A Picture of Lawrence is Worth a Thousand Words

Our friend, Lawrence Little.

Our friend, Lawrence Little.

Lawrence has been working at Costco for two weeks now, and he’s a transformed man! He walks with a new spring in his step — he glows with a sense of purpose and pride in his accomplishments. Not only does he have a job and housing, he has a fresh hair cut, a cell phone and new clothes.

Here’s the part that went straight to the heart of Mother Goose:

He’s not just working at a Costco warehouse….he is actually working as a floor supervisor in the packing/shipping department of the company. His job is to walk amongst the assembly packing line workers and make sure that everybody is doing what they are spose to be doing and NOT PUTTING THE COMPANY’S STUFF IN THEIR POCKETS.

His boss has recognized a trustworthiness in Lawrence that Mother Goose also immediately knew to be true. He is also an outgoing people person, very likable amongst the other workers. For the first couple days at work, he had no money to buy lunch, but his new coworkers quickly came to his rescue and bought him lunch until he got his first paycheck.

He also had a nice side job over the past weekend, doing some interior painting for some people he knows.

Mother Goose could just go on and on about Lawrence — I’m just so very proud of him. Thank you all for your prayers on his behalf — God is hearing and answering them…

No longer going door to door begging for money — no longer riding the “L” all night long, sleeping with one eye open — Lawrence Little is back in mainstream society and the world is a better place because of him!!!

Mother Goose is smiling!

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 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?

Driving Lawrence to Church

When Mother Goose stepped out the front door of her warm and cozy home on Sunday morning, the frigid winter air made the insides of her nostrils tingle. From childhood, she always liked that sensation, and this unusually cold winter had provided lots of frozen side effects that only a goose could enjoy.

Glancing up the block, she spied a familiar figure shuffling along in the middle of the street. Bundled in several coats and hats, it was undoubtedly Lawrence Little. Had he been watching from a safe distance for her to emerge from the house? Without a watch, how would he know that it was almost time for Mother and Husband Goose to leave for church? Was it again “coincidence” or another miracle of timing?

“Good morning, Lawrence!” Mother Goose called out in a very hearty manner. “Would you like a ride to church?”

He nodded and smiled.

Mother Goose is always concerned about whether people have eaten their breakfast. “Did you eat breakfast?” she now asked Lawrence Little, the homeless man who just rode the “L” all night long and slept with one eye open to watch for bad guys who might hurt him or steal something from him.

“Yes, ma’am, I did. I had coffee and donuts this morning.”

Mother Goose smiled brightly into the darkly sad face of Lawrence Little. “Was it OK last night?” she wondered out loud.

Lawrence Little nodded. “I met this lady,” he said. “See, she told me that she’d let me stay at one of her apartments for five months and all I need to pay her is $40.”

“Wow,” I answered. “That sounds really good for you.”

He nodded and smiled.

Unfortunately, Mother Goose has heard this similar story from Lawrence Little before. He always needs just a little bit of cash and then he’ll have shelter from some kind lady somewhere. The names change, the addresses of the apartment buildings change and the dollar amount changes, but it’s still the same plot.

I invested in a lot of Lawrence Little last year…

And that is the dilemma that we face when we encounter men and women who are homeless. Is it right to give them money when they explain that they are “just this close to a breakthrough and if you could just help me just one more time”?

I couldn’t resist asking, “Lawrence, do you have any of that twenty left that I gave you last night for shoveling?”

“No, Ms Natalie, I had to spend it on the trains all night long and then breakfast this morning.”

That may be the case…

He told me that they don’t let you ride for just one fare all night long. But last time I checked you can transfer around on trains for a long time before a conductor will conduct you off the train platform, especially on a cold winter’s night. Anyway, not wanting to be a jaded suburban goose I didn’t push the situation any further.

Chicago-Loop-SEcorner

Instead I told Lawrence about a place where he might be able to secure some decent transitional housing — Safe Haven. I looked up the address and the phone number on my smart phone while we drove to church in our warm comfortable goose mobile. I passed the piece of paper to Lawrence hoping that after church, he might jump back on that public transportation, arrive at the Safe Haven, check in and live happily ever after…

Seriously, Mother Goose?

Lawrence Little Joins Us Around the Table

After our homeless friend, Lawrence Little, finished shoveling, Husband Goose invited him in for some hot chocolate. Lawrence was grateful! We offered him something to eat also, but he had already eaten his dinner. So we sat around the kitchen table visiting about this and that.

hotchocolate

Lawrence Little has family in the area, brothers and sisters, but they are not closely in touch with one another. His dear mother lives in Vance, Mississippi, but he couldn’t remember the last time he saw her. His father left the family when Lawrence was just five. He has only two memories of his father — one memory was of his father beating up his mother. He wistfully mentioned that someday it’d be nice to get a bus fare to go and see her…

We talked a lot about God. We talked about Lawrence’s faith — that even though he is homeless and the days are hard and the nights are dangerous and the winter is cold, God is still good and God is always with him.

He told a story about a lady he met who didn’t believe much in God or His love. “Where’s your God?” she asked. Lawrence pointed to the grass, to the sky, to the trees, to people walking around, to cars driving by. “My God is alive and He’s all around me,” he explained to the lady. “If not for my God, I would be under the ground and not be seeing all that is around me.”

Wanting to prove God’s existence even further, Lawrence began to audibly pray that someone on the street would ask him to shovel right there in front of the unbelieving lady. Up walked a man who said that he’d pay Lawrence $60 to shovel his front and back sidewalks and driveway! The lady’s eyes got big and round as she witnessed an answer to Lawrence’s prayer right then and there.

After finishing his hot chocolate, Lawrence asked what time it was and proceeded to hug us all goodbye. We told him that we hoped we would see him in Free Church the very next day…

Did Lawrence meet us at church? Will he find shelter and a hot meal somewhere down the road? Is there real hope for chronically homeless people like Lawrence?

Please come back next time to hear the REST of the story…

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.

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