No -isms Here

Galatians 3:28

In this election year, we have constantly heard mean, nasty, degrading speeches as part of the Republican debates and primary election ads. We have heard:

  •  women reduced to human incubators by removing their ability to make decisions about their own bodies,
  • candidates accused of infanticide because they believe a woman should be able to make their own decisions,
  •  the poor defined as insignificant while bragging about driving two Cadillacs,
  • personal religious beliefs slandered.
  • a whole segment of society is prevented from having recognized loving relationships, and
  • code words used in place of the ‘N’ word to denigrate and demean anyone who is not like them.

In my sixty-some years, I have never heard such language and disrespect for other people. For a country that professes to be a ‘Christian’ nation, what I see is about as far away from acting in the way Jesus taught as you could possibly get. It makes me ashamed – and appalled that those who truly follow Jesus’ teachings are so silent.

Aren’t we sending a message to those non-religious or unchurched a message that we ‘Christians’ are hypocrites at the highest level!

And in my humble opinion, at the root of all this . . . what is really the unspoken issue . . . what no one wants to say



Those people who are fundamentally opposed to an African-American president are using code words like ‘Food Stamp President’ to display their own hidden prejudice and bigotry.

But as we heard in the Scripture reading, Jesus taught that no one is better than another. This was very revolutionary at the time, because society was based on the ‘haves and have-nots’. There were distinct class differences: the upper class did not associate with the poor, servants were not recognized by their masters, people with illness or disabilities were abandoned on the streets.

Jesus’ proclamation that we are all equal in the eyes of God upset all the cultural boundaries of the day. . . and still does today.

But he said again and again, that we are all one in Jesus – equal in the eyes of God. That means that each one of us, no matter whether

Upper class, middle class or poor
Homeless or housed
Healthy or disabled
Educated or illiterate
Black or white
Straight or gay

Are equal in the eyes of God. . . are to be loved and respected as each of our brothers and sisters.

Did everyone forget the Golden Rule:

do unto others as you would have them do unto you? (Matthew 7:12)

And I have to say, that as much as we see all this in the public arena, I have also seen it in our own community. Lately, there has been an undercurrent which disturbs me – people are taking snipes at each other and making racial and sexual slurs.

I will tell you that is NOT the place for that. This is a house of God – where everyone is equal. We, as a community, should not and will not allow it to continue!

We all have our good points and the not-so-good sides of our personalities. At any time, we may be having a bad day, but that is NOT an excuse for treating our fellow brothers and sisters with disrespect. There is no place for any ‘–ism’ (racism, sexism, classism . . .) in this place. . . or in God’s kingdom!

When we are hurt, we want to hurt back, but often the one who hurts us is too powerful, so a safe substitute is found. We find someone that we tell ourselves is lesser than us and blame everything on them. So many riots and wars have been fueled by this anger and bigotry. In the period of a depressed economy, more and more people are jockeying for a position in society. . . which, if not recognized and controlled, can cause one group of people to purposely denigrate and defile another. It may be subtle, using code words so only those who feel that same way understand the ‘–ism’. Or it may be very obvious and blatant.

But this lack of love for our brothers and sisters is a SIN!

We are all equal in the eyes of God.

We have the responsibility to expose these hidden ‘–isms’ so that we can all walk together. . . any race, any creed, any background, any gender, any culture, any socio-economic level.

We need to:

  • Acknowledge our own negative thoughts, feelings and attitudes of fear, anxiety, anger, guilt
  • Acknowledge our thoughts, feeling and attitudes toward those who are different
  • Acknowledge that we are all children of the same Creator
  • Acknowledge that hate, bigotry and –isms prevent us from living into the fullness of a life in Christ And then we need to cleanse our hearts and minds of those things that feed the hatred and bigotry

Let us pray:

Dear God, help us to remember that when we see with bigoted hearts, who not only do we reject you but also close ourselves off from experiencing all of your children. Help us to overcome these negative feelings and embrace all wonders of the world you have created.

Delivered at In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH: 26 February 2012

The Needy: Our Duty Is To Help

There have always been needy people in Worthington, although many people think that there are no poor or homeless people within our surrounds.

However, as the economy stays stagnant or experiences a decline, churches become easy prey for those who are looking for a handout. Saint John’s regularly sees people looking for assistance, particularly on Sundays, when most other services are closed.

We have been commanded by Jesus to:

“Feed my sheep”. (John 21:17)

And we are reminded

whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me (Matthew 25:40)

The majority of homeless or needy men and women are not dangerous — they’re people just like us, but circumstances have resulted in them being needy. It could happen to every one of us under the right conditions. They are our brothers and sisters.

When a person requests assistance it is not our duty to determine if the request is legitimate, or if they are panhandling. We are told to take care of their needs. But there are ways to care for these people that can satisfy their need in constructive ways.

Worthington Resource Pantry
The Worthington Resource Pantry provides assistance to those in need on a regular basis, and Saint John’s does a terrific job of supplying those goods that they identify they need. Become aware of where the Pantry is located (6700 Huntley Road, 985-1766), and what their hours are (see The Pantry not only provides food, but also is a source of information for additional available services. You might want to think about volunteering at the Pantry, especially if you have children. And continue to donate food items that are listed in the weekly bulletin.

When approached by a needy person,

  1. Smile and politely decline any requests for money. But we can still show love and offer to lift them up in prayer.
  1. DO NOT, DO NOT give money to children! Giving money to children is like paying their families to keep them out of school. It is, in a way, a type of human trafficking.
  1. If you have the time, listen to their story. That may be more important to them than receiving what they ask for.
  1. Give them tangible things – some people keep McDonald’s gift cards in their purse or car. This will provide them with a meal; it is usually less than $5 to provide a filling meal at McDonald’s; or offer to take them for a meal and you pay for it.
  1. Carry some Care Kits in the car; these Ziploc bags contain essentials that are hard to acquire if you are homeless or needy. A typical Care Kit could contain any of the following: water bottle, socks, granola or cereal bar, fruit snack or applesauce cup, cheese/peanut butter crackers, handiwipes (avoid hand sanitizer because of the alcohol content), Kleenex, maxi pads for women, toothbrush and toothpaste, Chapstick, brush and comb, unscented soap, travel shampoo and conditioner, disposable razors, gum or mints (preferably sugar-free). It might be an opportunity for some education of children and teens to have a party to assemble these kits. There is a flyer on the Information Table about creating Care Kits.
  1. If they need money for medication, take them to a pharmacy and pay for the prescription drugs. The pharmacist will verify the legitimacy of the drug to avoid supplying drugs that would be sold on the street.
  1. Carry information about services that are available for those in need. Columbus generates a ‘street card’ which identifies places and times for services. Ask the church to keep a stack of these on the Information Table.

