Who Do You Love?

The Romans were copycats. They adopted Greek gods and gave them Roman names. In the case of literature, Virgil’s Roman rewrite of Homer’s The Odyssey, The Aeneid was an improvement, at least the Roman version of The Land of the Lotus Eaters scene, where Odysseus and his men smoked opium in the poppy fields with some old men.

Odysseus had to get he and his men’s rear in gear and leave the field in order to take care of business at home.

In the Roman version, the hero finds himself in a cave with a beautiful woman. She doesn’t want him to leave, but he has to drag himself away to found Rome. Even back then, the Italians were quite romantic.

If I were to choose which version I could be in, I choose romancing a woman than sitting around a bunch of old farts doing dope.

I was taken aback when a recovering addict told me that a druggie would rather be in the Land of the Lotus Eaters doing dope than romancing a woman.

For addicts, drugs become the focus of their life, the center of their being. I read a testimony of a recovering addict in Narcotics Anonymous where the writer said that he had no moral compass when he was an addict —  that he would steal from his own mother to get a fix. The only thing that mattered in his life was getting high.

Today, Bucks County, PA has the highest heroin addiction rate in Pennsylvania, second in the U.S.

Why all the addictions? Like the guys in the ancient stories, it’s an escape from responsibility, the duties of everyday life. The root of this is character flaws, a result of sin. Addictions can never fully satisfy you, and you are on a lifelong quest for the Holy Grail, which is a fantasy. As Paul Revere and the Raiders said in Kicks:

“Kicks just keep gettin’ harder to find
And all your kicks ain’t bringin’ you peace of mind”

http://www.metrolyrics.com/kicks-lyrics-paul-revere-and-the-raiders.html

As the Raiders continue:

“No, you don’t need kicks
To help you face the world each day
That road goes nowhere
I’m gonna help you find yourself another way”

There is another way. Right here in Bucks County is a free, drop in program, one Tuesday nights in Levittown and Saturday nights in Newtown.  http://www.12stepjourney.com/

Ask yourself what, or who do you love? How far would you go? Would you, in the words of Bo Diddley, “walk forty-seven miles of barbed wire?”  And for what?

http://www.metrolyrics.com/who-do-you-love-lyrics-bo-diddley.html

I’ll be at Home on Christmas

The true spirit of Christmas shone bright at the Christmas dinner put on by the Marrazzo Family in Penndel, PA. People who would otherwise have no place to go could meet in a family like atmosphere.

The hosts treated the guests like family, visiting them at their tables, asking them if they wanted anything, making them feel at home on Christmas and they were genuinely glad everyone came.

Like the regular community meals for the homeless and needy in lower Bucks County, this was a venue where friends can get together and be at ease to share the latest news and freely speak what’s on their minds. It’s where people can make new friends and band together and know they are not alone in their plight.

As the Three Dog Night sang “One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do”. The community meals are an antidote to facing a challenging world alone. One, however,  can even be lonely in a crowd.  But not at the Christmas dinner!

Not only do the guests interact with each other, the hosts at the community meals talk with them. On more than one occasion, one of the hosts sat down, one on one with a man with an addiction problem, trying to help him along. Showing concern for others has been happening a lot at community meals.

The spirit of Christmas extends beyond the season. Christmas is just a reminder of life not being about material gain and self-aggrandizing fame but helping others — doing the right thing. Peace and goodwill to men nested here.

It is a lost world out there. Before I went to the Christmas dinner, a guy was panhandling at a Wawa. Also, someone approached a very thin, weak looking, somewhat pale woman and asked her if she wanted to sell heroine. The hustler may have thought the woman was an addict and may be interested in making money to support her habit.

Indeed, it was a peaceful dinner.  People with different faiths could find common ground and encourage and edify one another.  There was no drama, as in the case of the story (made up) of a protestant who walked away from his Christmas caroling group and got into an altercation with a catholic and threatened to hit him.  Someone in the group said “come on, let’s go; strike the harp and join the chorus!”

It’s good I’m able to joke about this, using my sometimes strange, occasionally irreverent sense of humor.

Encouraging and building one another up is what Christmas reminds us of.  It should not stop at Christmas. It should not be like the Christmas seize fire when I was in Vietnam, in the Tonkin Gulf.  During Christmas, not a creature was stirring, not even a water snake.  It was a silent night.

