Folks Could Die Out There

Homeless and cold

Over the last week, it has gotten cooler. Much, much cooler. Of the last five nights, three of them have been below freezing.

Which is hard on pretty much everyone we work with here at Love Wins – because whether you are housing vulnerable and risking being evicted by trying to heat your room in a crack house with a contraband space heater, or huddled in a sleeping bag under a bridge with everything you own in a backpack next to you, cold is cold.

So lots of our people are asking for hand warmers (like the ones on our Amazon wish list – hint hint) and blankets and coats.

But if you thought that our work here in the coldest of days so far is about handing out coats and gloves, you would be mistaken. That is what homeless service agencies do.

And, as I have said many times, we are not an agency. We are a group of folks – some of us housed and some of us not – learning how to love each other. In other words, we are a community.

And a community is predicated on relationship, not the goods we have to give you right now. Because if I wash the dishes and you dry the dishes, that is a relationship. If I wash the dishes and dry the dishes and you yell at me from the living room to bring you a beer, that is… something else.

In a community, we all get to share our gifts. In a community, we all get to contribute.

So what Jerry did on Monday did not strike us as odd. Jerry is in his sixties, and thanks to a Social Security check and subsidized housing, he is no longer at risk of being homeless. But we are still his community, and he comes by often to have coffee with us, to tell tall tales and, truthfully, to flirt with the women on staff who are nearly one third his age.

Jerry came in on Monday, carrying a trash bag over his shoulder, looking like a slightly sketchy Santa Claus. It seems he had heard the weather reports about the upcoming freeze, and he was worried.

“Folks could die out there,” he said, waving his arm wide to indicate the outdoors. “It’s gonna get cold. So I brought y’all some hats.”

Jerry had spent the weekend searching the yard sales and thrift stores and had brought us a trash bag full of homemade winter hats.

“Some of em’s got balls on ’em, and some don’t. Some people like a hat with a ball on it,” he tells us. He looked at my nearly bald head and told me I needed to get one.

Then he laughed a big laugh, and left us the bag of hats and went back to the main room to get a cup of coffee and tell stories.

Truth be told, we could use some more hats – Jerry’s were gone before the day was out. So if you have some you are not using, we sure would appreciate them.

But if you don’t, I’m not worried. Jerry told me he is going to check out some yard sales this weekend, too.

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Hugh Hollowell

Author: Hugh Hollowell

Hugh is a Mennonite minister and the founding director of Love Wins. He likes peanut M&Ms.