In dire emergencies, the rector has a discretionary fund which can be used for emergency needs, but it is not bottomless.

Most importantly, we need to remove the conditions that cause these people to be needy. Call your local legislators and ask that social safety nets be maintained or increased in your city, county and state. Contact local aid agencies to determine what support they need. Remember the old adage:

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

Our goal, as followers of Jesus, is to remove those obstacles so that everyone has enough food, shelter, and services.

Remember we are all ‘beloved children of God’, regardless of our economic or social status.

Rev deniray mueller, The Crossroads, Saint John’s Episcopal Church in Worthington and Parts Adjacent, Worthington, OH; 1 July 2019

Hunger Hurts

food pantry1There are many ways to be hungry, my friends.

And they ALL hurt.

The organization Bread For The World estimates that 12 million children and 19 million adults in the U.S. go hungry each day and cannot afford the food they need to maintain physical health.

I am the Deacon-In-Charge of In the Garden Ministry housed at Trinity Church on Capitol Square. We are a community consisting of homeless, minimally housed and low-income friends gathering every Sunday afternoon for worship, sharing and a good meal. About a third of our community live ‘on the land’, and some of them do not have the resources to purchase their own food. We occasionally see families with small children who haven’t eaten (on Sundays there are not the soup kitchens serving that normally serve during the week). If you have ever encountered hungry child ‘up close and personal’, you will never forget it. All these people know hunger because they live with the physical hurt of hunger every day.

For thousands of years, bread has been the symbol of necessary food and the sustenance of life. It is easy to understand why. It is nutritious, providing carbohydrates, starch and protein to the body. It is easy to make and, in some form or other, is a part of every culture. Bread is essential. Our problem in this overdeveloped nation tends to be that we get too much to eat. How ironic, that in a nation with TWO TV channels devoted entirely to food, obesity for children and adults is a growing national problem.

    And yet we have millions going hungry each day?

    And yet, people are dropping dead in the Sudan for want of food?

For most people in the world, most of the time, the problem is that they have too little to eat. They may subsist on only one meal a day, often times less than that.

Mahatma Gandhi once said: “There are people in the world so hungry that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.”

And the only thing that can remedy that hunger is bread . . . physical bread. And bread is more than nutrition. It’s comfort. The texture, the weight, the taste, all combine to make bread both the staff of life and the number one comfort food.

People are starving to death, literally and figuratively – in Sudan. . . in Yemen. . . in Syria. . . in Appalachia. . . in Columbus Ohio. . . – while often we do everything in our power to make it someone else’s problem, often blaming those very ones who are hungry.

It’s a radical thing we are called to do in the Christian faith. We are instructed to:

    feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, to welcome the stranger, to clothe the naked, to shelter the homeless, visit the imprisoned. (Matthew 25:35-36)

We, as the body of Christ and as individuals, call upon one another to care for others, to share our earthly goods; to support the church, food bank, missions and/or missionaries; and to work for social justice in our cities, state and world. It is not light work or easy work, but the church and her people are often the last refuge for those who are sad, angry, alone, sick, and worried about whether they will be able to survive one more month. We are a refuge for the elderly and the sick, those who may be alone, for children who have lost their parents, for the disabled who need a helping hand and acceptance, for the abused, addicted, the lost, the strayed.

Each of us must undertake this work, not only out of the goodness of our hearts, but as builders of the Kingdom of God here on earth. And at the same time, we must care and feed each other with love, hope, joy, compassion, and community. For through this work we come to emulate Christ, and to know the heart of Jesus, who is the ‘bread for eternal life’.
NOTE: I serve on the Board of HungerNet Ohio and offered this meditation for Holy Week on our Facebook page.

Why Giving Back Isn’t Enough

NOTE: as more and more of the 1% recognize their social and ethical responsibility to provide for the less fortunate, philanthropy has increased. However, throwing money at economic and social conditions does little or nothing about the root cause. This article from The New York Times points out the responsibility we all have to each other. (Rev deniray mueller)

open handsDURING this season of giving, I will join millions of Americans in volunteering to feed the homeless, contributing to clothing drives and donating to poverty-fighting charities. Yet I worry that through these acts of kindness, I absolve myself of asking deeper questions about injustice and inequality. We Americans are a remarkably bighearted people, but I believe the purpose of our philanthropy must not only be generosity, but justice.

The origins of formal philanthropy date from at least 1889, when the American industrialist Andrew Carnegie composed his “Gospel of Wealth.” He drafted this intellectual charter at the peak of the Gilded Age, when inequality had reached extreme levels. Carnegie argued, as many still do, that inequality on this scale is an unavoidable condition of the free-market system — and that it was even desirable, if the promise of wealth incentivized hard work. Philanthropy, he believed, would ease the pressure of rising social anxiety that followed from inequality — ameliorating the afflictions of the market without altering the market system itself.

During the 20th century, an entire field of institutional philanthropy emerged and flourished in the pattern of Carnegie’s mold. Iconic American families — Gates, Knight, MacArthur, Mellon, Rockefeller — endowed and expanded foundations that built schools and libraries, developed new vaccines, revolutionized agriculture and advanced human freedom. My own organization, the Ford Foundation, has given billions to support everything from public television in the United States to microlending in Bangladesh.

Our work has been indisputably for the good: Millions of people around the world have access to new tools and resources with which to improve their lives. A few months ago, the World Bank estimated that, for the first time in history, fewer than one in 10 human beings lives in extreme poverty. This is progress.

And yet, for all the advances made in the last century, society’s challenges may have outpaced philanthropy’s resources. Today, the cumulative wealth of the most generous donors seems a pittance compared with the world’s trillions of dollars’ worth of need. Generosity, blooming as it may be from legacies of both Carnegie’s age and the newly enriched, is no longer enough.

The world may need a reimagined charter of philanthropy — a “Gospel of Wealth” for the 21st century — that serves not just American philanthropists, but the vast array of new donors emerging around the world.

This new gospel might begin where the previous one fell short: addressing the underlying causes that perpetuate human suffering. In other words, philanthropy can no longer grapple simply with what is happening in the world, but also with how and why.

Feeding the hungry is among our society’s most fundamental obligations, but we should also question why our neighbors are without nutritious food to eat. Housing the homeless is an imperative, but we should also question why our housing markets are so distorted. As a nation, we need more investment in education, but not without questioning educational disparities based on race, class and geography.

