Archive for the ‘Staff Writer’ Category

They did not come to be served, but to serve.

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

On Saturday, June 25, I attended an event held from noon to 3:00 p.m. under the Washington-Jefferson Bridge, an outreach to those experiencing homelessness in Eugene. Hosted in partnership by the University Fellowship (UFC) and Free People who serves Eugene’s homeless community, everything at this event was free: music, food, beverages, haircuts, clothing, photo sessions and crafts for kids… all provided by volunteers.

Jennifer Brown and her partner Alonzo Cole, along with their children Jorden Cole 5, Zoie Garcia 3 and their friend Celeste Lee 7 attended the event.  What brought them is best shared in Jennifer’s own words:

“What brought me to the event was my friend Starrla who is also my daughter’s (Zoie) aunt and Jeff, who is like my dad – we call him Papa.  Papa is currently homeless and during the summer he enjoys it most.  I myself have lived through the homeless times during my childhood living in cars 5th wheels and tents, in my teen years, up in the mountains off the side of the road. Having parents with drug addictions led to our homelessness.  Although I am currently unemployed and life has thus had its struggles, I am doing okay and have a mobile home to call my own.  I am very fortunate for the resources the community has to offer and am currently a volunteer at St. Vincent de Paul and getting work experience.”

I took photos of Jennifer and her family as they were waiting for the volunteer photographer to do a photo session with them. I told the kids that they could practice their poses with me… “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil”.

 

Free portraits.

 

People lined up for the opportunity to pose for a free portrait session with friends and loved ones, like Jennifer’s family and these two buddies here:

 

I ran into my homeless friend Bobie and hung out with her as she had her hair cut by a volunteer. Although Bobie has had an extremely difficult year, when we talk she not only shares some of her heartbreaks and problems with me, but she shares her amazing, optimistic perspective on what her life could be like in the future, IF…. I think her new look reflects that vibrant glimmer of hope that resonates in her voice and eyes when she talks about her dreams.

 

Bobie before her haircut.

People lined up and patiently waited their turn for a free haircut.

The new Bobie!

I too am thankful for the resources our community has to offer those experiencing homelessness, and the messages of love in action, faith and hope in Christ shared by UFC and the mission of Free People to serve the homeless, as they say “without requirements or expectations, offering practical assistance for those in need.”

Click here for a list of other resources and social services available to the homeless community in Eugene/Springfield (Lane County, Oregon).

 

More photos from the event:

Gathering at Washington-Jefferson Park.

Free music. Free clothing.

Food prepared and served by volunteers.

Free medical advice.

Face-painting and crafts for kids of all ages.

by L.E. Erickson

 

Living in a CAR But Reaching For the Stars

Sunday, June 19th, 2011

“Seven out of 10 Americans are one paycheck away from being homeless.” Pras Michel

I was driving east out of Eugene a couple weeks ago, when I saw this guy playing his heart out with a cardboard sign duck-taped to his guitar. I turned around and came back to talk to him. Long story about how he not only lost his job in another state, but was shorted a couple months of hard-earned pay. Between selling his vintage guitar and taking what money he could scrape together, he bought a car and drove to Oregon. He came here with his girlfriend for a 10-hour a week job with hopes of more hours or something better to come along, so they can transition from living out of their $500 car to a rental. The day before I met him, his girlfriend’s appendix burst. So, while he’s out here at this busy intersection playing for dollars, she’s in the hospital recovering from emergency surgery. If he can come  up with enough cash, they have the possibility of moving into a cheap rental that’s about 20-miles out of town. Despite their dire circumstance, this guy appears to remain cool under pressure; focused on turning their situation around, he’s looking up and not down, by ”reaching for the stars”.

by L.E. Erickson

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We’re All One

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

I’m watching from afar as David and his homeless friend Jason play basketball under the bridge. One of the first things Jason says as he approaches me after their game is “we are all connected… we’re all one.” Looking me in the eyes with his arms held out wide, he steps close and gives me a long hug. He goes on to quote a passage from Psalms, talks to me about the angels that surround and protect us, along with a demonstration on how to protect myself should I ever be attacked by an unsavory character. More hugs follow.

It’s no coincidence that I meet Jason for the first time the day after I saw the documentary “I AM“. The whole point and purpose of the film is to acknowledge and celebrate the mysterious and profound interconnectedness we have with one another and all things. Not only is it a spiritual phenomenon, but this truth is being validated over and over again by scientific research throughout the world. It is in our DNA to be sympathetic, compassionate… we are born to be our brother’s keeper.

Often as I walk the streets of the city, talking with, hugging, helping out and photographing strangers (some are members of our homeless community), Hebrews 13:2 comes to mind – “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.” Perhaps I have. I am discovering that we all have far more in common than not, and those with little more than the clothes on their back bless me more than words can say simply by being themselves and sharing even a brief moment of their lives with me. Thank you, Jason.

David McArthur writes in his book ‘The Intelligent Heart’ – “Love does not only transform our mental/emotional nature, it also involves the physical system of our body which goes through profound changes as well.” As we give up our self-awareness to become more aware of the greatness and beauty that lies within others, not judging by outward appearances so that we might know and love them with our heart, we begin to experience life and relationships with one another on a deeper and much healthier level of interconnectedness, wholeness and wellness. This is where the kind of change we wish to see in ourselves and the world happens.

Jesus wasn’t found among the most beautiful and affluent, rather he was ridiculed for befriending and loving those who are known as “untouchables” in some cultures. Jesus led by example, showing us how to love and give generously and unconditionally. Corinthians 9:7 says, “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” Like the message of the movie “I AM“, it turns out that it is our intuitive heart’s intelligence that guides us and not our cerebral brain. It is knowing, responding, loving and giving from our hearts that makes our community and world a better, safer place to live… one decision, one random act of kindness, one person at a time… starting with me and you.

by L.E. Erickson

“At the heart of each of us, whatever our imperfections, there exists a silent pulse of perfect rhythm, which is absolutely individual and unique, and yet which connects us to everything else.” ~ George Leonard (1923-2010); American writer