But the nanosecond the ceasefire was over, the whole Tonkin Gulf erupted with gunfire, making the shootout at the OK corral seem like kids having a cap gun fight.

Christmas day at the dinner was an oasis in the wasteland of our sinful world — a taste of heaven (and the food was good).  People left with full stomachs and warm hearts.

Please Friend Ant

The last time I visited a treatment place where a friend was being treated for alcoholism, a counselor told the visitors that they should not enable bad behavior. To my dismay, I learned that less than a week before he was finished the short term treatment, one morning he stormed out of a meeting and out of the center.

As I was in the library, soon to leave to grab a bite to eat before going to the 12 step program in Levittown, PA, I got a call from someone who asked if I could give the treatment center refugee a ride to a friend’s house. He had already started walking there.

I only said I’d wait for a return call because I thought I could take the guy with me to 12 steps. When I got the call, I was told he had turned his phone off and was asked if I could look for him. I was not about to hunt for this impetuous guy along New Falls Road in Levittown.

After I hung up, it dawned on me that had I picked the treatment center refugee up, I would be enabling him. Based on his history, he probably would have some excuse why he couldn’t go to the 12 steps that night.  http://www.12stepjourney.com/

A Salvation Army officer once told me about a guy who, for no reason, hitchhiked quite a distance from a Salvation Army center and ended up in Levittown. The officer was prepared to take the guy, who arbitrarily took off, back. But when he called the officer in charge of the center, he told the Levittown officer not to give him a ride — to let him get back the same way he came.

To give the runaway guy a ride back would send a message that there are no consequences for his actions. It would be like the ant, in Aesop’s classic fable, giving the grasshopper, who, instead of storing up food as the ant did for the winter, a handout.  http://www.umass.edu/aesop/content.php?i=1&n=0

It’s important to use discernment when helping others. A few years back, when I stopped at a Chinese restaurant, a woman offered to buy a panhandler a meal. The guy demanded money, making excuses why he wouldn’t accept the meal. The woman told him that’s her final offer. He became hostile, and then other people waiting in line chastised the man. The woman remarked “the Lord tells me to feed the hungry but not to” hand out money indiscriminately.

People today think they are entitled to what others have.

The Lord commands us to help the needy. He’s given us the heart to help others but also wisdom.

Someone just showed charity towards me, showing the true meaning of Christmas. As I went towards the register to pay for some milk, a guy heading the same way slowed down to let me go first and remarked “you are on a mission”. I replied that I had to get my girlfriend to chemotherapy. When I went to use food stamps, I found there were insufficient funds. As I fumbled through my cash, the guy, now behind me, offered to pay for the milk. I told him I had the money but he insisted, reasoning that I need to help somebody.

When you hear “please friend ant”, the best thing you can do is not accommodate the grasshopper. Maybe on some occasions you can cut people some slack and give them something to tide them over. For example, a homeless person returns to his tent drunk and rips it up. Maybe just giving him a tent one time is righteous, but with the stipulation that if he’s reckless again, he won’t be given another tent.

Someone who called into a talk show remarked that private charity is better than government handouts because individuals are better able to distinguish between the people truly in need and slackers.

In lower Bucks County, between food stamps, gracious people who give food and clothing for the needy there should be plenty of those needs met for the homeless. The problem is that some people sell some of their food stamps and use the money for cancer sticks, booze, and even drugs. The misuse of food stamps enables bad behavior.

Some time ago, a woman with lung cancer asked me to buy her cigarettes. Astonished, I told her “no,” and explained that that was not a necessity and that she’s not entitled.

BO has been called “the food stamp president.” A black woman on Glen Beck’s show remarked that BO practices “plantation politics” — “he’ll give us food stamps but will not give us the opportunity to help ourselves” by allowing parents to pick the best school when he eliminated school choice vouchers.

Private charity works better than government handouts because individuals can get to really know the people they are helping. Not only will they realize where the help is coming from — that it isn’t pennies from heaven — but people truly in need can get a hand up, and not just a hand out.

There’s a school of thought that helping the homeless, buying them tents and even giving them food is enabling them and, in the case of tents, aiding and abetting illegal camping. Well, the problem is many people legitimately don’t have anyplace to go. Unlike some areas, Bucks County, PA does not have sufficient shelter for the homeless.