Our self-awareness — our humility — shouldn’t be limited to examining the problems. It should include the structures of solutions, like giving itself. As the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said not long before his assassination, “Philanthropy is commendable, but it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the circumstances of economic injustice which make philanthropy necessary.” It is, after all, an offspring of the free market; it is enabled by returns on capital.

And yet, too often, we have declined to question our own circumstances: a system that produces vast differences in privilege, and then tasks the most privileged with improving the system.

Whatever our intentions, the truth is that we can inadvertently widen inequality in the course of making money, even though we claim to support equality and justice when giving it away. And while our end-of-year giving might support worthy organizations, we must also ask if these financial donations contribute to larger social change.

In other words, “giving back” is necessary, but not sufficient. We should seek to bring about lasting, systemic change, even if that change might adversely affect us. We must bend each act of generosity toward justice.

We, as foundations and individuals, should fund people, their ideas and organizations that are capable of addressing deep-rooted injustice. We should ensure that the voices of those most affected by injustice — women, racial minorities, the poor, religious and ethnic minorities and L.G.B.T. individuals — help decide where and what philanthropy puts money behind, not in simply receiving whatever philanthropy decides to give them.

We can wield data and technology, see through a diversity of viewpoints, and draw upon a century of philanthropy’s success and failure to identify and address the barriers holding people back.

This modern giving charter should look different in different settings. At the Ford Foundation, our efforts will focus on inequality: not just wealth disparities, but injustices in politics, culture and society that compound inequality and limit opportunity. We will ask questions like, are we hearing — and heeding — those who understand the problems best? What can we do to leverage our privilege to disrupt the drivers of inequality?

Others in philanthropy will take different, but no less effective, approaches. Many already are answering King’s call, working intensely toward a world that renders philanthropy unnecessary. Ultimately, we each must do our part to ensure that giving not only makes us feel better, but also makes our society more just.
Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation, A version of this op-ed appears in print on December 18, 2015, on page A39 of the New York edition with the headline: Why Giving Back Isn’t Enough.
Why giving back isn’t enough

We ALL Make Mistakes

Last Sunday we discussed how we choose our friends and associates and how we faced our problems; I asked you to think about times you were faced with a problem, what you did about it, or what happened if you ignored it. Does anyone want to share with us?


Seems to me that some of what you shared with us was about times you made a mistake – whether it was intentional, . . . you didn’t do anything when you felt you should, . . you thought you did the wrong thing.

So, today let’s talk about our making mistakes – or things that we may have thought were mistakes.

How many of you have never made a mistake,

Done something you later regretted?


Didn’t think so. . .

When we make a mistake, we often feel that somehow we have failed; and failure, in this society, is something that is very negative. A lot of people view failure as a sign of weakness, a character flaw.

But let me tell you, failure is not a sign of weakness or a character flaw – failure means you TRIED to do something. You didn’t sit in a chair and fuss over what you should or should not do; you don’t convince yourself that it was someone else’s responsibility; you didn’t ignore the whole situation. If you have done nothing and ignored the problem or thought someone else would take care of it, it is the FAILURE.

One of the most important ways we learn is we learn from what didn’t go right and move on. . . move on to a new beginning. So when things do turn out like we wanted, there are a couple of things we can do to learn and move on. In fact, it is through failures that we learn.

The first thing we need to do is stop being scared of failing.

    How many times have we thought about doing something that we knew was right and stopped short, because we were afraid we would do something wrong. . .

    We might make a mistake . . .

    or be criticized . . .

    do something that would made us look foolish?

    We all make mistakes, we all have failures – unless we don’t try at all. And if we don’t try, we are stuck where we are FOREVER!

    No growth . . .

    no successes. . .

    no happiness

    Everyone fails. You can’t succeed if you’d don’t try. It is a part of life. It is normal and expected!

    Doing something and getting it wrong is at least ten times more productive than doing nothing at all. Every time we try and make mistakes or fail, we learn something from those mistakes and succeed the next time we try. . . or the next time . . . or the next time. Behind every success is often a trail of failures, and every failure is leading toward that success. If we do not try, we end up regretting the things we did NOT do, often for the rest of our lives.

    Nobody ever feels 100% ready when an opportunity arises. Most great opportunities force us to grow beyond our comfort zones, which means we won’t feel totally comfortable at first. But as long as we try, we are moving toward a new beginning.

The second thing we need to do is stop beating ourselves up for old failures and mistakes.

    None of us have lived as long as we have without making mistakes:

    we may have become involved the wrong person,

    let ourselves become addicted to substances,

    made decisions that were not in our best interest,

    were hurtful to others.

    That is a part of life – you have not lived unless you have made some mistakes along the way.

    But no matter how things go wrong, one thing is for sure, mistakes help us find the person and things that are right for us. We all make mistakes, have struggles, and even regret things in our past. But

    we ARE NOT our mistakes,

    we ARE NOT our struggles.

    Mary Pickford, a silent screen actress, once said:

    “To fall is not to fail, unless you fail to get up again”

    The people who rarely fail are usually the ones who never do anything – and trying involves taking a risk – daring to do something, take a stand, or make a commitment. But you have heard the old saying

    “Nothing ventured, nothing gained” –

    And that is always true!

    The Psalmist David tells us in Psalm 37:23-24:

    If the LORD delights in a man’s way, he makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand.

    In Philippians 3:13 the Apostle Paul tells us to :

    forget those things which are behind and reach forward to those things which are ahead

    We are




    with the power to shape our day and our future. Every single thing that has ever happened in our life was preparing us for today and the future.

    So if we want to move forward to a new beginning, we need to

      • Cultivate friends that lift us up and support our best self
      • Face our problems head on
      • Think of our successes and hopes and dreams
      • Always try to solve things no matter how difficult.

    Remember this: we can do wonderful things if we just

      • Don’t dwell what ‘didn’t happen’;
      • Don’t hang around with those people who drag us down
      • Believe in ourselves – thinking we can do something is halfway to doing and being.
      • Learn from our mistakes, but don’t dwell on them; move past them, remembering what we learned from them;
      • Be open to new experiences; don’t be afraid to try – take a chance!

    Delivered at In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH 24 May 2015
    NOTE: This is part two of a series about how to have a new beginning, overcome old habits and how to discover joy in our lives. – deniray

We CAN Have A New Beginning

We all have dreams and hopes – things we want to accomplish, places we want to go, goals we want to achieve. And some of us work very hard to achieve those dreams. And some of us only allow them to only be ‘dreams’ in our heads and hearts. But we don’t have to let them stay as pipe dreams. We can all work toward making those dreams come true. . . if we just don’t let anything hold us back.

