Tuesday, December 08, 2009
He approached me with hesitation because we don't quite know each other. He has unusually bright eyes for someone stuck on South 9th Street. Most who live there wear their years like an old, heavy coat that's too big. He does not. There is some light and a little hope. He pulled me over out of her earshot to ask me a question. "Hey, I was wondering something. I missed her birthday, it was a while ago, and I was wondering if you guys would be able to help me get a cake for her?"
They are stuck right now. Stuck down on 9th. Stuck because they don't see a way out. Stuck in addiction. Stuck because they choose to be. Stuck from ignorance. Stuck from fear of the unknown. Stuck because it's all they've known for years and years. Just stuck. They live in a motel. Everyday they survive. But, they have a plan. It is a broken plan. It's a bit dysfunctional, but it is a plan. And they are working it for what it is and things are getting a little better. He really wants to get her off that street.
She's been on 9th street for around 12 years. They have been years of abuse, soul-tearing violence and addiction. It is really hard on South 9th Street.
"It has to be chocolate and I want it to say 'Happy Birthday Honey Bunny,'" with a bit of an embarrassed smile. "Can you help me?"
I told him that I thought I could and we made our scheme. "We'll be right here Wednesday at noon. If anything comes up, call me."
I called a woman in our church that likes to bake and who could actually write on a cake and have it be legible. She happily accepted the challenge. "I'm not professional, it won't look like at the store." It was beautiful. We picked it up and headed over to our spot on South 9th.
In our work, 6 times out of 10 something goes wrong. People can be difficult to find and a little hard to pin down. Planning can be sketchy as most days blend into the next. And things happen. We usually set a time for how long we'll wait for an arranged meeting to materialize. We decided we'd wait 20 -30 minutes. Right around 12:05, she walked out of the mini-mart and was coming past our van. I got out and said hello. He wasn't with her and I didn't know if I should say anything about our surprise so I made some small talk.
She smiled, "Ok, I know there's a surprise...what's going on?"
I laughed and told her to get in the van and we'd go down to the motel and find him. She got in the front seat and Aaron started driving. I pulled out the cake from the back seat and set it in front of her eyes. 'Happy Birthday Honey Bunny' She squealed and started to cry.
Back at the motel parking lot, she jumped out of the van and invited everyone there to her "birthday party". Everyone gathered around and we sang to her. She cut her cake and served her guests. "Thank you for coming to my party" as she handed each friend a piece. And for a moment, she was laughing like a girl.
We were honored to be guests at such a party.