(My son Clay shared his thoughts on our trip to the Union Gospel Mission (UGM) and I thought I would share mine as well.)
A couple of nights ago, my family trekked out to Barnes and Noble Bookstore to spend some holiday gift cards. I had been dying to get a new book and get a cup of tea. After we had a relatively pleasant time picking out new things (Olivia, my 7 year old chose a glitter diary to pour her glittery heart into; Clay, my 12 year old grabbed something Dr. Who…I have no clue; Richard, my husband got some huge historical novel and I purchased my new coveted item, Pastrix by Nadia Bolz-Weber) we trotted out quite happy with our new purchases.
As we drove home through the cold streets of Southlake, I noticed the darkness and the lights and shiny wet streets that held bitterly cold air. Something struck me. No homeless people. Not one.
I thought about my experience of homeless people and I have to admit they are few. While living in Austin, I saw the most homeless people. They were everywhere. Some seemed part of the scenery, like a park bench, and I would watch people pass by and ignore them. Some were outspoken, in your face and accosting you for your “good fortune.” Some were so wretchedly sad and broken that it made your eyes burn. But, life just revolved and happened around them.
So, as we prepared to help “bring the shoes” to UGM; Flo Lowrey’s wonderful brainstorm of love fleshed itself out in lots of boxes, bags and sacks of shoes. Flo and her family spent hours sorting, writing prayer notes, labeling and sizing shoes. When Fr. Mike found out that more shoes were needed, he used his magic persuasion to make a deal with DSW to help provide more shoes at a very discounted price. Who can say no to a very tall and very bearded priest?We ended up providing over 140 pairs of shoes to UGM.
Our friends from Fever United Soccer joined our efforts and Coach Constance Smith lent a hand with the project and stuffed her SUV full of shoes to bring to the men at UGM. I’d like to mention that Deacon Henry Penner, Joy Malmgren, Heather Wilson, Chris Mullaney, Fr. Ernie Maddon and Richard Cabes helped make this project a success. So many wonderful people brought shoes, sorted, wrote prayers and brought shoes for the men of UGM.
As we arrived, many homeless people lined the streets outside UGM. This is where the homeless people are, I thought, rather dumbly. We entered the gates of UGM and we met Lezlee, who oversees many things at UGM. We brought truckloads of shoes and it was like the Grinch bringing back Christmas to Whoville. I saw so many grateful smiles and startled faces.
Then things got orderly! We got “down to business” and quick as a flash we had shoes sorted by size on tables and it really looked like a very organized shoe sale was about to commence. The men started lining up to enter the room and grab a new or slightly used pair of shoes.
We left shortly after presenting Lezlee with a check towards the good work UGM is doing. We checked out the chapel, where the UGM residents pray in, with two pianos and gorgeous shiny pews. I saw at UGM that those who seek refuge could really find it. They could really be “seen” and heard and valued and healed as well. I found it to be a place of hope and that Christ was present in every corner you could turn.
I also saw that a tween boy could do some good work and was amazed at my son, who would rather be glued to his computer for eternity, was quickly sorting shoes for the men. I went into full helicopter mom mode when he ran first to go up in the elevator, by himself, to the “shoe room.” It was a good thing to see him working on something he cared about. I was proud that he dug in his closet for some shoes to donate and wanted to know the name of the man he should pray for.
I’m thankful for this project, for folks who went with us, and I’m thankful for those who donated shoes and worked on this project. If you want to continue this project, pray for Union Gospel Mission. Pray for that homeless person that you might never see, but is there as sure as God is.