Over the next few weeks I will be addressing how we can

    • feel better about ourselves,
    • be more successful in what we want to do, and
    • be happier in the ‘here and now’,

no matter where we are in our life’s journey.

Today we are going to talk about what keeps holding us back from doing what we want to do and being what we were meant to be.

We all know that nobody can go back and start over; there are no ‘do-overs’.

    what is in the past is done. . .

    gone. . .

    We can never get it back

but we can all begin today and start a new beginning.

But before we can begin to really change our lives and begin a changed and dreamed of life, we have to stop doing some things that have been holding us back. There are lots of things that hold us back from coming from where we are to going where we want to be. Some of these are hardships (deaths of special people in our lives, illness) that are, for the most part, out of our control. We can’t do anything about them, but we can make the most of it, deal with it and move one.

And we all have set-backs in our lives (loss of job, homelessness, addiction). We have to remember that these can often be temporary – we can get past those and start of new beginning. There are a couple of things that we often do that really cause us not to be able to move forward.

The first thing we need to do is stop spending time with the wrong people.

    We all have experiences in our lives where we ran around with a crowd that makes us less of a person. And it is very easy, as we try to build a new life, to return to those who are we comfortable with. If we suffer from domestic abuse or addiction, the lure back to the ‘old life’ is extremely strong. And we often come back to the destructive behavior and lifestyle because it is familiar, comfortable. We think these are ‘our people’ – that they understand us, love us, and will support our growth. But returning to the ‘old life’ makes it almost impossible to start that new beginning.

    It’s kind of like the old saying: “why do you expect different results by doing the wrong thing even harder”?

    Life is too short to spend time with people who suck the happiness out of us, drag us down, or don’t want us to have a new beginning. If someone wants us in their life, they’ll support our growth. We need to stay away from anyone who continuously makes us feel small, insignificant, unworthy. Remember, a true friend is one who stands beside you when you’re at your worst, not just when you are on the top.

    We need to find a group of people who support us, want to grow with us, want to share the new experiences and achievements with us. I hope that each of you, in some way, find that within the community of In The Garden. We are here to support you, walk with you on the journey and show you that not only do we love you, but you are all children of God, beloved children of God.

Secondly, we need to stop running from our problems.

    None of us want to admit that we have problems. Most of us would rather not deal with them, some of us just ignore them all together. Some of us have the ‘head in sand’ philosophy – if we ignore them, they will go away. But we all know, they do not go away. We must face them head on. No, it won’t be easy.

    No one in the world can dodge every punch thrown at them. We may be able to deflect some, but there is always an uppercut that is going to get us on the chin. We aren’t supposed to be able to instantly solve problems. That’s not how we’re made. In fact, we were created to get upset, sad, hurt, stumble and fall.

    Look at little babies, if they don’t stumble and fall and get back up, they never learn to walk or learn all the wonderful things in the world. That’s the whole purpose of living – to face problems, learn, solve them and change our lives over time. This is what shapes and transforms us into the person we become. That’s what allows us to enjoy our life and the wonders of this world.

    Each and every problem or setback has a lesson for us to learn if we just listen, pay attention, and think about it. How many of us have heard as a child that we need to stand up and face a problem?

    Can’t you remember your mother or aunt or someone saying that to you? Someone who jerked you up by the back of the collar (or by your ear) and made you face the problem.

    We know that there is always a solution to any problem if we just look it in the face . . .

    call it what it is . . .

    and patiently and thoughtfully think about what we really need to do.

    And there are lots of people (in the new community) who are willing to help us solve the problem. The solution may not come quickly or be exactly what we would like, but there are solutions to any problem. Some solutions to problems may take time and others may never be totally resolved. But we cannot move on to a new beginning if we don’t stop running from our problems.

So if we want to move forward to a new beginning, we have to stop

    • Spending time with the wrong people
    • Stop running from our problems.

Remember this: we can do wonderful things if we just

    • Don’t dwell on the ‘didn’t happens’;
    • Don’t hang around with those people who drag us down
    • Believe we can – thinking we can is halfway to doing and being.

I would like for you to think in the coming week about times you have either faced your problems and found a solution or times that you were not so successful in overcoming obstacles. And for those who are willing, we would like for you to share them. Who knows, someone may be dealing with the same problem and your experience could help them.

Delivered to In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH 17 May 2015
NOTE: Ascension Sunday is something that has little or no reference for most of the people who frequent In The Garden. Their real needs are hearing of God’s love and how to take their lives, where they are, and make them better. ‘Better’ is a relative term to most of us; because of circumstances or decisions made in their lives, what is better for them may not seem significant to most of us, but to them just leaving feeling that they are loved and people care about them is more important to them than how we would feel if we won the lottery. These are God’s ‘least of these’ and it is our responsibility and biblical imperative and baptismal commitment to care for them.

Not surprising to me, there were lots of ‘amens’ throughout the homily; these people are far more aware of their shortcoming and hopes and dreams than most who sit in the conventional pews on Sunday. But what surprised me was the response at the end – applause and gratitude for talking about how to make their lives better in ways that were not theoretical, but things that they could and some would do. The community of In The Garden gives to me much more than I ever feel I share with them. – deniray

Jesus and The Blankets

Homeless jesusThe sculpture of a homeless Jesus sleeping on a park bench has caused an inordinate amount of negative comments, until it was finally placed in a more positive environment in Ashland, West Virginia.

Now it has gone from being an object of ridicule to a place of honoring those commandments given to us by Jesus:

    feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless (Matthew 22:35-46)

Many thanks to Kim, blogging as “Sandpiper’s Thoughts” for her posting of ‘Jesus and the Blankets’


Sunday Conversation with Mary Wetzel

NOTE: Mary is a friend of mine and an Episcopal priest for the Church of the Common Ground, a homeless ministry in Atlanta as part of the Ecclesia Street Church program. Here is her interview with the Atlanta Journal Constitution about their program.

On Christmas Eve 2006, a group of people, most of them homeless, gathered at downtown Atlanta’s Woodruff Park and formed the Church of the Common Ground. Eight years later, while many congregants have come and gone, the church continues to go strong. In addition to the weekly Sunday service, there is morning prayer twice a week.

Once a week, there’s a Bible study and a nonmedical foot clinic where congregants can get their feet washed and tell their stories. Under the auspices of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta, the Church of the Common Ground isn’t about fixing or converting people, says the Rev. Mary Wetzel, who has served as the church’s vicar for four years.

