurate picture of how he survives. One day at a time, one handout at a time, one bit of help from his friends is enough to get him to the next day.

Obviously many people have shown him love and kindness. Many people have directed him to job opportunities and housing opportunities. I am sure that somewhere in this large city he has at least one case manager who has filled out the proper intake forms and has done everything to get him into the system of public care. He has had money in the past — according to his story, he used to have a LOT OF MONEY in the days when he was a street performer doing break dancing on a cardboard mat on Michigan Avenue…

He’s an artist as well.

Lawrence has been prayed for and preyed upon. The mean streets of Chicago can be rough — a stark contrast to the kindness of the people who God puts in his life to care for him in manifold ways every single day.

Is there an answer to homelessness in America?

I don’t know if there is anything else that can be done except for this one thing:

We must not lump all of God’s homeless people into one big category and call it The Homeless Dilemma.

Each and every one of those people at the busy intersections and sitting along the avenues with their cups and their cardboard signs is a real person with a history of good times and hard times. Each and every individual who wanders the streets looking for a way to get somewhere else has a story to tell.

They have souls that require as much nourishment as their physical bodies.

They need a hug and an ear to listen to them — they say they need money, but what they might need more is a short-term connection to someone who might give them hope for another day.

Hope is a survival tool for those who have little else to carry with them.

My friends, do what you can. One person at a time is enough. Give them the time of day, give them a hug, give them a mug of hot chocolate, but whatever you do, give them hope.

Mother Goose thanks you.

This is not Lawrence.  I have never photographed my friend, not wanting to seem exploitative in any way.

This is not Lawrence. I have never photographed my friend, not wanting to seem exploitative in any way.

The Lawrence Little Dilemma Continues…

You could have heard a pin drop in the Goose Family living room when Mother Goose announced to her dear husband that her new friend was a homeless man. In fact, not only did I hear pins dropping, but jaws dropping as well.

When he had recovered from shock, Husband Goose asked in a fairly steady voice, “Do you think it was a good idea to invite a homeless stranger into our house?”

Mother Goose smiled and spoke quietly, “I knew that he was not dangerous.”

“You know, the village police would advise against that sort of hospitality.”

“Yes, I’m sure they would, but I just knew it would be safe.”

And indeed Mother Goose does NOT invite every stranger into her home. It is VERY risky, potentially disastrous AND dangerous to just open the doors and allow every beggar and homeless wanderer into the security of our homes. There are safe places for people to spend their nights and get good meals if they are in need.

I am usually a quite cautious goose, but for this one time, I was acting out of an internal conviction and heart-felt compassion for this one particular man who I immediately recognized as a Christ follower, a brother in the Lord.

Nonetheless we have a new policy in our home: there will be no homeless people allowed into the house. Period. And that includes Lawrence Little. And, of course, I respect that and will support the policy.

I called Pastor Michael Wright of The Liberty Worship Center on Washington Street in Oak Park the very next day. He was as kind and helpful as Lawrence had told me he’d be. He invited us to his church and offered to bring us a gift of a nice study Bible in the meantime. I thanked him graciously, of course, and then asked him about Lawrence, explaining our concern for him as well as the best way to proceed in this new relationship. I had some suspicions that some of the problems Lawrence had alluded to over our lunch were of a very serious nature, and probably beyond my capability to fix.

“First of all,” the pastor began, “Lawrence is harmless. I’ve known him for more than six years and he is completely harmless. However, he has struggled in the past with addiction. He’s been coming to our church for a long time, and is known and loved in our congregation. However, Lawrence has approached every single one of us often for money and promises of work. He needs to realize that people can only help him to a certain degree, and then he must allow God to do the rest of the helping. We are not God, and we cannot be God.”

“Pastor,” I said, “I have given Lawrence money and he has come back to our home for more help, for more money. I do not have any work for him to do, and I have exhausted my resources for him. On the other hand, I feel bad for him and his circumstance.”

“Mother Goose, you are a very kind and loving person. I can easily tell that you are a giving person who has a large heart. But please do not give Lawrence anymore money. This situation is very similar to putting out food for a stray cat who will continue to return to your doorstep as long as you put out the food. And do not feel bad about saying ‘no’ — do not feel guilty for turning down his request. Allow God to work now. And the next time you see Lawrence, please tell him that we’ve missed him at church, and that if you are going to be visiting, he’d better be there too!”

Pastor Michael laughed a bit at that, and we bid each other a cordial goodbye.

Mother Goose hung up the phone with a real sense of peace. I felt that between the new family policy of no homeless people in the house and the Godly and wise counsel of the pastor, I could now establish some boundaries with this needy friend. I knew that he would return to our doorstep. and I felt equipped to deal with the situation in a firm, but loving fashion.

