Yesterday Marvin and Susan and their family came down to celebrate Christmas with us. (We missed you, Rachel.) We had a wonderful day together. They had a 2-3 hour drive, so we had a relaxing morning here then met them at IHOP for a Christmas brunch or lunch. :)
Susan, Katie, and Mary Jo had put together care packages to give to homeless people around the city. Two years ago their family had also given care packages at City of Refuge’s weekly street feeding. Because there wasn’t a street feeding on Christmas Day, we drove around and found people here and there–something that’s not hard to do. We so admire Marvin and Susan for their generosity to everyone around them. They give and give and are such an example of how Jesus wants us to live. Their whole family being willing to spend Christmas day serving others really blessed me.
Our first stop was “The Bridge” where CoR feeds once a week. It’s a home for people year round. Sometimes only a few people live here; other times it’s packed on the bridge and even below. Because it was Christmas Day and there were events for the homeless being held in other parts of the city we met only three people here.
It’s really neat the community people on the bridge have with each other. Some people on the street will invent needs (a sick child, a wife “over there,”) so that you will give them a little more. Other people really look out for each other. When we got there Steve said this is a place we could leave extra packages if the guys have a buddy they want to give to and they really will save it for their friend.
This man had quite the little house set up with a kitchen, closet and odds and ends. He had a lot of cats to keep him company. In the sphere of the homeless world he looks well established, but thinking just a minute about your own home makes this look soooo sad.
This is the other side of Atlanta. It is literally minutes from the main tourist hub, but it is seen by so few. You could drive right past this bridge and have no idea it houses so many people in such a sad state.
Some of the crusty, moldy food laying around was nearly enough to make me gag. I love that our children see these things in real life. It’s not like it takes care of all complaining, but it does help them see how rich they are.
Just now I showed the boys the boys this picture again and told them how glad I am to have good, fresh food even if it’s food I don’t care for. I asked Ian if he’d rather eat beans (a food on his “yuck” list) or this crusty bread that cats have licked.
“Well….do I wike that b[w]ead?” When I told him that he likes it when it’s fresh and described again how gross this bread would be in this state. “Ummmm,” he deliberated, “I’d take a piece of fresh bwead.”
So obviously it’s not like an instant lesson. :) But the boys do really notice the people we see on the streets almost every time we go out. One night we were eating Zachary’s favorite food, but instead of eating he sat with his head in his hands. When I asked him what he was thinking about out he said in a sad voice,”I was thinking about the people who don’t have food to eat.”
These are a few of the shelters on the bridge:
Yes, these are homes in modern-day America.
I'm glad for this picture of our family. When we say we live in Atlanta it can sound like glitz and glam. It's there around us, but our more present reality is the junk in the foreground.
Next we visited a park I pass nearly every week. In warmer days people hang out here. On colder days like this one you will only see piles of blankets.
But under those piles of blankets are people. Jolly, sad, stoned, or trying to sleep it all away–and all needing love we have to offer.
We headed out toward another park and passed out a few packages along the way when we saw someone along the street. Other people had been out giving packages, too; and I could only imagine how much some people look forward to Christmas when they get a bonus few packages of snacks and toiletries.
The next park we hit was full of people and they flocked over as soon as they saw packages. We didn’t even have enough to give one to everyone, but they were nice about it. We stayed and talked a little with people. Even more than things they need friendship.
I told him he had a great smile then he felt self conscious about it.
“Wait until I get my teeth. Then I’ll smile for you.”
After passing out the packages we drove over to the Westin to view the city from the 73rd floor.
In this photo the Westin is reflected in the silver skyscraper. Pretty cool. I didn’t even notice that when I took the picture.
I tried to get a picture of Ian in the lobby with the Christmas tree bokeh in the background. It’s more sentimental than pretty I didn’t have my flash along and all he could think about was running to the elevator. :)
The elevator ride up is pretty amazing. It’s a glass elevator on the outside of the cylindrical building, so as you ride up–at quite a clip–the city below you becomes smaller and smaller.
The Sun Dial Restaurant and an observation level just above it both rotate very slowly at the top of the hotel. The views are stunning! We’ve been up once before at night which gorgeous. It was fun to be up during daylight this time and see so many places we know.
The Georgia Dome is in the back left with the CNN building (blue awnings close to street level and red CNN letters at the top of the building) just in front of it. Centennial Park is right in the center of the picture. The Georgia Aquarium is on the right side with the little blue sign and the Coke Museum is just in front of it and only part of the building is shown. On the bottom left you can see the new ferris wheel that joined the downtown collection this past summer. The road road on the right side of the picture and goes past the aquarium and back into the woods looking part of the city is the one that takes you back to our house.
Atlanta is so different from the cities I had seen before–NYC, Baltimore, and DC. Instead of tiny streets lined with row houses, you could drop to our place from the sky and think you had landed in a small town. There really aren’t many rowhouses, but lots of small homes.
This is the 75/85 winding through the middle of the city. Buckhead is in the background on the right.
Serving others is always such a good perspective shift. On a Christmas when I was sad I couldn’t be with family I was reminded how blessed I am to have family and an incredible support system.
Sometimes serving is what you know you should do, but don’t really want to do it because you want to be served yourself. I was feeling like that, too, until in a conversation one of my friends who was having a cozy Christmas said, “I wish I’d be passing out packages with you.” Then I remembered how many times I had been in a perfect environment with all the friends and food and comfort you could wish for, and wished I could be making a difference to someone who didn’t have all that. On this Christmas I remembered that it is an honor to serve the least and by serving them serving Jesus. (Mathew 25:40)
If a commission by an earthly king is considered an honor, how can a commission by a Heavenly King be considered a sacrifice? – David Livingstone