The church is about celebrating the people of God on their own terms.

The Rev. Mary Wetzel, vicar of the Church of the Common Ground, washes feet and listens to stories of people attending the church’s non-medical foot clinic. The church, which holds its gatherings in parks in downtown Atlanta, was founded in 2006 to serve people who are homeless.
Q: Why have church outside?

A: Some folks, for whatever reason, do not feel comfortable going inside. And they feel a little more comfortable coming just as they are. Our church provides another option. We have a van. I call it our mobile sacristy. We keep the altar and all we need for the services in it.
Q: Who comes to the Church of the Common Ground?

Parishioners of the Church of the Common Ground, many of whom are homeless, attend Sunday service in Downtown Atlanta’s Woodruff Park. From left to right are Eddie Conley, the Rev. Mary Wetzel, Eddie Holmes and Vivian Medina.

A: A variety of people. There are those who live in the area. Some folks who live in regular houses want to come worship with us. A number of the folks have gotten jobs, or moved into housing. We encourage folks to get involved in a church where they are living. Some will come to a church in the morning and then come to our church in the afternoon. They feel that it is their church.
Q: And why do you think they come?

A: I think folks come for community. There is a good core group of people that care for each other, and pray for each other. It is the relationships that draw them.

Gregory Mitchell listens to the Rev. Mary Wetzel, vicar of the Church of the Common Ground. The church, which meets in city parks, was founded in 2006 and many of its parishioners are homeless.
Q: What about the Church of the Common Ground appeals to you?

A: It really is a place where we can have such different theological beliefs and still come to God’s table. I can see the gifts that God has given the folks who come and how they use those gifts in the world. When I see how they are helping each other, that encourages me so much. And being outdoors, I feel God’s presence.
Q: Are the folks who come religious?

A: Very. Most know their Bible inside and out. They are very aware of God in their life. The first thing many think about when they wake up is, “Thank you Lord for waking me up today.” That hits me in my soul.
Q: So they aren’t angry at their station in life?

A: I wouldn’t go that far. You get angry when you know that people look down on you. Or you get caught up in a system that is so hard to get out of. But most are aware of the presence of God.
Q: Do you think your message would be different if you were preaching to an affluent congregation?

A: My message would be the same. There’s as much addiction and mental health problems in traditional parishes.
Q: And what is that message?

A: We are all God’s beloved. Since we are all made in God’s image, we need to learn the respect and dignity of very human being.


Three Wisemen Came

We are told in Matthew 2:1-12 that three kings who came from the East, following a star to bring gifts to the Christ Child .

Who were these guys that they would travel so far and for what?

We have all sung We Three Kings of Orient Are, singing about the their journey. These men were probably astrologists, or ‘magi’ – the word used in that time for people who could read the skies.

In Matthew, the Magi come to a house in Bethlehem, rather than the stable of the birth story. The three gifts were gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Legend has it that the three men were:

    Gaspar (or Caspar), who has brown hair and a brown beard (or no beard!) and wears a green cloak and a gold crown with green jewels on it. He is the King of Sheba. Gaspar represents the Frankincense brought to Jesus, signifying that people would worship this child.

    Melchior, who has long white hair and a white beard and wears a gold cloak. He is the King of Arabia. Melchior represents the Gold brought to Jesus, meaning He would be the King Of Kings.

    Balthazar, who has black skin and a black beard (or no beard!) and wears a purple cloak. He is the King of Tarse and Egypt. Balthazar represents the gift of Myrrh ; it is interesting that one of the first gifts to the Baby Jesus would be myrrh, the same spice that would be used by Mary Magdalene and other women to anoint his body after the crucifixion.

They made this long and arduous pilgrimage to bring gifts a small child born, who they recognized as the Messiah. This was the beginning of that small child’s life that would eventually end in death and resurrection and redemption of all people.

And just as the wise men brought gifts to the Christ Child, so have those who support In The Garden and its community, brought gifts for each of you. Gifts of our love and acknowledgement that we are children of God and brothers and sisters of Jesus.

When you are through with your meal, please dump your plates in the trash cans to my right, then make your way to the Step Room. There you will be given a gift sack of lots of things that will make your holiday a little brighter. Then as you leave, you will receive your dessert and you can select a blanket donated by the Toll Gate Middle School in Pickerington.

Our prayer is that each of you have a Merry Christmas and blessed Christmastide.


Delivered at In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church On Capitol Square, Columbus, OH, 21 December 2014

Parish of 32 serve 6,000 meals per month

Such an inspiration. When we feel tired and discouraged at In The Garden, we need to remember these 32 people who are living into the ‘feed my sheep’ command. Blessings to all of them in their work.

Parish of 32 Serve 6,000 Meals Per Month

A Kinder and Gentler Community

NOTE: in the past couple weeks we have had disturbing incidents at In The Garden that I felt needed to be addressed, reminding the community that we are family.

Jesus gave us only two commandments:

    This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you (John 15:12)
    The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’. There is no commandment greater than these (Mark 13:21)

For those of you who are relatively new to In The Garden, I thought I would give you a little history about our community. We started in 2007, serving sack lunches ‘in the garden’ for a half-dozen people. In the Garden was founded by Joe Mazza, a diaconal student in the Diocese of Southern Ohio. Early on, before people became aware that we existed, Joe and Carrie Stowers used to drive around and invite people to come. In the Garden was held ‘in the garden’ at the side of the church, hence our name.

The first bitter winter, we moved here into the undercroft, so that we could offer hot coffee and a hot, nutritious meal. Since then, the word has spread and the maximum we have welcomed to the community was 185 on one Sunday. That number caused us to change from serving cafeteria-style to the sit-down dinner we now offer.

Our weekly attendance usually exceeds 120 and we have gone from a feeding program to a community where everyone is made to feel welcome and treated as if you are guests in our own homes.

Through the generosity of many different organizations (Episcopal, Presbyterian, Faith Fellowship churches; teachers from Pickerington Schools, students from The Ohio State University, the Muslim Students Association at OSU) we are able to provide you with a warm, nutritious meal as well as hot coffee and goodies. Those who do not wish to, do not have to participate in the short spiritual service, often featuring contributions from members of the community. We always welcome anyone participating in the service.

We have encouraged that those who attend In The Garden consider us a community, and over the years we see lots of familiar faces and have grown to consider everyone a part of our own family, and hope that you feel the same way. We have gone from pandemonium to a what you would expect when members of families gather. We all care about each other; the pains, the joys, the heartaches. . . we are family.

