Friends feed friendsBy REBECCA THOMPSON
Once upon a time, there was a man with a beard. This man went with a group of his hippie friends to Lexington, Ky.’s Triangle Park for a social justice event in the spring of 2009, where he came upon another man with a beard. The man’s friends encouraged him to talk to this other bearded man, and they became friends. That story was the beginning of new stories and new friendships for many people on our campus community, as well as for some residents of Lexington’s streets. The men were Daniel Henson, a Junior Religion major here at Georgetown College, and Caleb Mathis, a Biology teacher at Scott County High School.
I was there the day Daniel met Caleb in April; I met him too, and a few of his other friends. Within a couple of hours of us meeting him it became obvious that when school began again in the fall we would be seeing Mr. Mathis not infrequently. There were more than a few homeless people hanging out in Triangle Park that day and throughout that evening while a couple hundred of us college (and post-college) kids slept in the park after being “rescued” as a part of Invisible Children’s worldwide Rescue event. Caleb told us how he and his friends used to come to downtown Lexington on Fridays and hang out with the homeless people in Phoenix Park, bringing them food and spending time listening to their stories. We told him we would be interested in doing that. And now we are.
There are five different groups of people who Caleb has organized on a rotation schedule, he and some of his friends, and some friends’ friends, and, every fifth week, a group from Georgetown College. This little project in intentional community is called Feeding Friends in Phoenix Park, and there is a Facebook group you should look up. For us, it is pretty simple. The food is supplemented with a Lily micro-grant from Campus Ministries that Daniel secured. He organizes a meeting time at South Campus, and we carpool to take pizzas, soft drinks and bottled water to the people there. They know we are coming, and they are usually happy to see us. Most are kind and grateful, some are harsh. Most will sit and talk to us, tell us their stories, allow us to adopt them as friends and family, and some will take some food and go off to the far corner of the park. Some will hug us. Some will shake our hands awkwardly. Some will be quiet and shy. That is fine with us.
I think most of the people who go to Phoenix Park with us have had about as much experience with homelessness as I have: not much. In Ashland (my hometown), my experience with homeless people was limited to seeing them as they stood outside of the soup kitchen at the Presbyterian church downtown. Until this year I had never had a conversation with a homeless person. That changed at The Rescue in April, and I have had many more conversations since then with the folks at Phoenix Park. I asked Daniel why he was doing this, why he wanted to, and he told me he is doing it because it needs to be done, and having the resources to do it he feels he should do so. I feel the same way.
As Jesse Eubanks from Jefferson Street Baptist Center in Louisville discussed with us at Common Ground last Tuesday evening, people find many reasons (read: excuses) to not get involved in problems such as homelessness. I have formerly been (and occasionally still am) guilty of it myself. We see a problem like homelessness as a personal issue; that is, someone got themselves into that mess, they can get themselves out. He made bad choices, she was lazy, and that is not my fault. Or we see it as something “society” did to them; she was fired from her job by a racist, he was a victim of “the system,” and there is nothing I can do to fix the system.
Maybe those things are true. And maybe I am unqualified to help someone with his addiction, or her inability to read, or the husband and wife’s crushing debt that lost them their home. But I can sit down in Phoenix Park and have a piece of cheese pizza with Curt, a man who’s first (and now deceased) fiancee, Gulf War post-traumatic stress and unfaithful (now ex-) wife conspired to put him on the streets of Lexington, Ky. I can listen to his story, tell him I am sorry and make him my friend. I can hug an old lady who praises God that we’ve brought her a Hot ‘n Ready pizza. I can laugh with the people at Phoenix Park, and dance with them and stand in the cold with them much longer than I had intended to be there.
And if that is what needs to be done, and if that is all I can do, then I need to do it. We’re going to Phoenix Park again this Friday, Nov. 6th. If you would like to make some new friends, start a new story in your life and in theirs and do what you can to heal a problem that is everyone’s problem, you should come and hang out with us. We usually leave around seven and spend a few hours. Dress warmly, and remember that the people you are about to meet may not be dressed warmly, and will be sleeping in the cold Friday night. And tonight. And every night until someone can help them out of whatever slump they are in right now. Until then, you’ll know where to find them, and me. If you have questions, ask the man with the beard.
Students’ left-overs could make a fine mealBy KHANT MINN
The article that questioned the sustainability of the Caf has sparked two responses: one defending the position of the Caf and the other agreeing on the wastefulness of the students. For the first one, I would like to apologize for the use of strong and rather one-sided criticism of the food. After all, the Caf has tried every possible way that it can to provide a sustainable dining atmosphere, from handing out of blue recycle cups to the attempt to reuse food-waste at local farms. However, I am more concerned about the wasted food and the cooperation of the students, as must have been evident from the last paragraph of the article.
I have noticed how ignorant the students, as the representatives of a rich society, have become about the value of food. As someone who has come from a third-world country where wastefulness is something that we simply cannot afford, when I see the food being thrown away, faces flash in front of my eyes—those undernourished faces that would be lit up if only they had half of what is being wasted. I have seen enough family breakfast tables, where the ice-cold rice and the dark, thick sauce made from the preserved fish left over from last night’s dinner was shared among the dad, mom and the three children, to feel miserable about the disrespect for food among the majority of students dining in the Caf.
