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.

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”.

The Goose is Getting Fat

Mother Goose was considering her weight the other day. After a filling Thanksgiving dinner complete with stuffing and gravy and turkey and assorted pies and cream cakes, Mother Goose realized that the time has come to be more aware of her fat intake. And certainly the following nursery rhyme played into that feeling. At my age, a goose has be on constant alert for the possible over-accumulation of holiday calories. Oh, the cookies I bake! The fudge I make! The liberties I take!

But back to our story…

Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat
Please to put a penny in the old man’s hat
If you have no penny, a ha’penny will do
If you have no ha’penny, then God bless you!

Being a silly goose myself, I wonder how the tradition of Christmas goose for dinner came to be. I feel a little sad about it…

But according to my dear friends at Wikipedia, “King John of England, in the year 1213, ordered about 3,000 capons, 1,000 salted eels, 400 hogs, 100 pounds of almonds and 24 casks of wine for his Christmas feast.” Now THAT’s a much better menu for Christmas. Who wouldn’t feel jolly after a feast of salted eels paired with 24 casks of sparkly wine? It’s so much healthier than a old, fat, greasy goose covered with goosebumps and pin feathers.

Warning: Graphic animal carcass photograph

But returning to our story…

If you are like Mother Goose, your heart is moved to give lavishly throughout the Christmas season. Christmas is about gifts to our loved ones, charitable giving to strangers. Christmas is ultimately about God’s gift to us in sending His Son into our dark world to bring light and hope and love.

We feel a secret inner delight in giving, don’t we? Unless, of course, we are Ebeneezer Scrooge — in which case we better prepare ourselves to be visited by the spirits during the night. (By the way, Mother Goose just finished reading A Christmas Carol on her Kindle, so it is very fresh on my mind today.)

Who can pass up the Salvation Army bell ringer without stopping to drop some coins in the bucket? Who doesn’t buy a bag of groceries to give to the local food pantry or get some extra toys for the Toys for Tots Movement? It’s in our hearts to give and give and give in December. We just love it! Right?

But oh, back to my story…

A penny or a ha'penny or whatever's in your heart.

Please put a penny in an old man’s hat if you can, dear friends. Any old penny will do. On my fifty-minute enthusiastic walk this morning (which I do each day because the goose is getting fat), I walked right by several pennies laying on the sidewalk. I should have picked them up and put them in an old man’s hat, but there were no old men to be seen today. Pity…

And if you have a ha’penny, you can give that too. I ha’t seen a ha’penny lately, but if I did see one lying on the ground or rolling around the bottom of my purse, I’d sure put that in the bucket or in a hat. Either way. How much is a ha’penny worth these days anyway? Maybe about half a cent? Still a ha’penny saved, is a ha’penny earned, I always say.

And if you’re broke down with nothing in your pocket this Christmas season (and I’m sure there are quite a few of us whose unemployment checks have stopped coming…), then God bless you.

Whenever Mother Goose is downtown in Chicago, she is met by many people on the street asking for money. The homeless, the unlucky, the unfortunate, and the penniless seem attracted to Mother Goose as well as the daughter of Mother Goose. I try to help out with a dollar here or there, dropping some extra change into an empty McDonald’s coffee cup or whatever I have in my wallet if I’m feeling especially sensitive and compassionate.

Sometimes though Mother Goose has to say “I’m sorry”. I always feel very sad about that. And then the homeless people look at me and smile and say, “God bless you today, dear.”

Dear and gentle reader, keep some extra cash in your pockets this Christmas season so that you can be a blessing to anybody who might need a little help getting their Christmas goose ham. And bee blessed!

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