This is My Crowd

This is My Crowd
Picture by: Photography by Vicky Campos

Leave a Comment

I love to have feedback and sometimes the Comment box can be less than cooperative when it comes time to post. I highly recommend selecting the Name/URL option. You can simply type in your name, skip the URL and leave your comment.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

2 Hours As Panhandler

Stepping outside of one's comfort zone and experiencing a part of reality that seems so removed from mine is becoming increasingly interesting to me. Often when I see people holding signs on any given corner, it almost seems surreal. If I have the time and the extra money readily available, I fork over a buck or five. On days, however, when I'm in a hurry or only have my debit card, it's a different story. For some reason I have it ingrained in my subconscious that if I avoid eye contact and pretend to be busy, it will make it better when I don't give. I always feel bad when I do it, but somehow, I feel like it's easier on the person I'm not helping. Like, they are somehow thinking, "Well, she probably just didn't see me, so THAT'S probably why she didn't give me a buck." Further, I have this perspective on money that if it's not made of paper, it's probably of no value to another person. Neither of these two broken mindsets are things I would have admitted to prior to now, but I have been blessed with opportunity after opportunity to correct these things.

First, I watched an great documentary called the Human Experience, a portion of which was about 2 brothers who decided to become homeless for several days in New York during a particularly cold winter. From that, there were a couple of things that stood out: 1) that asking for hand outs, be it food or money, is demoralising and humiliating. 2) as a society, we collectively pretend that people in need don't really exist. 3) people, for the most part, simply want to be treated with common decency. This is not to say that there are not individuals and organizations out there working hard to help those in need, but what I AM saying is that WE as a society, collectively ignore personal need for whatever the reason, of which there are many I'm sure.

The second thing that occurred, which if you have read one of my previous blogs you know, was that I became involved with something called Scarlet Revolution. It is an organization that is in its fledgling stages with an idealistic and yet mature heart to make a difference in the homeless community in the City of Fresno. In becoming involved with Scarlet Revolution, I was in a position to go out into the homeless encampments and hand out food and supplies, witness their need in 4D, see their living arrangements and speak with them, human being to human being. An experience such as this will correct one's perspective on many things relative to themselves and others.

Finally, and probably not finally at all, I was given the opportunity to panhandle. Admittedly, it was something that I had been considering since watching the Human Experience. I knew it would be humbling. I knew that people, in the belief that I was homeless, would ignore me. I knew that there would be some that would pity me. I knew these things, so I went in thinking that it would not be that surprising. And just when I thought I knew it all there was yet again a facet of this complicated gem of life that I hadn't considered. Parenthood.

Being a mother of 4, from ages 8 months to 9.5 years old, I am fully aware of my role in sculpting, channeling and directing my children's lives. I understand that it is my actions that speak volumes to them regarding how adults SHOULD behave. I am not perfect, nor near perfect by any means as a mother or a wife, but there was something HUGE that I missed. Illustrating compassion in the midst of life. This was something that I was not aware of until Tuesday, June 21, 2011. As I was standing there at the shopping center exit across from a nationally branded ATM and down the way from a regionally branded grocery store, I saw car after car after car pass me with occupants that wouldn't even look in my direction. If they had, they would see that I, myself, was not homeless and that my sign said we were raising money to help the homeless in Fresno. Further, since we were in an affluent part of town, one might hope that people with more means might be more generous, but again, that was not so. It was the individuals in the more moderately priced vehicles that tended to pass me a buck, or five, or ten. Lastly, one might assume that women with children might be more generous since they might be more selfless, as we kind of assume all mothers are, but again, no... the only vehicle that handed me money that was occupied by children was being driven by the father. Now, I think the only reason this shook me was not because of the other people's actions, but because of how often I myself had driven by people with signs and employed the whole, "Hey, what's that over there...", don't make eye contact thing that most of us do. The thing that I had never noticed, because I was too busy pretending that there wasn't someone asking for help, was whether or not my children looked at that person, acknowledged that they were there, waved or smiled at them and then watched me ignore them.

What I truly realized is that I, myself, was teaching my children that they don't have to acknowledge individuals in need. That they don't have to treat other human beings with common decency and that it is ok to pretend that those same people are invisible. Wow! Let me say that again, "That they don't have to treat other human beings with common decency and that it is ok to pretend that those same people are invisible."

I realized that it didn't matter how many times my compassion was expressed in a non-personal form, where I was entirely removed from the situation by giving money to help an orphanage or a devastating earthquake, or buying presents for a "needy" family at Christmas time, what I regularly instilled in them that when there are people asking for help right in front of you, not only do you NOT have to help them when you have the means, it's best just to pretend that they are not there. Children, again, for the most part, are happy to acknowledge others. They wave, smile and look people in the eyes. Every child that drove by read my sign and smiled, some even waved. Every mother wouldn't even look in my direction. I would assume that eventually those children will pick up on the cues given by their parents and adjust their behavior, instead of the reverse.

My life lesson for the afternoon?