Many people are homeless because of the economy. Rush Limbaugh said “Obama is doing to the economy what Godzilla did to Tokyo — he’s stomping all over it.” Likewise is our tax and spend Big Bad Wolf Governor in Pennsylvania, who also holds up production by banning harvesting, mining of resources on state lands.

The Big Bad Wolf may as well pass out pink slips and drag people out of their houses.  As was the case during FDR’s New Raw Deal and subsequent progressive reigns, there was gross poverty. During these times homelessness ran rampant. Greed, the misuse of capitalism created the Great Depression, but government programs exacerbated and prolonged it.

As President Ronald Reagan said, “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”

People need to learn responsibility.

Ah grasshopper, when you are ready to act more responsibly, you are ready to go out into the world and become a responsible member of society. My apologies Master Khan.

http://www.welcometothe70s.com/kungfu.html

Bad Moon Arising

“I see the bad moon arising. I see trouble on the way. I see earthquakes and lightnin’. I see those bad times today.

Don’t go around tonight, Well it’s bound to take your life, There’s a bad moon on the rise.

I hear hurricanes a blowing. I know the end is coming soon. I fear rivers over flowing. I hear the voice of rage and ruin.”

Bad Moon Arising, Credence Clearwater Revival

“We all have baggage,” said a former homeless guy in lower Bucks County, PA. Recognizing you have a problem is the first step in getting your act together. When he was homeless, he learned how to deal with his baggage, and as a result was able to improve conditions for himself and fellow homeless.

If left unchecked, our “baggage”, our addictions, anti-social behavior and other problems, can lead to destruction. I know, I’ve been there. I also know that it isn’t too late. It wasn’t in my case.

And Carol King’s thesis “it’s too late, baby it’s too late…” doesn’t apply to my homeless friend who is getting treatment for alcoholism. He fell down, but he is not out. People who have been there before are helping him help himself.

He was one of the clowns who caused the homeless to be banned for a time from the Levittown Veteran’s Memorial when they were drunk and disorderly. The others involved have continued their destructive behavior.

The homeless don’t have to be that way, just because they are homeless. People have choices.

My friend is starting to fully realize that he can’t make it on his own. I occasionally remind him that there’s no such thing as the Lone Ranger Christian. He is on the right path and has made the right choice. Some of us have been encouraging him, despite his occasional urge to think he’s strong enough to leave the nest, to stay on the right track.

This time of year, with all the crass materialism static from the money grubbers who hijacked Christmas (they are the real Grinch who stole Christmas) to use it as a means to their ends, it’s important to know the real reason for the season.

What’s it’s all about, Alfie, is taking to heart God’s sacrifice for sinners and showing concern, compassion for others, especially the less fortunate. And it’s just not about material things. Some people are down spirited, especially this time of year.

It’s been said that depression is high during the Christmas season. A lot of it has to do with the emptiness of materialism and people feeling like nobody cares. The Christmas hype just doesn’t cut it!

Instead of envy, pettiness and fighting, people need to help and edify one another. At a community meal for the homeless and those in need, someone at my table questioned why the homeless are bickering with one another when they could be working together. I agree.

Greed, which runs rampant this time of year, alienates people and causes problems.

Compare Frank Norris’s McTeaque, about the social problems that resulted from the greed of the Gold Rush era, with John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, the novel about how a homeless family worked with others in their plight. In McTeaque, greed caused contention between individuals, just as does some of today’s homeless people who want all the booze or cigarettes.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McTeague

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Grapes_of_Wrath

Gluttony is a form of greed that causes problems. After I lost my house, I was invited to live rent free in a house in exchange for taking handicapped people to their doctor’s appointments and shopping and doing various chores around the property. One of them incessantly demanded I pick up monster drinks and other small items for her, in addition to weekly shopping.

A showdown came two days after our weekly shopping, which included picking up a few pounds of lunch meat for two people. The glutton wanted me to take them shopping again because they pigged out and finished the lunch meat in two days! I put my foot down and said “no.” There was other food in the house, but they demanded their lunch meat.

The glutton told me her father-in-law, who owns the house, would pick up the lunch meat. Shortly thereafter, after I schlepped many bags of food into the house after weekly shopping, the old man, a retired Brown Shirt with the United Auto Workers Union, told me I wasn’t shopping for his son and daughter-in-law as agreed and demanded I “get out and take your stuff, before I throw it out!” This guy is Jeff Dunham’s Walter on steroids!

