PEOPLE OF PRIDE

By Rev. Robert Parrish

What is pride?  Sometimes it looks like appreciating the clothes that you have to ware in spite the fact that they are out of style or even torn.  Maybe it looks like a basket ball team playing hard even though they are down by thirty  points.  Pride then, is having respect for yourself or a group of people.

Part of my growing up years were spent in Bryson City, NC, which is located near the Tennessee boarder.  My family, and the African American community we were in, were very poor, but, that did not stop the matter of having pride drilled into me.  In fact my mother would say “Son, you may not have the best clothes, but at least they are clean”.

This kind of pride spilled over to older relatives who looked after my brothers and I.  I recall very vividly, a relative that was referred to as “Uncle Doc”.  You see, in the Bryson City adults were often referred to as aunts and uncles as a matter of respect.  UncleDoc expected a lot from the people in our community; this was especially so for the kids.  One day, while two of my brothers and I were setting outside of a community café, Uncle Doc approached and noticed that our hair was not combed.  He asked us why our hair was in such a state.  We could not give him a satisfactory answer.  He then turned around and left us.  However, it was not long before he returned with three combs.  As he gave each of us a comb, I remember him saying “You represent me and this community.  I don’t ever want to see you with your hair uncombed again”.  I never forgot this lesson.

It could be that you are wondering what does this have to do with people who are homeless?  Many homeless people grew up in families and communities just like mine.  In spite of being homeless they hold on to the pride that was instilled in them.  A true illustration of this came to me when one of the staff members at Love Wins named Blu told me about how some homeless people plant flowers outside of their tents.  She went on to say how the space in their tents are often kept neat and clean.  I would imagine that there are those who would wonder how could such a thing be.  What this says to me is that pride shows up wherever you are.

The fact that homeless people indeed take pride in what they have should tell us that they have hope.  Perhaps this pride and hope will lead to a house and yard, or even a job.  This pride and hope helps homeless people take care of those in their tent communities, and to never give up.  I pray  for the day the more of society will see this kind of pride and give them what they deserve.

Pastor Robert Parrish is Chaplain for Love Wins Community Engagement Center, providing spiritual counseling, leadership and Wednesday service.

The Lesson of Small Gifts

*This blog was written by Pastor Robert Parrish, Chaplain of Love Wins Community Engagement Center.  

As pastor, or chaplain, of Love Wins Community Engagement Center, I often give out Bibles to those who request them.  Like many people, homeless people see the need for spiritual nourishment in their lives. 

On one such occasion, a person named G asked me if she could have a Bible.  I gladly got her one.  Upon opening its pages, she stated that the print seemed a little small, but that she might be able to read it in brighter light.  Upon hearing this, I mentioned that I just might have a magnifying glass that she could have.  As a person who is legally blind, I seem to have several magnifiers laying around, and do not find it hard to spare one from time to time.  G was happy to hear that I might be giving her this gift.  Indeed, I did find a magnifier that I thought would be just right for her.  It has level two power and has an (led) light in it.

 When she arrived back a Love Wins a couple of weeks later, I gave her the magnifier.  Now, even though I could not clearly see her face, I could feel the beams of happiness and gratefulness coming from her.  As she tested its visual capability, G found that the magnifier was perfect for her. 

No, I did not give her a million dollars.  Yet, some how, I feel like I gave her something more.  Who knows how being able to read the Bible more easily might make a difference on how G will be guided in her life.  Can one really say how the wisdom that she might gain from reading the Bible might help her guide some one else?  

Gratefulness in receiving things that most might consider as small or even trivial, is something I see from the people at this engagement center.  Items like a canvas bag or a shirt or blouse are received as gold.  What this seems to say is that nothing is taken for granted.  Gifts or blessings, no matter how great or small, are really appreciated.  Although the clients of Love Wins Community Engagement Center don’t have a lot, they  teach the lessons of appreciation and gratefulness. 

In general, our American society is bombarded with the false notion that you’ve got to have this material thing, or that material thing.  Some how, if an item is more than a year old it is “out of style”.  Also, there is this thought that says “you are entitled to the very best”.  Thank God, or if you prefer, the Universe, that many homeless people teach the lesson of being satisfied with simple things. These marginalized people teach us the value of making items last as long as they can.   They teach us the lesson of being thankful and grateful, even for the small gift of a simple magnifier.