Train up a child in the way that they should go and when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6

He who has a generous eye will be blessed, for he gives of his bread to the poor. Proverbs 22:9.

Here is a photo of my panhandling efforts... Be warned, I'm red, sweaty and generally unattractive. If you have a Facebook... befriend Scarlet Revolution! And at least smile at the next person you see asking for spare change and if you do have only change, fork it over, it can make a difference!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Jacob - The Little Boy Who Was Love

Admittedly, I have been slightly obsessed with taking pictures of my baby girl as of late. If you were to visit my facebook pictures right now, you would have to look to find new pics of my boys. Not too hard, but look nonetheless. Granted she is a baby and it's our first and only girl, so that's my weak excuse I guess. In any case, I wanted to share some thoughts specifically about my oldest son Jacob.
So, I know that mom's love their kids. It's their job. But Jacob sure does make my job easy.

1 Corinthians 12 expounds upon the idea of the church being a "body", going so far as to describe individuals as actual body parts. With that in mind, I believe that when God created Jacob in my womb, he was created as a heart. I know, it sounds cheesy, but it is true. Anyone that knows Jacob knows what I mean. He is not an emotional child exactly, but he is compassionate and caring. He notices people that might otherwise be ignored. He sees babies, toddlers and other children smaller than him and cares for them without a second thought. You might argue that it is a trait he learned by being an older brother, but I would disagree. Rather, it is a trait that God blessed him with that makes him a great older brother and an example to his siblings.

He is not perfect though. He's still occasionally sneaky. At times he'll quietly convince Liam or Domenic (usually Domenic) to do something that has a 99% chance of failure and discovery. He fights with his brothers and does have melt downs. He can pout when he doesn't get his way and he'll every now and again talk back. He's rambunctious and energetic, which can result in broken toys and running through the house yelling. No matter how many times I've told him to keep toy cars off of the walls, I find that he regularly defies me and gravity and drives them on the rough surface anyway. He also regularly turns on the t.v. or the xbox without permission and acts kind of surprised when we make him turn it off. Nothing major. Even still, he continues to grow and mature and his behavior is an ever evolving creature.

Some say it's better to be a lover than a fighter, but he's also a fighter, but in good ways! He fights to achieve average grades in school! Each day during the school year he gets up knowing that he may have to work twice as hard as the other kids to achieve half as much. But he does it! He waivers between hating school and loving it. He's found that he loves science, dinosaurs enthrall him and astronomy fascinates him! Through practice and hard work he's significantly improved his artistic ability over the last few years! Sometimes I have to ask if he drew something or if he traced it, to which he assures me that it was his skill alone.

Though I am thrilled to have my baby girl, Jacob's birth is the event that started it all! If I had to visualize what happened on that sunny day in September 2001, it would look much like this:

My heart grew! It had to. There was no way that my heart could have contained or expressed the amount of love that began to fill it. Really, he changed my life in so many ways. Not just in the obvious ways either. Yes, he did cause my time and money to be reprioritized. Yes, he did stabilize and ground my lifestyle. But, more than that his small yet consuming existence redirected my life back to the path God had layed out for me. He was a living, breathing, eating, sleeping, pooping, crying, smiling, laughing reminder of God's love for me... His unconditional love for me. Jacob still is all of those things for me and in addition to all of that he also challenges me to be more openminded about people.

Here are some stories or generalities about Jacob that might help better illustrate him.

1. In second grade he befriended a boy who had transferred from another school. The boys father admitted that Jacob was his first friend at any school and that his son finally enjoyed going to school.

2. At the park with a large group of friends and their children, without being asked, he followed around a toddler on his hands and knees making sure that the toddler was ok.

3. He is the reason my younger sons think of their brothers when being offered a treat. Whenever Jacob was offered a treat, he would always make sure he came back with something for his brothers. If he was unable to get something for the younger boys, he would always share what he had. He still does that and now, so do they.

That is just a couple of anecdotes. There are many more.

Aside from all of the above, he's also just a rough and tumble kind of boy. He was climbing up slides and using skate boards to slide down furniture when he was less than 2 years old. He really enjoys skateboarding and is a daredevil when it comes to jumping into the swimming pool. He's equally daring when it comes to food, too! If it's spicy, weird looking, weird sounding, unusual or foreign, he'll try it with zeal! Frog Legs, Mussels, Oysters, Crawfish, Sushi.... the crazier, the spicier, the better!

God has big plans for this boy! I look forward to watching him continue to grow as he walks the straight path that God has planned for him! I have no desire for this time to pass quickly, but know that there will be a day when he stands tall at my side, a mighty man of God and next to him, his family (in all likelihood, his wife will be a yellow haired girl since that is what he has said since he was 4)! I am blessed to be his Mom! One thing that I regularly tell him (and all my kids, really) is that I would like him even if he wasn't my kid, and it's true! I would.

