Tuesday, July 29, 2014

It's All About People

Last week I shared in my blog about writing my memoir about the 19 years I spent working at Teen Challenge. Here's an excerpt from my WIP title Teen Challenge - Repairer of Broken Walls

Isaiah 58: 12 NIV
Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

When my ninety day probationary time was completed, I met with Jeff Richards and Angel Rosa for an evaluation. It was easy to see the love and camaraderie between these two men. They spent the few minutes I was with them in lighthearted banter with each other, and bragging on me.

I was flattered, but answering telephones and manning the front office didn’t take a P.H.D. When I said that, Angel responded, “Well, it’s not the typical type of front office visitors and phone calls. It takes a certain personality to deal with it, and a heart full of Jesus.” He grinned and chuckled.

I chuckled too.  “This is definitely more exciting than I ever imagined it would be. I love it, and wouldn’t change a thing about what I do.”

That it was exciting was an understatement. Every day something out of the ordinary happened. If something exciting wasn’t happening, then working with some of the zaniest, quirkiest, and all-around awesome staff made it exciting. Going to work every day was like reading a good novel or watching a great movie.

There were several homeless people – some called them street people – who frequented our doors.  It’s easy to label all such persons in this category as a certain stereotype – mental illness, drug and/or alcohol addictions, no desire to get off the streets, deviants – but some sincerely were caught up in situations beyond their control. Most, however, that were frequent visitors at Teen Challenge did fit into one of the mentioned stereotypes.

There was the lady who came in at least once a week demanding food. The kitchen workers – and by kitchen workers, these were mostly students assigned to kitchen detail –  usually gave her a donut, or a piece of fruit. Our policy was that we didn’t give away food because it wasn’t always easy to provide meals for the students and live-in staff.

If this lady didn’t like what they gave her, or if they had nothing to give her, she would curse, stomp off, slam doors, and occasionally throw something. I had finally given up on greeting her with a cheerful hello because she just snarled at me. But I would smile politely if she looked my way.

Summer heat in Phoenix is brutal, especially to those who worked or stayed outdoors. The homeless are particularly vulnerable. Many organizations such as the Salvation Army set up stations around the downtown area to give out cold bottled water.

It was on one of those scorching days of temperatures over one hundred ten degrees that I had an encounter with this snarky woman.

Using the restroom was not a simple task for me. I usually would page into someone else’s office and ask them to answer the phone for a few minutes, or snag an intern as he walked by. This particular day, I couldn’t rouse anyone to help me, and I had to go. Since the restrooms were located in the breezeway in front of my office door, I decided to make a mad dash.

When I flung open the restroom door, there stood snarky lady. She was nude from the waist up, splashing water over her head and soaking her blouse and bra in the sink. Fire spit from her eyes as she let loose a stream of obscenities and kicked the door shut in my face.

I stumbled backwards, my mouth agape, and slunk back into my office, only to have her slam my door open in a few minutes, hair and clothes dripping water, and call me a foul name. Although I was compassionate toward her need to cool off, I knew I would not want to run into her in a dark alley. 

(this excerpt is taken from page 4)

1 comment:

  1. I can't wait to read this book when you finish it!