Like a prolonged Lent of six years
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Two stories from the director of REACH in Wilkes-Barre

[Posted on Bakery by Debra Kellerman, March 5. Uploaded to newSpin, with permission, by Bill Lewellis]

Two stories I hear frequently.

I chose to work yesterday and today "upstairs" mostly because my office can get very cold and I can't concentrate as well. Yesterday was easy, today was hard.

I decided that I would take advantage of our church's wonderful music, there are organ recitals on Wednesdays and a short service afterward. I needed the music to reflect, sit quietly and if possible get my mind to quiet.

After today's service a young woman who accessed our clothing closet asked to speak to me for additional resources she needed – sheets, a blanket, pillow and a few other things. She had been at the domestic violence shelter and was now in a temporary apartment – the next step from a shelter to permanent housing. She was lining up community service places to work at, a condition of her housing, finding the items I mentioned because what she had was borrowed from the housing. Looking for a job, any hours or pay to pay her rent (a small amount – she wants to be responsible) learning to be an advocate for other abuse victims. In short, getting her life together after living thru tragic circumstances. Hopeful and looking forward.

The second, a gentleman released from prison two days ago after serving a ten-year sentence, and told: Don't come back. Registered with the local police department and listed as homeless. Refused shelter at the local men's homeless shelter because of his conviction, a sexual offense. He has heard "No, you cannot stay here" and has walked the streets at night to stay warm. Allowed to stay in front of the bus terminal (as long as he doesn't drink) by the police. Nowhere to go, nowhere to turn. Acknowledging his guilt (how many of us have – even on this day of repentance?). Looking to make a new start, knowing of the obstacles  of that Red Letter on his name and living out the realities of it. Finding no hope. Not able to look forward past the next few hours and finding them cold, hard, and unforgiving. Where are the next step facilities, where are the advocates, the shelters. Where is the hope?

I am already tired of Lent and its desert.

Little did I know I needed the music – not to soothe my spirit from the past few days but to prepare me for just today. I have hope. I know of the resurrection.

May God give grace and peace to those who do not know of any hope, may he sustain those who have hope. May he shield those who are in plenty from desolation. 

[Debra Kellerman is director of REACH at St. Stephen's Food Pantry and Clothing Closet in Wilkes-Barre. Along with food and clothing, she gives out bedrolls for the homeless and, for first time apartment owners, sheet sets, blanket, towels, dishes ... and hears many stories of poverty and hope.]

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