“May God help me on the next step,” Lori wrote on the dry-erase board. She believed in committing hope and fear to writing, just as I do.
For years, she had entrusted her soul to drugs and the blast of euphoria they brought. But then she had had enough, and she surrendered to Redwood Teen Challenge and the nearly 40 other women living there.
They taught her to pray in writing. She also believed it was risky to do so. To identify hope is to risk having someone try to take it away. As a wise old counselor said, “If you risk nothing, you have nothing.”
I visited there Christmas Day because I needed to. I had made the mistake of trumpeting my hope when I should have kept it in the silence of my heart. Bringing my hope and hunger to other risk-takers was a good thing to do. Besides, it was far easier than the hope I sought last year, gasping up the hill to the church in Bethlehem.
Hope is so much stronger when one can share it. I do it with my two cats that follow me around constantly — or maybe they smell the tuna on my breath. Either way, I have no more privacy.
My cats fed and my soul satisfied, I headed back out into risky territory to share myself with the world.
I started at home where my daughter, Leticia, was enjoying the serenity of her school break. I drove up to her bedroom window and flashed my headlights to get her attention. I got the idea from Shakespeare whose Romeo took his own risks. To summon Juliet, he cried, “Hark! What light from yonder window breaks?”
I cranked down my car window and blasted my radio to the voice of Bruno Mars in “Uptown Funk.” “Don’t believe me just watch, uh,” I mouthed, pounding my steering wheel.
Risk nothing, have nothing. But, I do apologize for waking the neighbors at midnight. I’d have done it earlier, but I got stuck in traffic. It’s amazing what happens when you make bold moves. One just isn’t enough.
The next night after our newscast, my boss and friend, Nazy Javid, said something about homeless people and the cold — both familiar topics to me. That’s why, my soul fed and my belly full of hot tamale, I headed out alone into the night.
They say it is not a good idea. But that, of course, is why I did it. I passed the Carson Mansion, lit with holiday lights. Then, I drove down the hill to a parking lot under the Samoa Bridge. That’s where I found the family, a couple and their wheelchair-bound daughter, three cats and two other friends.
They had been living there three days and cold nights, moving on because the police had told them to do so. In fact, I had to convince them that I was not just another officer.
With my high-beam flashlight to guide me, we visited until my fingers ached from the cold. They said they were moving to another spot near Target and I gave them money, although they did not ask for any. People say not to do that because it only encourages more panhandling. Then again, I am a rule breaker and a risk taker, a “Rebel with a Cause.”
So, that was my Christmas, my holiday stockings filled with flaky old feet and my heart full of joy.
Now it is a new day, the sun turning the morning sky to gold. I can be sure it will present challenges I had not expected. And yet I am ready to risk it all again. As Bruno Mars said, “Don’t believe me just watch.”
Dave Silverbrand’s columns and other writings are available on his website, www.davespeople.com.