HUNGRY AND COLD
December 06, 2007
image: Oly Tent City (cc) televiseus
The picture above is the Olympia tent city, known as Camp Quixote. At the time the picture was taken, Camp Quixote was located in a parking lot downtown. It was originally established as a protest to an Olympia city ordinance that was issued early in February 2007 that targeted panhandling by banning sitting on the sidewalks during the day. For many of the homeless, panhandling has been the only way for them to get money to eat; many of the 1,000 homeless individuals suffer from mental disabilities that prevent them from keeping regular jobs, so the ordinance has introduced greater difficulty for them. The tents provide some shelter from the weather, and with donations from people in the community, warm clothes and food are also being provided.
Today, the 25-person camp is located at the United Methodist church in Olympia and will remain there until December 29th, after which it will move to First Christian church. The camps can only stay in a single location for 90 days, after which they are forced to relocate.
My wife and I recently went on a shopping trip to pick up some coats, hats, and umbrellas, as well as some hand-warmers for the people in the camp. We've decided that we want to be more active in the community, and to be directly involved in the lives of people who have the greatest need. We want to partner with groups (such as the camp) who are already knee-deep in the situation, and are doing whatever they can to help. And we want to help people get out of the situation they're in and work to equip them with skills and opportunities they need to get back on their own feet.
And all this work we're doing has created a bit of a perspective change for me. For example... I've never been hungry before. Not in a real sense, anyway. Even when I was a kid and my parents didn't have much money, there was never a time when I couldn't just reach into a cupboard and grab something to turn away the creeping feeling of hunger. In my 29 years of living, I don't believe I've ever gone a whole day without eating. I've never experienced the inability to satisfy that feeling of hunger. And now I'm face-to-face with people who deal with that kind of hunger every day. What's that like? What is it like not knowing when your next meal will come?
When I check the weather, I look at the report to see what driving conditions will be like. But for people who have no home, much less a car, the weather report these days forecasts a night of cold and wet despair. What's that like?
I live in such an insulated world. Disaster is something I see on television during a five-minute news brief. Hunger is the two minutes between a rumbling in my stomach and mouthful of a warm meal. Cold is time between starting my van and having it warmed up. The conditions of poverty simply don't exist in my world... and while I don't feel guilty that I've been so blessed, it makes me want to spend less frivolously. It makes me want to waste less. It makes me want to take the abundance of blessings God has poured out on me and turn around and pour it out on people who, for unknown reasons, have not been similarly blessed.
Christmas is coming. Give to the people who need the most.