Friday, November 25, 2011

A Thankful Heart is a Happy Heart!

One of my favorite Veggie Tales is the story of Madame Blueberry, the blueberry who always wanted more stuff.  All of the songs are terrific (as most Veggie Tales songs are), but my favorite one is this, "The Thankfulness Song:"

I thank God for this day
For the sun in the sky
For my mom and my dad
For my piece of apple pie

For our house on the ground
For His love that's all around
That's why I say "Thanks" everyday

Because a thankful heart is a happy heart
I'm glad for what I have
That's an easy way to start

For the love that He shares
'Cause He listens to my prayers
That's why I say "Thanks" everyday!

That song pretty much sums up my life everyday, except I don't like apple pie!

You have probably guessed what else I'm thankful for: work, Casa Iggy, JVC, health, all my wonderful family, all my new Sacramento friends, all my friends I miss back home, all the people who let me into their lives everyday, etc.  This week has only reinforced those!  I miss home very much, but am so thankful that I got to be apart of Thanksgiving here!

The only day out of the year that Loaves & Fishes does not serve lunch is Thanksgiving.  So many other places serve a Thanksgiving day meal that it is utterly pointless to serve one here.  Instead, Loaves & Fishes has Thanksgiving on the Tuesday before.  There were almost 1200 guests that day!
After the Thanksgiving feast (the kitchen staff started cooking turkeys the day before, 50 extra volunteers came in, and an extra kitchen trailer was brought in just for more oven and stove space) EACH AND EVERY GUEST GOT A NEW PAIR OF SOCKS, GLOVES AND A HAT!  What a great day!

Other bonuses that happened:
- 105 pairs of new shoes were donated on Monday!
- There was so much food left over from Tuesday, that we also had it on Wednesday too!
- Casa Iggy had a great Thanksgiving where we all made dishes from home, so I made. . . PRETZEL JELLO! Although my casa-mates were skeptical, everyone liked it! (Duh. It's pretzel jello!)

Casa Iggy and friends are planning a hike/nature walk in a nearby Redwoods forest today, shopping and karaoke tomorrow, and the Bears and Raiders game on Sunday! 

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Friday, November 18, 2011

'Cause you had a bad day. . .

This week started out great!  Saturday, I went to San Francisco on a whim with Tessa and Laura (unfortunately, Alice and her sister were supposed to go too, but Alice got sick) and had a pretty good time doing nothing much! (On the way home I even got a chocolate milkshake from In and Out, which is a pretty big deal if you know my history with milkshakes.)  Sunday was spent just lounging around, watching one of the greatest shows of all time- Family Ties.  (Alex P. Keaton will forever remain one of my first loves.)  And that was where the fun stopped.

Everything on Monday seemed to be normal.  I didn't have any gloves to give out, but I had shoes and beanies.  One of my casa-mates who works at the park, Anne, felt sick and went home.  I had to work the lunch ticket line for a bit while other people were busy doing their numerous tasks.  A woman came up to the line and asked when the last time was when her brother was here.  A note on the screen said he passed away in his sleep on Friday night.  Fortunately another co-worker (Mark) was there and handled the situation.  I was dumbstruck.  I dove into the office and checked the lists Tim and I keep for hats, gloves, and sleeping bags.  Yup- I gave him gloves a week ago.  I knew him. I met him.  I took down his name.  And now, he's gone.  He was the first guest I know who has died.  And I can't remember his face.

Sure I said comforting things to myself.  "You see hundreds of guests a day."  "At least he had gloves."  "I bet I was nice to him."  I even conjured up a facial image that might be him.  But I'm not sure. 

So Monday was depressing at work.  Later that night I had an awful yoga experience but came home to a great community night with our support people, Madonna and Larry. 

That night, I got sick with "the disease," a flu that is spreading around our house.  I took Tuesday off and felt good enough to work on Wednesday.

Wednesday came and went without anything much happening.  I stayed out of view for the most part, ate lightly, and did not over exert myself, but Anne was still not feeling better and another one of my casa-mates, Tessa, came down with "the disease."

I went to work again Thursday, but was not feeling as good as I wanted to.  A large shipment of gloves came in though.  Having gloves is a mixed blessing.  They keep the men happy and warm who get them, but there are only about 20 pairs to give out in a day.  I have to keep track of the men I give gloves out to.  If they already got a gloves, I have to turn them down.  The gloves got stolen?  Sorry.  You lost them?  Sorry.  You gave them to your girl? Sorry, she could have gotton them at Maryhouse.  I'm checking state issued identification for frickin' gloves! 

Fortunately, there are several other places that hand out hats and gloves, but I hate turning guys down.

Later that day, a man asked for shoes.  His shoes appeared in good condition.  I can only exchange shoes when they are ripped, haves holes in the soles, or are hardly shoes at all.  I told him no.  He told me in a polite but demeaning way, "I'm not going to beg for shoes.  These have holes in them, but don't worry Baby Girl, I'm not going to beg for shoes."  I immediately apologized and asked where the holes are.  He repeated his statements, and asked me to go away.

I'm used to this kind of talk.  I'm used to saying no and being called awful names, much worse than that.  But this hit me hard today.  I found a quiet spot on a park bench and debated with myself.  I apologized more in my head.  I felt immense hurt at the way he said "Baby Girl" as if I was something of a pristine child that doesn't understand and doesn't care.  Maybe I don't fully understand, but I know I care. 

I felt nauseous once again and raced to the office.  I find my bosses talking alone in the office and ask to go home.  They ask simple questions, but I only want to go home.  Without hesitation, they say okay and Jim drives me home.

I amble slowly because my body is racked with guilt and pain. I find my way to the bed, and cry.