Unfortunately, in the last couple weeks, we have seen some disturbing behavior on some people’s part. Not a lot, but I feel the need to address it so that it does not escalate.

We have a lot of volunteers who give up their Sundays to come and be with us. Some of these volunteers are young children. Recently, two of the girls, one a ten-year old, has been treated in a manner that you would not want your sister or daughter to be treated.

When you receive your plate from one of our volunteers, the curse word or 4-letter word is not the correct way to respond. If you can’t say ‘thank you’, the KEEP YOUR MOUTH shut. You do the entire homeless community and In The Garden a disservice when you verbally assault anyone that way, a child or adult. I am sure your fellow community members don’t want to be remembered like that.

Also, our volunteers are not be leered at, asked their telephone number, and followed around as if you are a stalker. You would not want your sisters or mothers to be treated like that. These people who want to be your friends?

The volunteers and Core Team of In The Garden Do Not carry money – we are here to build a community and provide a warm meal. We have had requests for money for as little as 75 cents and as much as $10,000! We are not a bank – do not ask the volunteers for money.

In our nearly seven years, we have had only two incidents of violence – one was directed at the building and the other was a shouting match which almost got out of hand. I know that sometimes you are in a bad mood, or have been emotionally or physically injured, but you cannot take it out on others here.

I have only had to ask one person to leave (who later apologized and came back). I do not want to have to do that again. . . but if the behavior warrants it, I WILL ask someone to leave.

Last week we had an incident that could have escalated into a situation where one person would have ended up in jail and another in the hospital. Let me make this perfectly clear: THERE ARE TO BE NO WEAPONS at In The Garden. No guns, no knives, no shivs, no weapons.

If someone offends you, either let it go or come see me. We WILL NOT HAVE verbal or physical assaults here. . . I will be more than happy to call the police and have that person removed.

But, let me tell you about the things that I am so proud about. Last week Karen and I served a dinner at another church as part of their weekly feeding program. The amount of people that were there was about what we normally see on a Sunday. But that is where the similarity ended.

When the people came in, they were unruly, pushing through other people and generally surly. They took their seats and started demanding things. This dinner was served family style, so there were large bowls of food on the tables. Some of those who sat in front of a bowl, took all the food, leaving nothing for the rest of the people at the table. We had made enough pasta that everyone could have had thirds if they wanted. But, before we could even finish serving milk to everyone, some of the people were demanding more food and being pretty nasty about it. And there was a lot of pushing and shoving, and no consideration for the few families with babies that were there. The language was very colorful and the volunteers were treated with disrespect. Those of us who served felt battered by the time we left.

That DOES NOT happen at In The Garden. . .


Because we are a community, a community of people who care about each other. . . we consider each other to be our brothers and sisters . . our neighbors. No one has special privileges, no matter how long you have been here or how new you are – we are all equal. And that is what makes In The Garden different, whether you are a volunteer or a member of the community.

All of us who volunteer at In The Garden are proud to say we are a part of this community. . . a part of a great group of people, good people, caring people. And we want to be around you. We are happy to spend out Sunday afternoon here with you.

Let’s continue to be that caring community. Let’s remember that each one of us is a child of God, loved by him. We are one big family. . . and just like all families, we sometimes disagree with each other. But let us do it in love and continue to be that community and family.

Let us pray:

Dear Lord, sometimes we have bad days, sometimes someone says something that makes us mad, sometimes everything has gone wrong this day. Please help us to remember that we are all thy children, loved and worthy in thine eyes. And help us to remember that we are all family at In The Garden, that we should love each other and treat each other with respect. Be with us, guide us, help us to remember Jesus’ two great commandments, and love us. Amen.

Delivered at In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH 16 November 2014

The Trouble With ‘Being a Voice for the Voiceless’

Reject Apathy

Speaking out for injustice is a good thing, but how can you speak for the oppressed before you listen to them?

By Tyler Huckabee
October 3, 2014
Tyler is something else. He’s a writer who loves blue jeans, camping, hamburgers and rock and roll. He’s also the managing editor at RELEVANT. You can read all about his fascinating life over at The Unbearable Lightness of Huckabeing, or read every dumb thought that comes into his brain on Twitter.

For many teenagers raised in the church, going overseas is sort of a rite of passage—a “Global Perspective” you achieve like a challenge in a video game.

For me, that challenge was in Japan. I made a few friends over there, but none closer than a boy about my age named Ken, who was positively giddy about the idea of freedom. He said the word “freedom” like a magic spell, and told me of the ways he felt trapped in his own native country.

“When I go back,” I told him when we said our goodbyes, “I’ll tell people your story.”

“Or,” he said, “I could come to America and tell my own story.”

They Already Have a Voice
I was too young then to grasp the importance of what Ken had told me, but recent events have brought it to my mind again. As hashtag activism has gone from an Internet oddity to a full-on force for change, we have become enamored with what what we either call “being a voice for the voiceless” or “giving a voice to the voiceless.”
And this has often been helpful. Be it war in Africa, slavery in India, terrorism in the Middle East or even discrimination in the United States, Twitter users have made waves by empathizing with the oppressed and suffering. When news of an atrocity breaks the news, we rush to our social media platforms to sound the gong of injustice, and set our hashtags from stun to kill.

There’s a difference between being a voice for the voiceless and giving a voice to the voiceless. They are not interchangeable. And one is far more compassionate.

The sort of righteous anger we feel when we hear about injustices is a good thing. Bringing these issues to the world’s attention is often the first step in the right direction. There are people out there who are hurting. They need help. They need to be rescued.

But, in reality, they don’t need a voice. Not most of them. They have a voice. What they need is for more people to really listen. They need people to carry their cries further than they can.

There’s a difference between being a voice for the voiceless and giving a voice to the voiceless. They are not interchangeable. And one is far more compassionate.

Being a Voice for the Voiceless
Sharing our opinion on an issue isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but sometimes, when we are trying to be a voice for those who are suffering, we end up speaking over them, shouting our own view without first really stopping to listen to their experiences.

Think to the NFL’s Ray Rice debacle, a mess if there ever was one. I, like any right-thinking person, was appalled at what certainly appears to be, at best, horrid mismanagement and, at worst, gross deceit and a calloused attitude towards domestic violence.

Social media was taking aim at the NFL, so I was all too eager to join in and cry foul. But a funny thing happened when I signed on to Twitter.

I started seeing stories of women who had come from abusive relationships. Women explaining #whyIstayed, and sharing their heartbreak, their pain and—for many of them—their newfound freedom.