In the Steinbeck novel, people worked together as a team in order to survive their ordeal.

When I first started hanging around the homeless about 1 1/2 years ago, they helped one another — with food and shelter, and schooled them where they could go for assistance and were there for moral support.

One free walk in program I’d recommend, which has helped me get rid of my baggage that weighs me down is the 12 steps journey, held Tuesday evenings in Levittown and Saturday nights in Newtown. http://www.12stepjourney.com/ See schedule on link.

All people matter, including the homeless. When the bad moon rises over the homeless, don’t moon them but encourage them to improve themselves. I’d encourage everyone to dump bad baggage.

T-Rex is Back!

Tyrannosaurus Rex is back, running around Levittown, PA, bullying anyone who does something he doesn’t like, or just for sport. The root of his first name translates “tyrant.”  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tyrannosaurus

Lately, T-Rex has been temporarily contained in cages but, once free, in some public places he has been docile, on pain of not being fed. At a community meal, I almost accidentally sat down across from him. When I noticed him, he elicited a menacing warning, a look that could kill, and I kept away.

The most recent episode occurred at the Veteran’s Memorial in Levittown. When I arrived, just missing the Christmas party there, T-Rex had a smirk on his face. Initially I took this as a friendly greeting but then realized that he was drunk. And disorderly. Yet he orders me, a veteran, to leave the memorial because he doesn’t like my blogs.

Talk about tough critics!

I missed the Christmas party because I was visiting a friend who is getting treatment for alcohol addiction. He was vacated from the same neighborhood where T-Rex used to live. In his case, he finally came to his senses after being convinced by a Bucks County Ranger to get the help he needs.

At the memorial, the inebriated T-Rex started closing in on what he thought would be his prey, uttering inane grunts and groans. It sounded like he was saying that this grunting and groaning was the content of my blogs. An ex Marine got between us, trying to keep him at bay. I didn’t want to fight — just to be left alone. But I don’t like bullies and I was tempted to knock him out! I guarantee you, he won’t find overpowering me as easy a task as when he attacked mentally and physically weak prey.

People at the memorial also tried to convince him to stop his irrational rage — that I am not the enemy.

Not only was T-Rex bullying me, he was hurting his fellow homeless who visit the memorial. He was one of the ones who had gotten everybody banned from the memorial after the authorities came because some individuals were drunk and disorderly. It took some persuading the authorities to convince them to let thing go back to the way they were.

The woods by the library have been cleared of overnight campers, but the “all clear” sign is not out. In fact, the rangers are aggressively patrolling the woods for campers camping in a no camp zone. It was the mainly druggie homeless who triggered the raids on the homeless. Warrants for people also precipitated the raids.

A ranger asked me that if I see a certain individual who has a warrant against him to ask him to turn himself in. It will go easier for him, the ranger said, if he turns himself in than when they catch him.

Places for the homeless to go keep shrinking. Caring people have been trying to create shelter for the homeless but have been hitting roadblocks. Part of the problem is a result of hobophobia. For those of you in Doylestown, “hobophobia” means, according to the Urban Dictionary “The extreme and utter fear of hobos, or the homeless. This is usually caused by the lack of exposure to the homeless throughout the world. A dose of homelessness is an easy cure to hobophobia”

Whether T-Rex realizes it or not (he probably doesn’t), he is contributing to hobophobia.

Most people don’t know the homeless like I do. Bystanders witness a rucus among a group of people they perceive as being homeless. Not knowing the people in the group, or any homeless people for that manner, they tend to judge all homeless by the actions of certain members of the group.

There are people scattered out there who genuinely want to help the homeless find shelter. They have had some success in piecemeal fashion.

A guy who works for Bucks County who used to be a fixture at the Levittown Public Library — maybe my dangerous blogs scared him away (holy the pen is mightier than the sword, Batman) — told me he doesn’t buy the “housing first” stragedy. He said that people need to get themselves straight before they move into housing.

Assuming someone needing shelter needs help with serious problems, this would be a good strategy. But many homeless simply need a place to stay; they are not all addicts or nutcases. But as concerns the public perception of the homeless, the homeless need to get their act together, and hold problem people accountable for their behavior.

Homeless people at the memorial when T-Rex started acting up handled the problem the right way. But if the problem people don’t want to shape up, throw the bums out!