Homelessness in our country is at an all time record high. The shelters are filled to overflowing in Chicago and its suburbs. We have beggars with their regular posts at street corners, intersections, sitting along the sidewalks downtown, sleeping in doorsteps and on the trains and park benches everywhere.

Homeless3

The heart of Mother Goose breaks especially for the women and children who have no where to go and seemingly live only by the kindness of strangers. I give and give and give because it’s the right thing to do.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'” (Matthew 25: 34-40)

This is how Mother Theresa describes the situation: “Whenever I meet someone in need,” she said, “it’s really Jesus in his most distressing disguise.”

How much doing is enough? How much giving is enough?

The dilemma of Lawrence Little is that we all want to help in some way. But like the Pastor said, we are not God. We can help in our own small ways or even big ways, but we cannot fix the bigger problem. I could give him every dollar in my checking account and he would still come back for more — offering to do work for me, of course.

Dear and kind-hearted readers, love your neighbors and care for the poor and downcast. Share your hope of heaven with them. Give them a cheeseburger or a giftcard to get their own lunch. Trust God for all things. Pray for wisdom and guidance from the One who loves us with an infinite and everlasting love.

The Lawrence Little Dilemma Begins

Mother Goose didn’t really plan to invite a homeless man into her home for lunch.

And yet, the truth of it was that here she was in her kitchen making coffee, frying up bacon and eggs, and toasting a bagel for a man who had been living on the streets for the past ten years.

Sometimes, Mother Goose has to just shake her head at the unlikely turns that her life takes!

On Tuesday, as she was climbing the front porch steps after a long emotional tutoring session with the squirrels, Mother Goose heard a man calling out, “Ma’am, excuse me, ma’am, do you have any work for me to do? I’m homeless. I haven’t eaten in two days. I’m a man of God. I just need to do some work so that I can get into a hotel tonight. Do you have any work I can do for you, ma’am?”

Mother Goose turned to look at the middle-aged man walking up her sidewalk. He was dressed in a Carhartt chore jacket, baggy light-colored Carhartt overpants with a black stocking cap and gym shoes. His face looked a little tired, but he smiled at Mother Goose when he reached the bottom of the porch steps. He looked clean enough and didn’t have a beard. He didn’t smell bad and seemed to have his teeth. Most homeless folks really look homeless, but this man looked pretty “normal”. Mother Goose hates to use that word, but my readers will surely understand…

Normally, I do not strike up conversations with strangers who are walking by. I greet folks with a hearty “How ya doin’?” and then let them pass by my house.

We live just two blocks from the western border of Chicago, near a neighborhood where shootings happen regularly and gangs own the blocks. Territories are staked out and street corners are occupied. I drive through the Austin neighborhood everyday on my way to work — I am curiously drawn to these streets and the people who have little choice but to live in such extreme conditions.

Unemployment, drug deals, violent crime and guns are the real facts of life for these folks, and yet there are families who live on the residential streets of Austin. There are little kids who walk to school, and moms who pray that their children will arrive safely.

I typically stay in my car when I’m in the Austin community. Perhaps you read the story of the time Mother Goose rode her bicycle to an oasis within the neighborhood, the Garfield Park Conservatory

Unless I’m going to a meeting where we are working out ways to connect military families and veterans to the social services and VA-sponsored services they may need in their community, I try to be as safe as possible and just keep driving.

However, if I’m waiting at an intersection and see a homeless person walking between the cars trying to collect some change, I’ll immediately reach into my purse for whatever I can find. I drop the money in their cups — they say “God bless you, ma’am. God bless you.”

homeless

When Mother Goose looked into the eyes of this homeless man at the bottom of her front porch steps, her heart was filled with compassion for him and his circumstance. “I don’t have any work for you,” she explained. “But I’d like to help you anyway.”

Opening her wallet, she found some bills and handed them to the man. He smiled gratefully as he reached for the money, and said, “Thank you, ma’am. My name is Lawrence. Thank you so much.”

Softly, Mother Goose replied, “Oh my grandfather’s name was Lawrence.”

The homeless man beamed knowing he had made a connection. “Well, there you are,” he said. “I knew we had something in common. And what is your name, ma’am? I’d really like to do some work for you. Could I come back tomorrow for some work? I’d sure like to do some work for you.”

I told him my name and said that if he’d come back tomorrow, I’d find something for him to do.

Though I am a very giving person, even this was way out of the box for Mother Goose. This is called beginning a relationship with a homeless man. It starts with the exchange of names. Now it is no longer anonymous donations in an empty coffee cup. Now it’s personal. Now there are expectations and hopes and suggestions of help to come. Now it gets real. Now there’s a commitment of sorts.

Some people would say “Now this is an open can of worms.”

Mother Goose said, “I’ll see you tomorrow, Lawrence. Around noonish?”

(Please return tomorrow to hear more of this story…)

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