I don’t live anywhere, we live outside.

Lauri posted this at the www.crowdrise.com/nochildoutside site, shared here with permission.

Hey folks – the below is about an experience I had the last time I chaperoned a field trip at Oscar’s school. Homelessness is not theoretical or distant in my community; it is present, immediate, and heartbreakingly human. If you have the time/bandwidth/resources, please read, share if you like, and donate if you are able to do so – thank you!

The bus ride home from the field trip is long; the kids laugh and chat and hang out of their seats and point at the lights-flashing police car. As we come back into the city:

“Hey, I’m right down that street!” “See that brick wall, behind the corner store? That’s where I live!”

The boy in front of me turns to speak to just me:

“I don’t live anywhere. We live outside.”

And I want to ask him if he’s joking, trying to pull one over on the gullible adult as kids so love to do – then I notice that his pants are far too short and the corduroy is almost worn through.

Damn.

I am thirty-nine years old.

I know thousands of words.

But I am lost at what to tell this child –

<oh God I’m so sorry>
<it’s going to be okay>
<is it?>
<I love you>
<This should not be happening to you>

All I can do is focus on being present. On not looking away. On holding my own discomfort to one side. On fully being with him, here, witnessing.

It feels like far too little.

It feels too close to nothing at all.

I smile at him, hope my eyes are shouting

<I love you>
<it’s going to be okay>

He smiles back.

“My mom tells me to have faith in God – help is on the way.”

And before he can see the worry in my eyes – I have no such faith – he turns back in his seat, to his friend pointing at the store we’re passing.

I wrap my arm around my own son, happy next to me on that long ride home. I squeeze him close and he has no idea why.

The distance between them is . . . paper thin, is tissue, is nothing at all.

I feel so lucky that it hurts, an ache in my chest and eyes as we pass our street, just blocks from home – our cozy, warm, safe home, full of food and toys and books. A pet fish and a balcony garden – such riches it is almost unbearable.

The distance between us is . . . sheer luck.

I look at the seat in front of me.

Nothing very very good or very very bad ever lasts for very very long – right?

Please?

His mom, I think, is stronger than he knows

now she’s got me praying too.

A new wig for Jolene

Jolene was born with a rare genetic disorder called anhidrotic ectodermal dysphagia that results in baldness, nail deformation, and teeth erosion. Jolene’s mother, brother, and daughter all have the disorder and it has affected each of their lives. Jolene started losing her hair when she was in third grade. By the time she was 11, she was almost completely bald. By age 13, she had the limited number of teeth she had left pulled and was fitted for dentures.

Jolene’s got her first office job at age 25 in an accounts payable department. She was qualified and well educated, but she never felt like she fit in. It was obvious that her co-workers didn’t feel comfortable with her appearance. Even though Jolene would often wear a wig to work, if the wig was wet from rain or washing, she sometime had to wear a headscarf. She noticed how people looked at her differently, and more and more employers would tell her that the head scarf was not work appropriate and insist that wear a wig. She was self-conscious and kept to herself. She didn’t have many work friends and felt isolated.

There were bright spots. There was one job, where she stayed for five years, where she was surrounded by a supportive and caring group of co-workers. She finally felt accepted, not judged, and confident in her work and life. It made such a difference!

Unfortunately, over the years, Jolene has come to realize how uncomfortable people are with her baldness. Her current wig is wearing out, losing hair, and looking tattered. She can’t afford to buy a new one. Jolene has found a new job and wants to make a good impression and fit in. She wonders if any of our generous and caring friends have a wig that they would donate to help her step confidently into this new page of her life?

UPDATE: January 29, 2016

Thanks to a generous donor (and several other generous offers!), Jolene has her wig and loves it!

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More than 1,600 homeless attend the Holly Jolly Holiday Party

For many homeless individuals and families, the holidays bring feelings of loneliness, isolation, depression and sadness. No place to go, no invitations to dinner, no holiday cards in the mail and no gifts under the tree. Not at Mary’s Place!

IMG_1337On Monday, December 21st, we hosted our annual Holly Jolly Holiday Party for the homeless individuals and families in Seattle. The party, which was held at the Seattle Center Exhibition Hall, drew over 1,600 guests who visited the Santa Store, where kids selected and wrapped gifts for parents, and parents and grandparents selected gifts to give their children; carolers caroled; a DJ spun holiday music; kids (and adults) got pictures with Santa; children visited the Winter Wonderland Wardrobe and got new holiday outfits’ and, as requested by Mary’s Place families, there was lots of pizza, candy, and cookies (over 400 LARGE pizzas). And every guest received a gift card for a new pair of shoes!

Over 600 volunteers made the day possible, including special guest, WIMG_9267ashington state’s First Lady, Trudi Inslee! More than 40 companies, organizations, and congregations sent volunteer teams to help with the party, including: PEMCO, Bank of America, Edelman Worldwide, evo, KPMG, Apple, The Gates Foundation, OAC Services, Parker Services, Vulcan, Inc., USI Kibble Prentice, Regence, Russell Investments, and Columbia Hospitality. Corporate sponsors for the party include Parker Services, OAC, and Bank of America.

Mary’s Place favorite, Sumiko, worked all year long to create hand made gift tags. This year she made over 6,000 gift and shoe tags for requested gifts for parents and children, and for community-funded shoe gift cards. More than 118 companies, organizations, and congregations (including Mayor Ed Murray’s office at the City of Seattle) set up Giving Trees to purchase items on gift tags for the party. Those organizations and individuals provided more than 8,000 gifts (over 2,000 toys) to fill the Santa Store!

A big thank you to everyone who helped make this day merry and bright for homeless families! You can see more pictures of the event here, and KING 5 TV came by, the story is here.