In Jurassic Park, a scientist argued that dinosaurs can’t co-exist with people. In the case of T-Rex, I think he may be right.

Who Put The Bomp?

“Who put the bomp
In the bomp bah bomp bah bomp?
Who put the ram
In the rama lama ding dong?
Who put the bop
In the bop shoo bop shoo bop? “

In the song, Barry Mann asks “Who is that man?”, and adds

“I’d like to shake his hand…”

I, like the author of the song, don’t know the answer to that question. But I do know who put the “community” in the community meals. And I’d like to shake their hands. They made me baby think more positively! Yeah!

The community meals for the homeless and those in need in lower Bucks County, PA have been a blessing. Churches in the area take turns serving the homeless and the needy, providing prepared, sit down meals.

As I’ve said, ad infinitum, ad nauseam, these meals are not hosted by Jeff Dunham’s Walter, who said that if he was a Walmart greeter, when people walked in he’d say “welcome to Walmart; get your sh** and get out!”

Like the pubs in Ireland, which are not just a place to get a drink, especially in rural areas, the community meals are a social center, where homeless and needy people congregate and engage in pleasant conversation, at times scholarly. The hosts seamlessly join in.

At a recent meal, one of the hosts sat down at the table with the guests. We didn’t know she was one of the hosts until after we talked with her for about ten minutes. Reminds me of the joke about mosquitos in Vietnam.

“How big are the mosquitoes in Vietnam?”

“They are so big that when they’d land at the airfield, we’d refuel them and let them take off before we realize they were mosquitoes.”

At the Restoration Church meal, one of the hosts always says “I see you’re smiling.” By nature, I tend to worry — I’ve been dealing with anxiety and depression most of my life. It’s good to have someone notice that I can, as James Taylor sung, have my cares drift into space. Actually, it’s the Lord who comforts me.

God sends people to help and comfort others.

It’s the hosts who reach out to their guests and the guest who respond to them and break bread with each other that puts the “community” in community meals.

I’m still trying to figure out

“Who put the dip
In the dip da dip da dip?”

But in the scheme of things, that’s not really that important. As a Christian brother used to tell me, “that’s that liberal arts stuff taking up space in your head.”

When I was in the Navy, I got the nickname “Drifty Drinnan”. Although I sometimes drift off course, like a ship’s helmsman, I correct my course, with God as my Captain at the con.

References: http://www.oldielyrics.com/lyrics/barry_mann/who_put_the_bomp_in_the_bomp_bomp_bomp.html

Do We Have A Prayer?

Serenity Prayer

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will; that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him forever in the next. Amen.”

There’s a lot of wisdom in that prayer.

Two plus two will always equal four. Mixing vinegar and baking soda will always make a good volcano for a science project. But human behavior cannot be reduced to formulas. As Shakespeare wrote,

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

People have tried to help others with problems, such as addictions and general destructive behavior, but they haven’t always responded the best way. We can only plant a seed; God makes it grow. Whether we realize it or not, God works behind the scenes to, as Larry the Cable Guy would say, get ‘er done, in his time, his way.

We shouldn’t let circumstances, especially ones we cannot change, rule our lives.

Faith healers don’t work. For a laugh, I used to watch faith healer Reverend Ernest Angley perform his tricks.  He’d stand over someone with a malady and chant  something like ” I’ve got your condition in my vision. I’ve got your condition in my vision. Yea-ya, in the name of the Lord…”  Instant healing.

For sure, the Lord can heal, and I for one believe in the power of prayer, but it normally isn’t instant and not through the medium of a faith healer. Christ himself healed instantly when he was on earth, but I find faith healers dubious.

When people find others with deep problems, such as addictions, they think “bring them to the Lord.”

It’s just a starting point, a good one. One thing we’ve talked about in a local 12 Steps program was that people don’t realize that recovering from long term addictions is not quick. In fact, it takes a long time, like the Tortoise who outran the Hare. You can apply this to any sinful behavior. Putting off the sinful ways and putting on the new, Godly ways, as the Bible says, is a lifelong process.

A key to reaching people is to develop relationships with them and show Christian concern. Another way is to minister to people by showing a good example. Actions speak louder than theological words, although theology is important. A short while ago a preacher related a story where he was doing carpentry work and a boy came over and intently watched him. When the preacher asked the boy why he was so interested in watching a preacher hammer nails into wood, the boy said “I wanted to know how a preacher would react when he hits his thumb with the hammer.”

