He never wanted to be burdened by things; he remarked, "just what I can put in a small box."
In serving the homeless on a consistent basis, you very often become attached to one or two that claim a place in your heart. For me one of these people was James. When I met him over ten years ago, he still had his sight, though it was failing even then. He was probably in his early sixties, though you never really knew how many years of living on the open streets could age someone. He had a kind face and carried the patina of worn dirt that the homeless have as a layer of insulation against the elements. He struck me as someone who took pride in his appearance. Because he was a regular, always under the same bridge, I would always give him several lunches, or a blanket, bar of soap or a pair of socks. He never wanted to be burdened by things; he remarked, "just what I can put in a small box."
James was memorizing the Bible, for he commented one day when I was delivering, that when he went blind, it would be a beautiful thing to read to himself and to share the word with others. He had lived on the streets for the past thirty-five years and felt that this was his way of doing penance for the reckless things he had done as a young man. I knew not to press him on this subject and merely listened as he quoted a particular tender bit of scripture or told a tale or two of what he had witnessed all these years living on the streets.
"Under the Bridges and on the Streets," is a non-profit that I founded for two reasons: One - to serve and provide food, blankets, toiletries where the most difficult to reach homeless have their homes on the streets, and under the iron beams high in the air supporting the freeways. Our goal is to remove as many social and political barriers to serve the homeless where they live, a practice which has now been banned in many cities in America. We currently deliver 600 meals on a monthly basis. We have served since 1993 over four million meals.
Two - I founded Under the Bridges to build a community of service. Service gets you out of yourself, and gradually with consistency and time, your world becomes bigger. You become more significant and less fearful. You realize that you and the homeless are part of the same fabric of life.
John Shinavier, Executive Director