I realized that my voice was not necessary in this particular story. People were already telling their stories, and their stories came from a place of honesty and vulnerability and had the ability to create true impact. They were the real story.

What I needed to do was listen, learn and amplify their stories instead of my own.

When Your Voice Isn’t Needed
When our hearts are sensitive to pain and injustice, we have a tendency to charge in. It’s easy to assume we’ve got the basic layout of the problem. Whether it’s sex trafficking or racism, it’s easy to assume we understand what the victims are going through.

Instead of presumptuously firing our voice off into the Internet’s ether, desperately seeking to be seen as a champion for justice, take a moment to listen.

That zeal is good, but it often takes the place of real listening. Instead of presumptuously firing our voice off into the Internet’s ether, desperately seeking to be seen as a champion for justice, take a moment to listen. Offer your ear instead of your voice. For a moment, be a student instead of a cheerleader.

As Proverbs 18:13 tells us,

    If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t ever speak out: Your voice is important. But it is not always the voice that is needed.

The Least of These
Jesus’ parable about giving the seat of honor away at the table is an interesting one. It’s often interpreted as being about humility, and it is, but humility is a tricky thing. It doesn’t always look like you think it will.

Sometimes, it means putting your best intentions aside so that others can take the spotlight.

Sometimes that means investing your energies in giving a platform to the marginalized instead of taking the platform yourself.

Sometimes that just means learning more before you start speaking out.

Eventually, Ken came to America and he did get to tell his story—and he told it better than I ever could have.

87 Things Only Poor Kids Know

girl leaning on fence

Kids living in poverty don’t have a lot of money — or options. But poor kids are survivors, and the life lessons they learn are heartbreaking but often invaluable. To research for this article, I asked our Liberal America fans and my friend and follower group for input. And yes, I pulled some of it from my own experience.

My best resource for the lessons in the article came from A Framework for Understanding Poverty by Ruby K. Payne, Ph.D.

Here are some things that poor children know.

    1. A fingernail file can be used to file a jagged edge if a tooth breaks.

    2. We go to the doctor when we’re sick, but mom doesn’t.

    3. We have to move a lot because sometimes we can’t afford the rent.

    4. I don’t always tell my mom when I need school supplies. I can tell it makes her nervous.

    5. Having to print something for school gives me anxiety. Our printer doesn’t always have ink. It’s easier for me to just get a bad grade on the project than admit to the teacher I can’t afford to print.

    6. Ditto homework that requires the internet. Sometimes we have it, sometimes we don’t. People say “use the library” but there’s not always gas money to get there and they are only open one evening a week.

    7. God doesn’t hear my prayers.

    8. The only time I’ve ever been to a store to buy new clothes is when my aunt took me. The dressing rooms were foreign to me.

    9. I learned how to cook ramen noodles when I was six years old. I was hungry when I got home from school and mom wasn’t ever there to cook because she was working.

    10. Healthy snacks are expensive. Ramen noodles are cheap.

    11. My grandmother criticizes my mom for not feeding us more healthy food. What she doesn’t understand is that healthy food usually costs a lot more.

    12. We can never get the chicken nuggets at McDonald’s. We have to order from the dollar menu that mom calls garbage food.

    13. Every day when I get off the bus, I’m scared until I get inside the house. Mom’s at work when I get home.

    14. I know I’d be a really good football player, but we’ve never been able to afford for me to play.

    15. When I go somewhere where there’s a piano, I love to try to play. I know I’d be really good but we’ll never be able to afford a piano or lessons.

    16. I don’t wear different clothes every day.

    17. We have to buy all white socks because if one gets lost or torn up, it may be a while before we buy more.

    18. We are really good at cleaning our house with stuff that most people don’t use to clean, like bleach and vinegar.

    19. I needed colored pencils for a project once. My teacher told me that if I didn’t bring them, I wouldn’t be able to do my project and I’d get a zero. I told the teacher I didn’t have any and she told me I’d better figure it out. On the way to school, my mom went into the grocery store. I was confused because she told me she didn’t have money. When she came out, she had the pencils but they were in her purse, not in a sack. I think she stole them. She was crying.

    20. Mom keeps her toothbrush in her bedroom so that it doesn’t accidentally brush up against ours in the bathroom. Germs and she can’t afford to get sick and miss work or go to the doctor.

    21. I have no idea what other kids are talking about when they’re talking about the latest TV shows. We’ve never had cable.

    22. I sometimes dread the summer and weekends because at school, I eat two meals a day.

    23. I’ve never tasted any of the cool cereals that my friends talk about.

    24. When I get money from relatives for my birthday or Christmas, I use it to buy things I don’t want to ask mom for, like hair products and underwear.

    25. My hair nearly always get too long between haircuts. I got sent home from school once because of it. Mom cut it herself.

    26. Other kids make fun of my clothes.

    27. I know what it’s like to be really cold in the wintertime.

    28. We wear our jackets and gloves in the house in the winter.

    29. When our dryer broke, we had to hang our clothes to dry. It took all weekend for my jeans to dry in the wintertime.

    30. Christmas is about things we need, not things we want.

    31. We can never buy cool clothes “just cuz.” They always have to be things that have a dual purpose. We can wear them to school, church, or whatever.

    32. I’ve never been to summer camp. Even if we could afford to go, I’d be embarrassed about my old underwear.

    33. I did go to summer camp. I was the only kid who could never buy snacks from the canteen.

    34. I got my first job babysitting when I was 14. I couldn’t spend the money. We needed it for bills.

    35. Sometimes we have to put stuff back in the checkout line because we don’t have enough money. The cereal always gets put back first.

    36. Cashing a check is hard if you don’t have a checking account. You have to pay to cash it.

    37. I’m an expert on what can and can’t be bought with SNAP and WIC.

    38. One Christmas, we had no money so we went to the Dollar Tree where everything is a dollar Mom gave us each $5 and told us to go shopping for each other. It was the weirdest and funnest Christmas ever.

    39. Sometimes we have to use dish liquid in the washing machine. It works if you only use a small squirt.

    40. Sometimes we get sick and go to the doctor. He gives us an antibiotic and tell us to start it, but if he calls to say that our strep test came back negative, we can stop taking it. When this happens, Mom keeps that medicine so that she can take it if she has an emergency and gets sick.

    41. Sometimes we want to pack cool lunches like some other kids do, but it’s cheaper to eat the school cafeteria food. Mom says the food’s not healthy, but we get free lunches so that’s what we eat. Mom gives us money every day so that we can buy an extra milk at school. It’s cheaper than if we bought it at the grocery store.