One of the homeless persons in lower Bucks County, PA who has been struggling with an addiction seems to be finally on the way to recovery. People from local churches have been ministering to him relentlessly for more than a year as has his friends. For what seems forever to people who care about him, he went through cycles where he was making progress, but like Sisyphus, the guy in the ancient Greek myth who just about gets the boulder up the hill only to have the large rock roll back down, he kept falling back. Now he’s got his momentum and he may just get that rock up to the top of the hill.

This is where Christian ministry comes in.

Addictions, like any problem that results from sin, is a lifelong battle. It’s like my toenail fungus. The doctor told me I’d probably have to apply medication to fight the fungus the rest of my life.

Believe it or not, despite all the incessant, cacophonous pleas to buy more and more expensive material things for loved ones for Christmas, this is not what the season is all about. Holy crass materialism, Batman! It’s about a savior being born to rescue us from the pit of sin and guide and mold us through a sinful world.

That baby, Jesus, for whom there was no room in the Inn, sacrificed for us, showing true love for those he came to save — a gift from above.

In that tradition, caring people are reaching out and are sacrificing their time, labor and money to help the homeless.  Churches, and individuals, have been bringing gifts to them.

People are helping others by offering events and through gift giving this Christmas season. Some are listed on the Facebook photo. On Christmas day, in Penndel, PA, the Marazzo family is hosting a Christmas dinner for the homeless. Most of the guests don’t have a place to go on Christmas and this is a very thoughtful, gracious thing to do.

As is the case with community meals, it’s not just the food; it’s the fellowship.  It’s not Jeff Dunham’s Walter as a Walmart greeter spouting “welcome to Walmart; get your sh** and get out!”

Remember Christ at Christmas, the reason for the season.  

This can easily be lost in the bedlam of money changers in the marketplace. Decades ago, after the Blue Laws (law that limited what businesses could be open on Sunday), there was a cartoon on the cover of  Pennsylvania Illustrated Magazine that showed a gang of businesses that were now open on Sundays displaying banners that read “WE’RE OPEN.”  There was a sign in front of a church that read “We’re open too.”

Don’t get lost in the throng of the secular, bastardized version of Christmas.

Put Christ in Christmas!   

Up On The Roof

“When this old world starts a getting me down
And people are just too much for me to face
I’ll climb way up to the top of the stairs
And all my cares just drift right into space…

Up on the roof”

— James Taylor, Up on The Roof

People are sometimes just too much for me to face, and I feel like having Scotty beam me up and I’ll drift right into space. Indeed, we all need an occasional retreat, a time to stand down, recuperate, reboot, but we have to come back and face the real world.

In my last blog, I talked about showing grace to difficult people. I wrote that there must be rules and borders. But when people don’t follow rules they agreed to it’s tempting to give up on them — write them off.

I was brought up old school. When I was in elementary school, there was an area marked off in the school yard as “out of bounds”. Kids didn’t dare cross the line and go “out of bounds”. No! For shame for shame, if we did. Unfortunately today, in the tradition of The Noble Savage, borders are evaporating, between countries and are codified in the term “Generation X.”

Some people close to me are having trouble following rules and are going out of bounds. One is undergoing chemotherapy for lung cancer. Yet, like seven out of ten smokers who contract lung cancer, according to information at the cancer center, she continues to smoke, despite continued warnings and explanations why she needs to stop from the medical community. She’s also a sporadic drunk, overdoing wine on four occasions since I met her a year ago.

She’s also taken other substances to excess.

A nurse said that a little red wine, unlike a little smoking, is good for her, but because she’s underweight and because of her medical condition, excess alcohol can have a devastating effect.

Not only is this creating problems for her; it’s creating problems for me because I’m left with the mess. Her destructive, reckless behavior is driven by her attitude that she just wants to give up on life — she has no reason to live. I’ve tried to help her change this attitude, and it’s tough.

Frustrated, and angry, I lost my temper again and started to put her down — just giving up on her.

I realize my attitude was wrong. A Christian sister pointed out that my friend has been suffering from a disease that’s been eating away at her for about a year and that the right thing to do is to show compassion and have patience with her.

I am calling myself out on this blog, as I don’t make exceptions.