I have seen children whose idea of luxury is to be able to suck a bar of cheap brown jaggery, locally made from the sap of palm trees. And they are not even the children of the poorest families. I have seen those famished people who cannot even afford to buy rice and have to be content with congee water that is drained off while rice is being cooked. For them, throwing away food is an unacceptable idea, since almost everything can be preserved for later use. Food is so scarce that not even a grain of rice can be wasted. When I say a grain of rice, I literally mean a grain of rice. Let me explain.
The kind of rice that they eat is not the same clean, white and whole-grain rice that is available here. It is a bit dusty with broken grains and small stones mixed together. Before the rice can be cooked, it has to be separated from the stones. There usually are some grains scattered around the place after this process but not a single grain is swept away; they are picked up grain by grain. Then they are put in a bowl of water and washed. After that the water is used in dish washing. It does a good job in treating the greasy surfaces of the dishes. Having to live with minimal resources available, even the young children know that they should only take what they can finish.
To them, food that is left after dinner is their breakfast; food left after breakfast is their lunch. There is only one occasion when they might throw away the food—when it has gone bad. Even then, there are usually chickens and dogs to finish it off. Yes, those animals can eat fermented rice and not be sick—at least in my country. Students here do not feel the same way as I do because they have never seen real poverty face to face. Most students here probably have grown up without ever thinking where the food they are eating comes from. They have probably always equated food to wads of dollars. But the next time they find themselves with some extra food that must be thrown away, it would not be a bad thing to keep in mind that the money in their bank accounts will mean less and less with the gradual exhaustion of the resources that nature has to offer its children.
Why my daughter didn’t want to go to heavenBy ERNIE HEAVIN
The other day as I was preparing to get ready for work, the thought came to me that I have already lived more than half of a lifetime. I’m fifty years old. Then it dawned on me that if I continued to eat right, exercise and keep my mind stimulated, barring no sudden accidents or terminal disease, I have around 20, maybe 30 years left on this earth…and then Eternity…Forever! No, I’m not having a mid-life crisis or falling into depression. To be honest, I tend to worry more about the small stuff like: “How long will my Toyota Corolla with 180,000 miles last,” “How am I going to get this paid off in the next several months,” or “Hmmm. What did those overpriced and high-calorie cookies Karen keeps buying have to do with my pants being a bit snug this morning?”
Personally, I think Christians would be less stressed and have fewer worries if they focused more on heaven and/or actually looked forward to Christ’s return. Unfortunately, we don’t. We place too much emphasis on this life when Scripture tells us to focus on the other (1st Peter 1:3-9). We tend to think this time we have on earth is going to be more exciting and fun than eternity. Some think of heaven as a 24/7 church worship service. But is this consistent about what we read of God, the Creator and Redeemer of the universe? Is it really logical to conclude that He created this beautiful world with every kind, color, shape, and size of creature imaginable; oceans and mountains, and stars and galaxies that reveal the awe and glory of God so that we will be bored in the afterlife?
Genesis chapters one and two record that every tree was pleasing to the eye and good for food, and this God, this Creator full of wisdom, insight and knowledge, this wonderful Father who made all these things for us to bless us, this Divine Being thought to Himself, “I think I will place people on the earth, to enjoy everything for 70-90 years and then bore them to death for eternity?” Is that really consistent to what we know about Him? At the age of 12 or 13, my daughter Krissy and I were sitting on our front porch steps. She turned to me and said, “Dad, I don’t think I want to go to heaven.” Some comment for a preacher’s kid to make. Obviously I was puzzled about what she said so I asked her why she made the statement. “Well, if heaven is going to be like church service for eternity, I don’t want to go. I don’t want to be bored forever.”
Krissy’s concept of heaven was probably how a lot of people think of heaven, a 24/7 church service for eternity. What kind of motivation or hope is that for someone suffering? So I told Krissy, “I want you to look around and think about everything God has created for us. Look at His beautiful creation, the good food we eat, the gift of laughter. Now do you really believe God created all these good things for us to enjoy for the mere 70 to 80 years we’re on this earth just so we could be bored stiff for eternity? I don’t think so. Kid, you haven’t seen nothing yet!” Neither have you! The letter of 1st Peter gives us a strong vision, something greater (a risen Lord) than the problems we face. For the next 20 or 30 years, Lord willing, I’m going to focus on being a better husband, father (granddad someday I hope), minister and friend.
I’m going to continue to enjoy the little things in life like a morning cup of coffee, a fast paced walk, and hope my Kansas City Chiefs win a championship again. I hope to always be fascinated with my dog who tries to steal my shoes whether I’m putting them on or taking them off but even more than that…I want to anticipate heaven, what God has in store for me. No matter how hard life gets or how good it may be, I want to prepare myself to long for that day (2nd Timothy 4:8).
Ernie Heavin is a bi-vocational minister who works full-time for the Anna Ashcraft Ensor Learning Resource Center and pastors a small congregation. He also serves as a volunteer Staff Chaplain for the college. Heavin’s website is library.georgetowncollege.edu/Staff/heavin/about.html.