Like exercise or practice to an athlete, sketching daily is designed to improve one's drawing skills. So, I carry my sketch book everywhere....chronicling that days activities in line. I date the page, then begin to capture the moments...
Often, today's activities have a way of taking precedence over what was accomplished yesterday. And things are just as quickly and easily forgotten. Luckily, my sketch books are also a kind of journal or diary in line that reminds me of past activities hidden in the recesses of my mind. Like a photograph that is dated, I can look back and see what I was doing on a particular day. Today was such a day...
As I thumbed through to my sketchbook, I came to a page of sketches dated 4/12/14. How could I have forgotten the events that transpired that day?
To the best of my recollection, the weekend before I had been at Edinboro University in Pa. giving a series of lectures. The night of the 12th, I attended the Arcadia Invitational Track meet... couldn't pass up an opportunity to sketch athletes. Then, the following week was spent preparing to speak to a group in Lakewood, Ca.
Sandwiched between these activities was what happened the morning of April 12th, 2014.
I had been asked by a friend, Larry Willis, to accompany he and his wife Renee to skid row to feed the homeless. They needed more men, particularly African-American men, like Larry and myself, as the majority of people we encountered were of color. This would be a first for me. To visit the homeless on their territory.
I announced my plans for that weekend and my daughter Melissa, a cancer survivor, who in two weeks will receive a Masters degree from the University of Oklahoma, asked if she could come along. Of course, I said yes!
That morning Melissa, another first timer Donn Burwell, and I met at the Willis home in Azusa and then made a short trip to Covina to the home of Tony and Shirley Mirador where the action would start.
The couple head a group called Labor of Love. (Their website is here:) Their organization delivers meals to the homeless twice a year and they are ALWAYS looking for more volunteers!
Tony and Shirley's home was the drop off point for the donated food and other items that would fill plastic bags to be handed out to the people who call the sidewalks their home. A few days before, volunteers had filled some 800 bags with a sandwich, bottled water, fruit, an energy bar, chips, and other items. The living room floor, a hallway and another room were filled with the meals we would hand out that day.
We loaded the vehicles with the bags, about 125 per car. Some cars went to Pomona, Ca. to share with the homeless there, and five vehicles went to downtown Los Angeles. The plan was to caravan to skid row; park in a line, then pass out meals from the trunk/back seat of the last car. When that car was empty, move to the next car in line until we get to the lead car.
First stop..a park across from Union Station. I passed out my first bag; it brought a smile to the face of a homeless man and warmth to my soul. Another bag of mine was turned down by a lady who wanted me to guarantee the contents were safe to consume..."have a good day, ma'am". We walked up, down and across the streets to hand out bags. Everyone in our sights were offered a bag. All bases covered. On to another stop. As we pulled away, through the rear view mirror I saw a man hobbling up to where we were parked and his body language said he was too late.
On our way to the second stop we passed many more homeless scattered here and there. We could have stopped anywhere along the way but were looking for large concentrations of people.
We rounded a corner and pulled over to the curb. Word spread we were handing out lunch. There were those we stopped our cars in front of, those walking by, those curious of the crowd gathered around the cars, those coming from up, down or across the narrow streets. Bags were handed out to all in reach in exchange for a 'Thank you', 'God bless you' and a hug or two.
On to our last stop of the morning, we pulled our train of cars up in front of a man who was sweeping his piece of sidewalk clean. Like the other stops, the people walked, jogged, ran or hobbled to where we were. Some on crutches or in wheelchairs came toward us, carrying their worldly belongings in a black plastic bag or two.
We all held our breath as we saw people dart across a four lane 40 mph street to get to us....
In about twenty minutes and three stops, we came to the end of our bags. Some disappointed faces, but only one complaint I can remember, "I got here before her and she got a bag!"
Then Georgia rolled up in her wheelchair, too late for a bag..."that's all right, I just want prayer," she said. There on the sidewalk, she and I shared a word of prayer.
Our ride home was filled with memories of that morning. My memories are dated 4/12/14 in my sketch book.