Friday, November 9, 2012

Day Six: the support of friends and family

One in three families in the US struggles to afford diapers and one in two mothers has cleaned out a wet or soiled diaper and reused it because they can't afford diapers.

These are not the statistics for homeless families, they are for all families in the US.

During this street retreat, I have been thinking and praying a lot about these families. My family is privileged, and still conversation about costs of baby items is a major stress.

Yet, the erratic weather this week has also been a challenge. The first few days of my retreat it was eighty degrees. The past few days it has been a windy, rainy fifty five degrees.

Families living on the streets, in shelters or cars are constantly needing to adjust and change plans due to weather changes. This leaves little structure or assuredness of safety to their lives. It requires the kind of flexibility of plans few families are able to master with without conflict.

But, as I have said street retreats are not only about being with and near the homeless, for me as someone who is often giving more than I receive, this week is about being open to receiving and being present to what happens when you say yes to the opportunities for listening that might not have found me in my typical routine.

I find that the act of receiving, while following shelter hours or on a street retreat can be exhausting. It requires a willingness to receive not only what you need or want, but all that people have to give.

And while people have been generous in taking me to lunch and other meals, it typically requires walking miles or trying to navigate San Francisco's child unfriendly public transit system with a child.

With the exhaustion of the streets, I wonder how long it takes for people to stop offering or to become unwilling to always foot the bill. I wonder how long tired feet are able to walk the distance needed to receive. Or, how long relationships of hospitality last when the people coming to dinner are crabby from lack of sleep, the constant exposure to mental health issues in food lines and the grittiness of urban settings.

I'm grateful Graham has clean diapers, loving parents and safe, dry spaces to be.

I pray as children lay down to sleep, that they will have clean dry, unused diapers. I pray that they will wake to hopeful parents and full breasts. And that we will work our damnedest to create a future for them without homelessness, so that when they raise their children they will be able to do so without the need to chose between paying their medical, housing or diaper bills.

And, as I will do everyday of this street retreat I'll beg you, if you are able, make a secure online donation to Welcome, or participate in our reverse auction.

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