Monthly Archives: January 2024

could it be this simple?

Could it be this simple?

An invisible wall exists around every nation, erected by international laws to protect the assets and interests of each bordering country.

Provisions for passage exist with conditions to be met and respected. Continued breach and disregard of that agreement will inevitably require a reinforcement of the invisible wall with something visible. Not due to a fault of the host country but due to the blatant disregard of the infiltrating elements and leaders who turn blind eyes to it.

The fact that a once invisible wall must become a barrier was never the the original intent, but is made so and considered such only by its violators.

Appealing to the hardships, heat and distress suffered by those who try to cross not seeking actual asylum and against the law in places where no walls exist is invalid. Knowing there exist walls or fences in some places–and for good reason–then actively seeking passage in places they don’t exist, is having knowledge that it’s wrong and prohibited but not caring. Ignoring the very first law encountered in what they hope to be their new home questions whether they will respect any others if asylum is granted.

And still, the signs don’t say ‘keep out.’

They merely say ‘please use the door.’ 

night shift.

There’s been a big change on the night shift.

It’s been a long time since she asked for my coffee club card. It’s at least a couple years now since this young mom with the pink streaked hair stopped asking. I used to know her name when she started working the night shift at the seedy convenience store I visit every morning about 430am for a $1.62 cup and a chat about important things.

This morning was a little different.

I pulled up and walked in at the expected time and performed my cream and coffee ritual. She was making fresh pots when we picked up where we left off at the same time the other morning in the dark when the store is always empty of customers save the same old nameless homeless guy out front whose hand I always shake as I walk in.

“How’s the kids?” I asked, as she scooped grounds and wiped up the creamy drips of someone before me.

Oh they’re good, Josh started basketball and we had another birthday for him on Saturday” she replied as we often opened with updates on her family. She took the night shift so she could be home when they wake up to get them off to school like a ‘regular’ mom. She lives just down the street, an easy walk to and from this job that can’t pay more than $11.25 an hour, which has surely gone up a couple bucks since we first met, if not for her job performance then at least for the change in her countenance.

Over the years, we’ve talked about many things. Important things. She’s read all the stories on my website at least a couple times each and asks me to tell her when I have a new one. Right about now, she’s probably reading this, surprised to be my topic of the day.

Well, it’s because this morning was a little different.

Our daily devotions together often focus on stories about life change, inspiration, humor and paying things forward when we are able.

Over the years, we both have changed, but hers has been nothing but remarkable. The pink streaks are still there, as are the multiple piercings that decorate her face, but she’s not the same angry person I met a couple years ago. I have since wondered if our ten minutes a day over coffee could have helped to change this bitter young single mom into the charming, cheerful young lady she’s since become.

And then she shared with me evidence that our chats had, indeed, been a buoy for a lot longer and for a lot more than I’d realized.

Today’s topic centered on some things I needed to do as soon as I arrived at the office that would determine if a few clients will have food for the coming weekend or not and how, in that sense, my job is very rewarding.

Coffee made and winding up our brief morning ritual, she shared with me something pretty incredible.

“You know, you’ve racked up a lot of free coffee over the past couple years.”

I acknowledged I had but that I’ve never been good at keeping track of it.

Apparently, she had.

“Every time I used to ask for your coffee club card, you always joked and told me to put it in on my open tab . I know you’ll never redeem the perks and the every 6th cup free bonus, so I hope you don’t mind what I’ve done,” she began explaining, asking for my indulgence of a sheepish grin she’d grown since we’d been friends.

“John out there has been my homeless friend for a long time. And since you don’t use your coffee club bonuses, I’ve used them to buy him a small coffee and a donut whenever he shows up. And we talk about important things together before he leaves, just like you and me every morning. I’ve read him some of your stories and heard pretty much everything about his life there is to know.”

I smiled and said I liked her style and think she’s doing a noble thing with the rewards and to keep it up.

She’s a different young woman than I met a couple years ago. She shares better stories of her kids and is quite optimistic about their future as a family. Mostly though, her face glows each morning and she has a smile that behind the piercings shows me how beautiful she’s become inside.

Time was up. I had to get to work to get some people fed for the weekend, and to write this story.

I paid my $1.62 and said thanks until next time.

And as I walked out, I shook the hand of the homeless man as I had so many times before..

But this time, I thanked him and called him by name.

Today was the first time I’ve ever seen his smile.

Experience in personal hardship.

As I enjoyed a delicious breakfast for $4.40 including coffee at a nearby hospital cafeteria, I was reminded of when I quit Meth both unemployed and felony-unemployable, living on a large but dwindling jar of coins, and did this some mornings back when it was a buck cheaper. Afterward I visited with grieving families in the chapel.

Later at 945pm just before closing, I’d go to Panera where they’d give me their leftover soups they would have otherwise tossed and across the street, KFC sometimes gave me leftover chicken at closing if I came when a certain manager was working.

The things I did to survive back then are the creative advices I still offer hungry people down on their luck.

Experience in personal hardship is a prized instructor.

I’m dying to know what Jeff found out.

My good friend succumbed to his illness last year with a host of unanswered questions.

He literally wrote the book on unanswered questions and spiritual dilemmas. Actually, two books if I recall. I was his editor for the first one so I gained an intimate understanding of what ailed him spiritually before the physical one snatched him up to heaven to be fully alive and enlightened.

I still think about Jeff from time to time and envy what he now knows with an absolute certainty from the One with all the answers.

And unless he’s writing the prequel to share, I’ll just have to wait.

But in all honesty,

I’m one of many dying to know what Jeff found out.

my job.

I use words and facts to get money.
For me, the words come easy. Persuasive facts are a little harder to assemble.
As a grant writer, I need both.

Securing funding for our work to make a real difference in this world of homelessness is what I do every day. It means finding good-hearted donors with an interest in our mission and giving them what they want: a compelling argument to put their money where it will make verifiable change in this world, with the data and evidence to back it up.

The words come easy when your nonprofit performance record writes itself.

You see, our programs are all evidence-based and provide real solutions to homelessness and its associated problems.

Our team finds and houses hundreds of seniors, kids, and families each month. We provide them with food, clothing, and basic needs. We help them secure sustainable employment income. And we provide them new hope for a better life ahead where they won’t need to depend on anyone else again.
Perhaps best of all, at least for me, we can prove our results.

With all that in my back pocket, I think I may just have the easiest and most personally fulfilling job in the world.

into the new year…

Though it’s back to work today after an extended vacation, I can reflect on highlights of the holiday season now in the rearview mirror. Mostly they involve family members, laughter and naps, but one was particularly memorable.

I took a risk to convene with a few other guys I’d never met for a breakfast meeting. It was as out of character for me to show up as it was for me to accept the invitation in the first place.

We all had histories which were individually devastating and had emerged on the other side as better men. For years now, stepping out of my comfort zone has been an unfamiliar but beckoning need in order to effect remaining desired changes in my life and character on approach to my end of days.

I suspect for me 2024 will be the start of some very good things and the end of others, embodying the meaning of a genuinely happy new year.

Call me superstitious, but I’ve found a lot of good things can happen for you when you simply just start making your bed each morning.