I went to Church Under the Bridge again ( in San Antonio, Tx) this past Sunday night for their 6pm worship service and meal.
Sunday nights are special at CUB because they serve homemade pizza after the worship service for the homeless members. That’s right—HOMEMADE PIZZA. Every Sunday evening a church or youth group makes and cooks around 80 pizzas in CUB’s own pizza oven. (THE CHURCH BOUGHT A PIZZA OVEN…I love that.) The group gets their ingredients from Little Caesars Pizza but they make the pizza there on the spot. Now, they could just have Little Caesars make the pizzas and save tons of time and energy…but they choose to do it hard way…the personal way…the loving way. Homemade!
Most churches I know don’t even cook for themselves anymore when they gather to eat….much less when they are serving other people. They just take the easy way out and cater from a company or restaurant. What happened to homemade, cooked meals at churches… they need to make a comeback!
I don’t know why this impressed me so much…but it did. Now I know why this night was the talk of the shelter when I arrived a few weeks ago. It’s really fun and personal. A great testimony to how we should serve other people.
I have become good friends with a man named Robert. I met him at CUB. He goes back and forth between the shelter and the shack where he sleeps. The other day Robert helped me with a task that needed two people to complete. His help was really appreciated. So I took him over to a friends house and gave him a nice place to shower and get clean. (I wish the YMCA still allowed people in need to take showers after hours…it would be a perfect place!…kind of like the old song says…It’s fun to stay at the Y.M.C.A….You can get yourself clean you can have a good meal…You can do whatever you feel…) He was enjoying the shower so much he started to smoke a cigarette and sing in the shower. I think the song was Hey, Good Looking…” We had to put out the cig…but it was good to see him so happy! I think he wondered why I passed on the shower…but he just shrugged it off.
Robert is an alcoholic. He’s been one since 17. He is now 56. Later in the day, I saw Robert again. I guess he had gotten hold of some vodka (hidden in his bag) and slipped it into his coffee thermos. I didn’t know. As we were walking down the street, he started to lose control. I began to realize he had been drinking. As we kept walking, he quickly became frustrated…started to stumble…and then fell into the street and passed out. I just froze. Then I went to him (along with another person from the streets) and helped him up. He wanted none of it. He yelled, screamed…and refused the help. He didn’t even know who I was…and he did not want us there. After getting him up, we had to leave him there. In the rain. Sitting right in a puddle. The other man said. “Robert…I love you…but I am not your mama. It’s your choice.”
After a few minutes we came back. This time, he remembered who we were. We got him up and helped him safely home to shelter. It was an experience…but one that is all too common.
I have never seen anyone turn that angry that quickly. I did not get angry back at Robert… because I knew it was not him yelling at me…it was the vodka. Alcohol is a huge problem on the streets. It has destroyed more than just livers.. It has destroyed relationships, jobs, and people’s drive to succeed.
It’s a crazy problem…one that lives in the stereotype of many homeless men and women…but it’s not too far off from common reality.
After just a few weeks on the street, I have begun to see alcohol in a different light.
Last night was also the first night of NO RAIN…after days and days of rain. I can’t tell you how difficult it is to manage your stuff when it’s raining and you are homeless—- especially if you are drunk on vodka. Everything gets wet. Your clothes, your bag, your shoes….everything. Even if there is cover for the night, your sleeping bag gets wet when you have to go back outside in the morning. So I was glad to sleep out under the stars and experience sunshine again.
The good news…things quickly dry under the sun.