Thursday, August 25, 2016

How do you wear your stress?

I have a big birthday coming up, so age is on my mind. I confess to being fairly shocked at the person gazing back at me in the mirror: the smile lines and strands of gray hair startle me.

This is what's in my head as I sit in on an interview with an older client. She's had a hard life: her husband walked out on her, leaving her as a single mother; her parents died shortly afterwards, deepening her grief; and she's been hungry often in her life. Recently she had a stroke, and the medical bills have been overwhelming.

The surprise is when she pulls out her identification along with her children's: I assumed she was in her 60s with grown children, but she's actually 12 years younger than me with children living at home. Stress has aged her.

The CCSC volunteer helping her is kind and patient, coaxing out details of her story so we can help with immediate needs as well as make quality referrals to other nonprofits. She needs food and clothes, but we also connect her with a medical clinic offering pediatric care as well as mental health services. She's looking for a higher paying job so we send her to CCSC's JobNet program.

She leaves our offices a little lighter, but her overall burden is heavy. This is not a feel-good story - it's a hard story that reminds me of how small my struggles are compared to others'. It's a story that makes me grateful to work at CCSC.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

This really happened to me...

I was sitting at a traffic light, a few cars back, and a homeless woman was up ahead with a sign asking for help. As the light turned green, I slowly accelerated, and as I passed her (in slow motion, I think...), she banged on my car hood, and yelled "the church has forgotten about me!"

I kid you not. Out of all the cars she could have said that to, why me?

I'd like to tell you I circled back, got out of my car, and had a good conversation with her. But I was late for a meeting, and actually... kind of speechless. And startled. I don't remember a thing about my meeting, but everything about that encounter.

And I've been thinking about her words, wishing I had directed her to our food pantry and other church-based services in the community. I wish I had shared what I know: that the church, especially here in Houston, is active in helping others.

I know church people working to prevent human trafficking, teaching ESL classes, tutoring at-risk kids, mentoring prison inmates, providing chaplaincy care at hospitals, and addressing many societal needs.

Naturally, I can point to the 40 CCSC churches active in our ministry. Just last Saturday, we had hundreds of volunteers from these churches spend their morning assembling thousands of school supply packets for low-income children. Faith Lutheran Church generously loaned us their facility for this event.

While this was occurring, a team of volunteers from River Oaks Baptist and Saint Paul's Presbyterian Churches ran our food pantry in Southwest Houston. It is located on the grounds of St. Luke's Methodist @ Gethsemane. And volunteers from a variety of churches, along with a team from St. Martin's Episcopal Church, were operating our food pantry in central Houston.

I could go on and on.

Essentially though, I hope the homeless woman got the help she needs. Rest assured, I am no longer passive while my car is idling. I'm paying attention to everything going on around me.