Download this update letter! Update 12-7-2011
December 7, 2011
Dear mi familia y mis amigos,
Coming back from work at Joseph’s House around 7:30 one morning I encountered something routine in our back alley, but I’m guessing its not normal in your neighborhood. To give you the same feeling, here’s a quick scenario: if you pass a young black man shooting up in an alley, what thoughts come to mind? Let’s say you keep driving and now you pass a young white woman who is also shooting up. Is your reaction the same, or are your assumptions about their situations different? I’ll admit, the young woman evoked more sympathy in me than the man. After pulling into the garage, I walked over and asked if she needed anything. She looked incredibly out of place: a young white woman, shooting up behind a dumpster, in north Camden. Turns out she’s only 21 and has been on the streets off and on for a few years, but this time for only a week. Her grandma kicked her out of the house when she relapsed, and here she is in Camden. She said she’d been to rehab 8 times before and only asked for a place to detox so she could go back to her grandma’s clean. She went further in her story and said she relapsed because she’d just gotten back from California where she was forced into sex trafficking for two weeks, and she was returned after her family paid off her return. I called a local place to see if they could take her in. I told her to come back in an hour when I’d hear back from the detox place when they responded, but she has not been back yet.
You’d be surprised how often people tell their stories around here. Sometimes people make stuff up, but I’m inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt. When I saw the girl at first, I felt such a need to intervene and help her, she obviously didn’t deserve this. She looked so out of place, a young woman in Camden shooting up in an alley, something had to be done to help her right? But I had to stop myself and realize—why don’t I think that as much when I see a young black man shooting up in our alley? As if to say- he doesn’t look as ‘out of place’ as the woman did. Maybe because in our minds, and our culture, we associate inner city problems with a male, black face. But the truth is- it’s no one’s place. No one deserves being reduced to shooting up in the alley. Both deserve their human dignity restored.
The delightful little season of Advent started last week, but so far has not been peaceful in Camden. There’s been a lot of violence the past week or so, and its getting ridiculous (as if it wasn’t already at an unacceptable level). There have been two peace rallys in the last week, we attended an organized one on Saturday. Another rally was organized overnight and was at city hall two nights ago. Definitely check out the link below to watch some of the speakers at the rally. It’s sad to see so much violence, especially at this time of year.
And another prayer request and yet more sad news- one of our staff members at Joseph’s House, Jamail, committed suicide this past Saturday the 3rd. He was actually one of our neighbors, though I didn’t know before I met him at work- he lives on the corner of 5th and State Streets, just half a block away. He was cool and a jokester personality, he was a really good guy. I didn’t believe the news at first because I had just worked with him last Wednesday, and had a great conversation about life. He was definitely in discovery mode, saying he didn’t realize before how many cool things there was in the world to study and learn and do. The cause might have been an argument with his son’s mother.
To leave you with more upbeat news—November saw several service retreat groups here at Desales- from Bishop Ireton school in northern Virginia, Stockton College, and Visitation Academy in DC.
Working at the shelter has been going well, though it took a few weeks to become physically and emotionally adjusted to working overnight and sleeping in the day. You never realize just how much you love sunlight until its gone. I’ve gotten to know several familiar faces there over the past 5 weeks, including some of the same guys we saw last year, like James and Robert. James, of chess playing fame, still has the crown. We played him every week last winter and the only one to beat him was Tom onone occasion. This year since I’m working and don’t have time to play, I keep sending other people to beat him, but my pawns have yet to dethrone him. Next time James, next time…
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.