Monday, November 1, 2010

My Life With Comic Books: Part #164

The current cast of characters:
Paul Howley: age 45
Mal Howley: age 46
Adam Howley: my son, age 21
Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 16


In November of 2000, our daughter Cassy signed up through our church to go on a trip to New York City to help distribute food and clothing to the homeless. Mal and I decided to sign up too. Adam couldn’t go because he couldn’t afford to take time off from his job.

The church Evangelism leaders, Ron and Christine St. Cyr, had made many trips to New York City over the years to help the homeless through an organization in the heart of Manhattan. They also organized overseas trips to help build churches, hospitals and orphanages.

Ron and Chris really knew how to organize these trips down to the smallest detail. They required anyone interested in going to attend several instructional classes where we were briefed on the potential dangers of this kind of outreach program. New York City was not like Laconia, New Hampshire. We practiced several potential scenarios so we could reduce possible troubles. Ron firmly explained that if at any time, he sensed a dangerous situation; we were to immediately follow his orders without hesitation.

In early December, we packed several vehicles with the winter coats, shirts, socks, gloves and mittens that we collected to give to some of the people who were homeless in New York City. We drove to a building that had large rooms upstairs for us to sleep in and a soup-kitchen-function room on one of the lower floors. The men in our group occupied one floor and the women were on another. My bunk was near one of the men from my church in New Hampshire who snored so loudly that I was actually awake almost the entire first night.

Over the next couple of days many of us prepared hundreds of sandwiches and packed up bags of toothpaste, toothbrushes, and other personal hygiene products to give to as many of the homeless people as we could find. As we met the people, we explained that there were people who cared about them and we encouraged them to seek out the help of some of the local food pantries and shelters in the area. Most of the people we found were really “in need” but we were surprised when we discovered one man living in a large box with a working television and a microwave oven. He had found a way to hook up to someone’s electrical service! Still an unpleasant way to live, but he had a good sense of humor about his awful situation. Facing a very cold winter outside, he gratefully accepted our offer of food and warm clothing.

Mal and I went with a group of other volunteers to serve hot meals at another local food pantry where it was suggested that we should try to make direct physical contact with the people by hugging them or holding their hand. Many of them would go without any physical contact for weeks or months. They needed food, but they also needed to know that others cared about them. We were saddened to see the dozens of hungry people in line waiting for a simple meal. The people we served seemed so thankful for what we were doing but we were really getting even more out of this experience.

Our daughter, Cassy, went with another group to help coordinate a “Sunday School” for several thousand inner-city children. The church would send busses around the city and parents would just put their kids on the bus so they could be brought to this church. Kids as young as three-years old were sent, alone, to the church program.

On Sunday, we all went to an enormous church service held at The Times Square Church, pastored by David Wilkerson. Then, after Ron St. Cyr reluctantly led us on a fast-moving thirty-minute sightseeing tour of the Rockefeller Center area, we headed back home to New Hampshire. Our son, Adam called our cell phone to see if we were on our way home and Mal told him we’d be back home within a few hours. But we hit an area of tremendous rain that made our driving very treacherous so we ended up several hours behind schedule. Adam called us again, worried that we may have slid off the road. He knew that Ron and Chris usually had everything on a tight schedule so it was very unusual for a trip to be this late. When we finally made it home, we were exhausted but still excited about what we had done and learned on this trip. We looked forward to going again next year as a family with Adam.

Next chapter: Christmas

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