Thursday, June 9, 2011


As I was driving this afternoon, I saw one of the COEXIST bumper stickers like the one above. It made me think of the term tolerance and the fact that in the world we currently live, we are all pressured to tolerate others. I know that those words mean different things to different people, so I won't even bother to go into specifics. That being said, with the amount of hatred in this world, it seems like a concept that we should all embrace. But is it?

Jesus did not say tolerate your neighbor... He instructed us to love them.

Tolerate could be defined as:

1. Allow the existence, occurrence, or practice of (something that one does not necessarily like or agree with) without interference.
2. Accept or endure (someone or something unpleasant or disliked) with forbearance.

Coexist could be defined as:
1. Exist at the same time or in the same place.

2. (of nations or peoples) Exist in mutual tolerance despite different ideologies or interests.

Coexistence and Tolerance seem like good ideas. They are certainly a great alternative to war. But, this world is a living organism that requires the interaction of its inhabitants! To simply coexist is to remain uninvolved. Tolerance and Coexistence are inactive verbs. JUST DO NOTHING. Apathy. I could coexist with and tolerate hurting people, broken people, homeless people, lost people, hungry people, sad people, abused people, abusive people, and the list could go on and on, but would that make this a better world?

Love (as Jesus used it) could be defined as:

Selfless love of one person for another without sexual implications (especially love that is spiritual in nature).

I also found the following:

Agape love is unconditional love. It is love by "choice" even if you are not pleased.

1 Corinthians 13 (New Living Translation) says it this way:

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

Love seems to be a better answer to hate than tolerance. I know that I would rather be loved than tolerated.

So, in a world filled with tolerance, let us love. For in the face of love, tolerance is a bitter way to live life. Tolerance does not beget generosity or forgiveness, but selfishness and a disagreeable spirit. Tolerance does not create understanding or compassion, but separation and indifference. Tolerance is a sad and cold replacement for Love.

So, let us Love!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Ramblin' (wo)Man

Well, kids. I am officially 34. One of the lesser discussed and/or noted milestones in life. Really just any other birthday according to Hallmark. But, I've now circumnavigated the sun 34 times since my big debut (actually, I was only 6lbs 12oz. at birth, so I suppose it was a less than average debut, as it were). I suppose in consideration of this, my age is not as impressive as it feels. Looking back, I think I rode the Gravitron more times than that on Sober Grad Night in '93 (Jeremy, if you're reading this... you know what I'm talking about!). Which I still regret, since I've become very sensitive to turning around in circles since then. In all seriousness, those things should come with a warning, I can't turn around too quickly anymore without becoming a touch nauseous.

Ramblin' on... So, I'm 34. Big deal! Just yesterday I was driving to lunch with my co-worker, Yvonne, who is 31, and my bosses grandfather, Max, who is 99... yes 99 years old (he's been MARRIED for 80 years and still works 2 days a week), when Max said that he'd be happy to be our two ages combined again...65. Funny, I feel old at 34, but I'm really just a spring chicken from his perspective... perhaps just a chick. I have friends that are in their 20's around whom I feel like a sage, there are people driving that were born the year I graduated high school, I've been with the same man for nearly 15 years, I'm a mother of 4 and I've been employed by the same company for 12.5 years and it's not even my first job! But I'm basically still young. Right? Right?!

Youth... What is it? Well, I can say from experience that the 30's are weird, man! It's not old. It's not young. It just... is. But it all adds up to something wonderful! I feel like I'm in the stage of life that, if compared to baking, is the part that the whole house begins to smell of freshly baked cookies! The moment when you're senses begin to experience a hint of the the joy that your hard work has created! Knowing that what lies beyond this is better than what you could've imagined. During the midst of which, you just have to run and peek through the glass to see what is in store! Yep! That's where I am. Not that eating a warm, freshly baked cookie isn't wonderful! It absolutely is! But there's something special about puttering around the house, nearly forgetting that you have cookies in the oven, and suddenly you can smell them, the anticipation surges through your mouth and the house is filled with the kind of warmth only working in your kitchen can provide. I just love it!

However, cookies notwithstanding...

The best part about my birthday this year is that I know that I have family awaiting me just a couple of hours away! Family that coincidentally is in town this very weekend from far (Germany) and wide (Texas)! Such an event will cause other family members from around the state to trickle in for a visit, so I get to see pretty much everyone! You can't put a bow on it or return it for store credit, but it is the best inadvertent birthday present a young gal (wink) could ask for!

In closing, it occurs to me that birthdays come and go each year, marking yet another year that has passed. A reminder of our fleeting time here on this earth. Each birthday is yet another opportunity for God to ask each of us what we've done with our lives to this point, like some annual cosmic class reunion. Each candle recalling a chapter that has already been closed out. In the book of my life, how many chapters will I allow to be blank, or become pointless, grammatically-wrecked drivel? How many chapters will be engaging, challenging, heart-felt, encouraging, thrilling, adventurous, thoughtful, loving, miraculous, different, life-changing, life-affirming, colorful, flavorful, memorable and/or amazing? How many filled with new characters, and lots of them? How many filled with Jesus, and lots of Him!

I suppose, then, that Chapter 34 begins today...