Christians are sinners saved by grace, and I am no exception. As the apostle Paul wrote, don’t let sin dominate in your life. The key is to confess your shortcomings to God and ask his help to overcome them.

I apologized to my friend and am striving, with God’s help, to show more compassion and patience with her, while trying to hold her to the rules, which she agreed to, and setting borders.

Instead of just being an escape from the world, I climbed the stairway to heaven to seek God’s help in dealing with the world. As the Bible says, be in the world but not of the world.

The world, as evidenced in Bucks County, PA, is in bad shape and needs help.  Bucks County is number one for heroine addiction in Pennsylvania and number two in the country.  People are dying.  When I went to my 40th high school reunion in neighboring Montgomery County a few years back, I learned that several of my classmates died from drug overdoses.

A little while back, I overheard an eye opening conversation in the men’s room at the public library in Levittown, PA.  A guy remarked that drugs are getting more deadly and added that addicts don’t care; the only thing that’s important to them is getting high.

There is a big homeless problem in Bucks County; many people struggle to find a place to live.  The government is failing the homeless.

We live in a hurting world.  The Bible believing churches need to step up their efforts to minister to the world, though positive thought and deed — by reaching out to people.  In lower Bucks County, churches have been doing a lot to meet the material and spiritual needs of hurting people.  We need more.

One of the hosts at a community meal for the homeless and needy said that she wished her small church could do more for people.  Besides graciously providing material things, they have been making their “friends without walls”, as they call them, feel at home and wanted.  Collectively, ordinary people can do extraordinary things.

Being there for someone with any need, such as depression, goes a long way.  This blog illustrates how concerned Christians can help others.  http://www.theclause.org/2014/03/mental-illness-the-christian-perspective/

The church needs to have an positive affect on society, influencing society and not vice versa.  One’s  faith should not be privately engaging but socially irrelevant.  An good example of this is a free program that addresses people need help is the 12 Step Journey Program held in churches in Levittown.  http://www.12stepjourney.com/

“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”

— 2 Corinthians 5:20

 

Out of The Ashes

During an orientation for a homeless friend who is getting treatment for his addiction, the host admonished the visitors to set borders and make rules for loved ones with an addiction problem, but never to put them down.

The homeless have fled the woods near the public library in Levittown, PA. The aftermath of the wholesale evictions at Queen Anne Park has left a fresh start for some of the former residents. Can the Phoenix arise from the ashes?

During my year and 1/2 relationship with the homeless in lower Bucks County, PA, to borrow a phrase from the Beat poet Allen Ginsberg “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness…” Several months ago, I witnessed a very smart, well educated woman who had an alcohol problem ruin her life.

At one point she had started to come around, recommending books to me and discussing them and engaging in elevated discussions about things such as literature and art, but, like Darth Vader, she returned to the dark side.

She has left the homeless community in my area, and there are rumors that she has a job and has a place to stay. In any case, she is out of my hands.

There were others who went off the deep end, off to the wild dark yonder.

Saddened that I couldn’t help people who went to the dark side, I shared this with a Christian sister. She said that when she first started working with the homeless, she thought she could change the world. She said that God, not us, is ultimately responsible for results and that the best we can do is show people God’s love.

I came to grips with the idea that I am not responsible for results. People have to want to change. You can take people by the hand, but you can’t drag them. I also realize that I, and no other human, is the center of the universe.

We all have a role to play in the world. For more than a year, people have been ministering to my friend, and now he may be on the road to recovery. He has been troublesome, even obnoxious. Sometimes he’d lament that his friends no longer like him. I told him that we don’t like what he’s doing but we still love him and would like to see him straighten out.

I too went through a period where, with all the people God sent into my life, I continued my wayward ways. I didn’t listen to many people close to me, even the pastor of a church I used to attend. After I left the church, while driving for a rug company as I passed the church, I literally thumbed my nose at it.

It was only after I fell into a pit, like the Psalm writer David, that I came around.

“He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.”

— Psalm 40:2

“Oh Lord, I called to you for help, and you healed me.”

— Psalm 30:2

It is not for us to judge — we don’t control the horizontal; we don’t control the vertical. God does. We can hold the people causing problems in the homeless community accountable for their actions, but we should not put them down as human beings, who are made in the image of God.

