ASSIST News Service (ANS) – PO Box 609, Lake Forest, CA 92609-0609 USA
Saturday, August 28, 2010 (re-print)
The Least of our Brothers
“Looking into the eyes of a child stuffing his or her face with fruit salad, smiling and giggling as the juice drips down their cheek, you know that this is the least of our brothers.”
By Jeremy Reynalds
Correspondent for ASSIST News Service
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (ANS) – We all need a little help, and everyone of us needs an ongoing supply of hope.
With the Lord’s help, Joy Junction’s Lifeline of Hope mobile food wagon gives both
Our Jonathan Matheny recently spent an afternoon with me on the Lifeline. He was part of the original crew that went out with the Lifeline, starting November 1 2009, and for a couple weeks thereafter.
He said, “To compare those early days on the Lifeline to what it is now would be like comparing a light bulb to the sun.”
He reminded me that in those early days, we started at one spot, 1st and Iron in Downtown Albuquerque, and would feed about 100 people or less. However, that one stop quickly expanded to many more.
Now, it has turned into a service that has regular stops and times, and a contingent of people who rely on the Lifeline to provide them sustenance, hygiene items, and most importantly, prayer.
After successfully obtaining a babysitter for his four beautiful children, as his wife was also working, Jonathan said a spark of excitement began to well up about the afternoon outreach in Christ’s Name on the Lifeline.
Jonathan dubbed his experience “amazing.”
He said, “Of all the faces, the people, and especially the children, one thing stood out. These were not the same people I see at the shelter, daily. These were the people that society had TRULY forgotten.”
Jonathan added, “At the shelter, we are relatively protected. We have security that makes sure people do not have weapons or drug paraphernalia on them. The rules are simple. Whatever conditions you are in when you get to us, if you give up what got you there, you can come in. If you promise to abide by the rules, which are basically ‘do unto others,’ then you are allowed to stay.”
Jonathan said out in the world served by the Lifeline, the only rule is survival of the fittest. There is an unwritten code that the homeless will protect themselves, sometimes with violent results.
Jonathan said, “The danger becomes immediately apparent when you make the inevitable discovery that you are going into an uncontrolled environment.”
Jonathan reminded me I once told him that every day is different and we never usually encounter the same situation twice. This “other Albuquerque” served by the Lifeline is constantly fluid, always in a state of flux and sometimes boiling over.
Jonathan said for as long as he can remember, he has always liked order. He said that’s because there are certain things that have to occur, for things to work properly.
He added, “I spent my entire corporate career trying to inject order into situations that can only be described as ‘managed chaos.’”
The Lifeline, Jonathan said, is the absolute antithesis of that.
He explained, “There are no security personnel to search the people approaching the truck to make sure there is no weaponry. There is no one there to screen the mental stability of anyone approaching. There is no easy way to call for help.”
As a result, Jonathan said, “It is very unstable, very uncontrolled and very frightening for someone who thrives on order.”
Our first stop was at a corner near downtown Albuquerque, where a group of hungry individuals, previously hiding, came towards the Lifeline after I honked the horn.
Jonathan said, “I would find out later that Dr. Reynalds uses the same repetitive horn music to signal that the Lifeline has arrived, and the people are keyed in to that. We fed, talked, prayed and moved on.”"
Jonathan said he personally felt an impact when we arrived at the first of numerous hotels “on the Lifeline’s flight pattern.”
The families in these hotels often have to make the difficult decision between food and shelter. If it weren’t for the Lifeline, many of these precious souls would go to bed hungry.
Jonathan recalled the day. He said, “Dr. Reynalds honks the horn, and you see little faces tentatively looking out, checking to see what is making the commotion. The kids are always the first you see. Much like the tune from an ice cream truck, the tune tapped out on the horn draws attention to the Lifeline. As soon as they recognize the Lifeline, they smile, and start walking up. Dr. Reynalds says ‘Hi’ to everyone, some kids give him hugs, some just ask meekly for something to eat.”
Jonathan commented that they know the Lifeline. Once or twice, someone mentioned that they weren’t sure if the Lifeline was coming that day.
He added, “Dr. Reynalds first apologizes for the delay, mentioning that our last stop was busier that expected. He then follows it with, ‘We will always be here; we just may be late. The need is great.’”
Jonathan added, “Every hotel after that was almost the same. People that are hiding from society peek their heads outside the hotel room door, sometimes surrounded by kids, parents, relatives, then smile broadly when they recognize the fact they will eat today.”
Jonathan asked rhetorically, “Would I do this again? Yes.”
He added, “Did it give me a better perspective? Yes.”
Jonathan said he remembered saying to me towards the end of our day, that this is what the Lifeline was meant to do.
He continued, “I believe it was not meant to be out there helping the people we see daily at the shelter. It was meant to help those that cannot make it to Joy Junction, for whatever reason. It is doing what I believe it was meant to do- to help the least of our brothers.”
He added, “Looking into the eyes of a child stuffing his or her face with fruit salad, smiling and giggling as the juice drips down their cheek, you know that this is the least of our brothers.”
|Jeremy Reynalds is a freelance writer and the founder and CEO of Joy Junction, New Mexico’s largest emergency homeless shelter, http://www.joyjunction.org He has a master’s degree in communication from the University of New Mexico, and a Ph.D. in intercultural education from Biola University in Los Angeles. His newest book is “Now You See Me.”
Additional details on some of Reynalds’ previous books are available at http://www.HomelessBook.com. He lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. For more information contact: Jeremy Reynalds at email@example.com. Tel: (505) 400-7145.
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