This is the first real cry I've had in years.  (Sure, tears have leaked out occasionally and I've swallowed a lump in my throat more times than I'd like to admit, but I don't genuinely release my tears often.)  I can't get over how I've contributed to a man's lack of dignity.  I cry over him, and his words.  I cry for the man who died that I can't remember, but knew.  I cry because of the pain I feel is nothing compared to the pain that almost all of our guests live through on a daily basis. 

My short-lived tears turned into a few hours nap.  I called Beth, told her as little as possible, but wanted to hear a friendly voice.  My mom beeps in and I talk to her.  She cheers me up with a little story and reminds me how much I'm loved. 

Today was much more bearable, though I avoid the man who refused shoes.  I take it light, don't eat much, pass out gloves, hear what a good job I'm doing, and try to help a man pay his electric bill.

Tonight, I'm going to a christian music concert (Winter Jam) with a few people from the Newman center on Sacramento State campus.  I haven't been to a christian concert in months, and am excited at the possibility of feeling normal again.

This week has been rough, and another one of my casa-mates, Laura, got "the disease" today.  Though I'm feeling less achy and am trying to keep my spirits up with juvenile novels, Family Ties, and inspirational books, I can't deny this week was seriously sucky.  I hate crying, but I will admit, I feel better.  I know that next week will be better (it is Thanksgiving after all!!) and that God is giving me the strength and courage to continue.  I just wish I didn't have to lean on Him so hard.

Friday, November 11, 2011

1, 2, 3, 4, tell me that you love me more. . .

I have had this song stuck in my head all week!  And it's no wonder- this week has definitely been loving!  The last two weeks were "blah."   I was feeling a mixture of homesickness, regular sickness (mainly a runny nose), and overwhelmed at work because we didn't have much cold weather gear.  But this week was SO much better!

Why? Here's 4 reasons:

1. Truthfully, I'm really not homesick this week.  I miss my family dearly, but with all the excitement Casa Iggy has been having and planning, I feel at home here too!

2. I have a great Sacramento family: co-workers, bosses, friends, and random people who are willing to help! Two examples: There were four of us who wanted to go to a documentary play about refugees, but tickets were $10. A random woman paid for us to go and my co-worker gave us her car to use for the weekend! In addition, my boss, Garren, took all of us at the park (about 30) out to dinner tonight! He's also taking the JVs to see the new Twilight movie after we have a Twilight saga movie marathon at his house.

3. Casa Iggy has been really together this week! We normally are on our game, but this week was especially awesome!  We had great community meals, a good spirituality night and a fantastic community night about the Occupy movement.  In addition, we got a wonderful (and giant!!) food box from the warehouse, so we've had really good food!

4. It's really difficult to turn guys away who are in desperate need of shoes or gloves because you don't have any.  We ran out of gloves early in the week, but we got a large donation of shoes and boots (most NEW!) on Monday.  There have only been three guys all week I couldn't help, but I'm going to keep trying.  Thank you to all those who have donated shoes! Hopefully I'll get them next week and I'll be able to help those guys (and many more!) out!

Here's a final story- Last blog post I told you about Sam, the guy who has been asking for shoes for the past three weeks.  Well, WE GOT HIM SHOES!  With the plethora of new shoes that came in, he got ones to fit.  However, Beth sent a special pair just for him, but it got here a few days too late.  Instead, the shoes went to a guy who just got out of jail.  He had on jail shoes, which are just canvas and thin soles. (Basically, the cheapest and worst things ever.) The shoes were even the same brand that he had before he went!  He was incredibly happy, and remarked about "feeling human again."

Yup, great week!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

We did the Mash. . . We did the Monster Mash!

First off, happy belated Halloween! Being the popular kids we are, we got 4 invitations to Halloween parties and chose to go to the WONDERFUL party thrown by our support person Larry, a.k.a. Ke$ha.  (He looked amazing!)  We dressed up as the 7 continents!
(From left to right) Tessa is Australia (crocodile hunter), Anne is Antarctica (glacier), Alice is North America (prospector), I'm Asia (ninja), Laura is South America (the Amazon), Kathleen is Africa (Somalian pirate), and Krystal is Europe (Guinness).

 Halloween at the park was something to see!  The green hats dressed in costume, while a lot of the guests asked for candy!  The kids from Mustard Seed School and the day care kids from Women's Empowerment trick or treated at all the different programs! (It was great seeing the children having a childhood experience!) After candy was passed out to the kids, we handed out candy to the guests. Everyone was in such a great mood, even though it was the end of the month and incredibly crowded!

The rest of the week was a complete 180! Hardly anyone was there (about 500 people per day).  The worst part was I felt I had nothing to give.  No shoes came in over the past week, and even though winter is starting here, we couldn't pass out gear: beanies, gloves, and ponchos.  Cash donations have not dropped in this economy (which is awesome!!), but in-kind donations have, and we can really feel it.  All of our hats, gloves, ponchos, shoes, sleeping bags, blankets, backpacks and jackets are donation based, and we don't have enough to go around.  You know they have blisters on their feet; ripped up shoes; freezing; unable to manage without what they are asking for, and you have to say, "No."  By far, that has been the hardest part of this job.

On a pleasant note, I shared this tale of woe with my sister Beth: There has been a man, Sam, who has on really thin shoes and has been asking for shoes everyday for three weeks.  Unfortunately, I've had nothing to give him.  But still he comes everyday to check.  When Beth heard this, she immediately jumped into action!  She is sending out a box of MEN'S SHOES!!  Yay Bethie, and whoever else donates! 

Also, my program coordinator for the JVC, Amber was here!  She spent the week with us and yesterday we had an all day community retreat to bring us back to the four tenets of the JVC.  It was such a blessing to examine our lives and re-dedicate them towards our common commitment!