Jonah thought he controlled the horizontal and the vertical and walked the other way when God told him to go to the decadent town of Nineveh. He had given up hope for them and wanted to see them destroyed. It took being swallowed by a whale to get him to obey God and minister to the people in Nineveh.

In a sense, we are all refugees, having lost direction in life. As Bob Dylan sang:

“How does it feel?

How does it feel?

To be on your own

No direction home…”

People can find direction. As David wrote: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”

— Psalm 119:105

Like the character Evangelist in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, we can just point people to God. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/bunyan/pilgrim.html

You don’t have to live like a refugee. There is a bridge that leads home.

You Don’t Have to Live Like a Refugee

“You see you don’t have to live like a refugee (don’t have to live like a refugee)
I said you don’t have to live like a refugee (don’t have to live like a refugee)…”

-Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers

Many homeless people are living like a refugee. The recent eviction of the homeless camped in Queen Anne Park in lower Bucks County, PA is an example of the nomadic existence some people have to live.

Why aren’t the homeless in Bucks County able to live in a more stable place? And why are they unwelcome in many places?

The answer is largely hobophobia, “the extreme and utter fear of hobos, or the homeless. This is usually caused by the lack of exposure to the homeless throughout the world. A dose of homelessness is an easy cure to hobophobia”, according to the Urban Dictionary.

What causes hobophobia? One factor is the homeless themselves. In many cases, irresponsible people in the homeless community cause problems and it brings the heat down on the whole community.

Complaints about drug use (syringes were found in the woods) and warrants for people living back in the woods precipitated the recent eviction in Queen Anne Park.Trashing the place out and open campfires contributed to the problem. The final straw was when a homeless young woman in the woods overdosed and had to be taken out of the woods.

In most cases when the homeless were raided, the homeless were not exactly discreet where they stayed. An exception is two tent cities that were raided the day after Warm Hearts brought the Trojan Horse when they visited the encampments.

Of course, there is existing prejudice against the homeless from judgmental people, many of them who can’t get a good view from their Ivory Towers.

Prejudice against the homeless is analogous to racial prejudice against blacks.

How do you combat prejudice — hobophobia?

Back in the 60’s, unlike some homeless who contributed to stereotypes by coming to community meals and other public venues drunk and disorderly, doing drugs, panhandling, stealing, etc., blacks got with the program and acted responsibly. They realized that contributions to ethnic stereotypes are not tax deductible.

Circa 1960, in King of Prussia, PA, where I grew up, blacks started coming into the public school district. They weren’t completely accepted right off. Although people weren’t prejudice per se, they, especially school kids, weren’t used to kids who looked different than them, and some black kids were teased, as were others.

Soon, blacks were accepted and blended into the white suburbia.

Most of the blacks in our school district were from decent families, many of them churchgoers. And they didn’t create problems in schools. White kids were the main troublemakers. Blacks kids, however, could be funny and mischievous.

In boy’s health class, when the teacher turned his back to write on the blackboard, a black kid sitting in the front row flashed a Playboy Centerfold so all the boys behind him could see.

In the cafeteria, when the lunch monitor wanted to quiet the kids down and said “shhhhhhh”, a black kid said “it”. This kept up and a lot of kids joined in, saying “it” every time the lunch monitor said “shhhhhh”. It was like playing Marco Polo. I think even the lunch monitor thought it was funny.

To fight hobophobia, the homeless need to coalesse their feces (get their sh** together). They need to not tolerate druggies and other irresponsible people who cause problems, and need to hold them accountable for their actions and get them evicted.

Another problem is some homeless people’s mouth. A homeless person whose quest was to be the Queen of the Homeless started spreading false witness, and there was a chain reaction of non-thinking homeless folks who parroted the lies and verbally, sometimes physically, attacked the target of the Queen wanna be. Being homeless is tough and I can understand pent up anger, but this kind of behavior is counter productive.

To become people who will respect you, you need to, in the words of The Staple Singers 

“Respect yourself, respect yourself, respect yourself, respect yourself
If you don’t respect yourself
Ain’t nobody gonna give a good cahoot, na na na na
Respect yourself, respect yourself, respect yourself, respect yourself”

Read more: The Staple Singers – Respect Yourself Lyrics | MetroLyrics          

The way to truly become a human being someone will like and respect, we need God — all of us.

“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”

-Philippians 2:3

We shall overcome.