    42. Sometimes we don’t eat if there’s a mean kid in the line. We don’t want them to know we’re getting free lunch. They’ll make fun of us forever.

    43. Duct tape can fix almost anything. Mom makes a game out of it. If a window gets a crack in it, she fixes it with duct tape and uses the tape to make cool designs.

    44. I sit really quietly when I get an ice cream cone, enjoying every lick.

    45. I share a bedroom with my two younger siblings. It’s impossible to find a quiet place to do my homework.

    46. I didn’t do as well as I should have in math classes because I couldn’t afford the calculator that was required.

    47. I couldn’t be in Boy Scouts because we couldn’t buy the uniforms.

    48. I couldn’t be in Girl Scouts because we couldn’t afford the books and patches.

    49. You can make a whole meal out of gravy and white bread.

    50. White bread is usually cheaper than wheat bread.

    51. Spending the night at a friend’s house is awesome. They always have plenty food.

    52. Butter and sugar sandwiches are the best.

    53. We don’t trust the police. We know they won’t treat us fairly.

    54. We eat a lot of: potatoes, beans, and cheap bread.

    55. My mom lies about not wanting seconds.

    56. I’ve learned that when mom says “do you want the rest of this [food]?”, what she’s saying is “if you don’t want it, then I’ll eat.” I’ve learned to say I’m full, even if I’m not, so that she will eat.

    57. Hamburger Helper feels like a gourmet meal.

    58. When I got home one day, I let it slip that the other kids went on a field trip and I stayed behind. She asked why I didn’t go and I told her it cost money and I didn’t want to ask. Later, I heard her crying.

    59. I’ve had to stay home from school when my little brother was sick because Mom couldn’t miss work.

    60. I know what day Frito Lay dumps the expired chips in a dumpster.

    61. We can’t always afford to go to the Laundromat and we have to wear dirty clothes.

    62. A bottle of Febreeze can be used to cover the smell of dirty clothes.

    63. When my shoes start to become too small, I get worried.

    64. My pants are always too short about two months after we buy them.

    65. I know exactly how many miles our car will go after the low fuel light comes on.

    66. We take blankets in the car because the car doesn’t have heat.

    67. I’ve never had a birthday party.

    68. We don’t always get our presents — birthday and Christmas — at the right time.

    69. When my mom complained to her sister about not having enough money to raise her kids, her sister told her “you should have closed your legs.”

    70. We’ve never been able to take all of the school supplies that we were supposed to have.

    71. I’ve never bought a school yearbook or school pictures.

    72. I’ve never bought a book at a school book fair.

    73. One winter when we ran out of propane and couldn’t buy any for a week, mom made us one huge bed in the floor in the living room. She brought every blanket in the house and we stayed in there all the time staying warm.

    74. Our grass gets high sometimes. We don’t have a lawn mower and mom never has enough money to buy one. She usually does have $50 to pay someone to mow the grass but sometimes she has to wait a couple of weeks to get the money.

    75. Mom misses my open houses at school and my football games because she doesn’t always have gas. She has a neighbor friend who I can ride with to my games.

    76. I’ve never had a new coat. Mom says that we’re lucky that someone always gives us one of their old ones just when we need one.

    77. We learned that washing our clothes by hand is a lot of work. Our washer broke and it was two months before we could afford a new one.

    78. When we finally got a new washer, Mom bought it at a place where you can rent to own. It costs twice as much to buy things that way. Mom says it’s expensive to be poor.

    79. One time Mom had to write a check for the electric bill. She said she knew that she didn’t have the money in the bank, but she had to do it or they would cut off our electricity. She said the bank would pay it. They did, but she had to pay them an extra $30 because of not having enough money in the bank. The electric bill was late and we had to pay the electric company $10 for being late.

    80. We’ve never met our doctor. We go to a clinic and a nurse sees us every time.

    81. If we go to the grocery store and pay with money, the clerks are nice. When we pay with our food stamp card, the clerks are rude.

    82. We know that if we go to college, it’s going to cost us a lot of money because we’ll have to get loans. Poor kids have to pay a lot more for an education.

    83. We don’t get to participate in some school activities if they cost money. Even stuff like band costs more money than we can afford.
    84. We eat a lot of unhealthy food. Carbs and fats are cheaper than protein.

    85. I have a poor friend who lives in the inner city. He’s afraid all the time. Mom says it’s because he hears a lot of gunshots when he’s trying to sleep and during the day. She says that he doesn’t know how to turn off the fear.

    86. I’ve never ordered a soda at a restaurant.

    87. We never take anything for granted. Whether it’s candy, toys, food, or cool clothes, we know it’s a blessing.

Tiffany Willis is the founder and editor-in-chief of Liberal America. An unapologetic member of the Christian Left, she has spent most of her career actively working with “the least of these” and disadvantaged and oppressed populations. She’s passionate about their struggles.

California Mayor Spends Night in Cardboard Box To Learn About Homelessness

Stockton Mayor Anthony Silva’s bed for a night
CREDIT: Anthony Silva, Mayor of Stockton Facebook page

Last week, the mayor of one of California’s largest cities spent a night sleeping in a cardboard box under the freeway in order to learn more about the plight of the homeless.

“I thought I would come out here for a night to spend a night with the homeless to see what it is that they go through,” Stockton Mayor Anthony Silva told Fox 40 on Friday as he readied his home for the evening.

During the outing, Silva visited with a number homeless people living in Stockton. He met one homeless man, Tim Barfield, who had been working 60 hours every week at an asphalt company before it went under. “From having that to nothing,” Barfield said. “Now I’m out here.” Barfield now lives in a tent with his pregnant girlfriend and is trying to find a permanent place to live before their child is born.

Watch footage from Fox 40‘s report:”

Last year’s homeless census found 1,541 homeless people living in Stockton and the surrounding area. Though homelessness has been falling in Stockton recently — it’s down nearly 50 percent since 2010 — it remains nearly double the national level on per-capita basis.

The homelessness crisis was underscored when, the same night Silva slept outside, a 50-year-old homeless man was run over by a driver and killed in the same city. His name has yet to be released.

The severity of the problem in Stockton is what led Silva to learn more firsthand about homelessness. “Communities have to step up and come with answers and solutions on their own,” he said. One such proposal he’s putting forth is a new community resource center directed towards the city’s homeless population.

It’s quickly becoming a trend for lawmakers to spend time with the homeless. In December, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) shadowed a homeless person for a day to learn more about the challenges he faced. Meanwhile, Reps. Jackie Speier (D-CA) and Jim McGovern (D-MA) recently stayed overnight in homeless shelters.