From The Perspective Of The Homeless: Spending Thanksgiving At The Community Crossroads Center In My College Town

From The Perspective Of The Homeless: Spending Thanksgiving At The Community Crossroads Center In My College Town

A Shelter Experience, Thanksgiving Holiday Style

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Until November 21, 2018, I'd been only on the other side of the Community Crossroads Centers doors. Because of it, my sum knowledge about what happened there was stories. Donated supplies are stolen by employees. Items planted in backpacks, leading to the accused residents being "put out."

If I hadn't heard the stories, though, I still would have been reluctant to enter West Greenville. I was nervous about being in the company of the homeless. I was concerned that my presence would be questioned by those on either side of the proverbial shelter table (before that day, I was certain they would look at me and "just know" my real reason for being there).

Fortunately, I was willing to fight the trepidation and reticence. I had to be courageous enough to venture into the part of town between Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and West Fifth Street, one I'd seen lately only through a few ECU Transit bus rides to the Health Sciences Campus. I had to be audacious enough to enter a section of town where I knew no one. That is unless I could count sightings of denizens who had arrest photos displayed on WNCT 9.

Beyond this, though, was my conviction about an important story being there. Granted, it wouldn't be one seen on the Hallmark Channel. Many people probably wouldn't have tuned in to that broadcast. However, it was a story that deserved to be told.

How did I decide to handle my role? I channeled my inner ethnographer. For the next fours days, I was the participant observer.

The experience started with providing evidence of homelessness (typical forms are a letter from a social worker or minister) and identification (in my case, an NC state ID). With evidence photocopied, my belongings (an ECU Jansport backpack) searched, a breathalyzer administered, I was issued a two-part meal ticket (for dinner and next day's breakfast). Then, with supplied bed and bath linens, I was directed to the women's sleeping area, where I set up my possessions and items around the borrowed bunk.

Five minutes later, with only the meal ticket in hand, I ventured into the cafeteria. There, I took part in the first common event of the experience. The first dinner turned out to be an eye opener, the view chiaroscuro. On the bright side, it challenged my beliefs about people I still mentally classified as "the homeless."

Instead of the scary strung out pack I half expected (and feared), I encountered individuals like anyone else I'd met in Greenville. Young children and college students (Pitt Community College). Men and women representing the spectrum of race and ethnicity. People from the south and north.

Unfortunately, I can't say brightened insights included the meal ministry group. To my surprise and dismay, this team (one of the six who visited while I was there) stayed mostly on the other side of the kitchen counter. Apart from talk that took place toward the back of the kitchen area, their focus was on two action items. One was preparing meals. The other was laying out the plates containing the meals. In fact, little attention was given to the residents for whom these meals were prepared and distributed.

Or at least I can say this about the meals offered in-house. On Thanksgiving Day, two local churches invited residents to come for a meal-breakfast with the Jesus Saves Ministry, lunch with the Temple of Zion International Ministry. These meals collectively were my second eye-opener event.

In both cases, views were positive. For starters, the generosity of the people was expressed expansively. There were members who transported us to and from the church in vans. There were also the cornucopia style meals consisting of home cooked food. As for the people who opened their hearts and hands, their hospitality went far beyond the preparation and serving. Not content to watch us eat from a distance, they sat down at the tables and ate with us. Instead of confining conversations to among themselves and on the other side of the kitchen counter, they talked with us.

Indeed, during the meals, talk and laughter flowed just as easily as the orange juice, milk, coffee, soft drinks, and sweet tea (this was the first time I experienced Southern Hospitality as sweet as the tea).

I've been on the other side of the CCC doors, so I can proclaim that people who stay at the Community Crossroads Centers are like you and me. I can declare they are worthy of engaged conversations, sustained eye contacts, and Duchenne smiles. Besides, wouldn't you want this sort of treatment, if you were standing on the other side of that shelter kitchen counter?

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10 Bible Verses For Thanksgiving

Psalm 34:1
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The Thanksgiving season is a time we spend with our loved ones giving thanks for the blessings we are given. Here are 20 Bible verses that remind us of what Thanksgiving is all about:

1) 1 Chronicles 16:34

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.

2) Colossians 3:15-17

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

3) Philippians 4:6

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

4) Psalm 30:12

That my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!

5) Isaiah 12:4-5

And you will say in that day: “Give thanks to the Lord, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exalted. “Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously; let this be made known in all the earth.

6) Hebrews 12:28-29

Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire.

7) Jonah 2:9

But I will sacrifice to You With the voice of thanksgiving. That which I have vowed I will pay Salvation is from the Lord."

8) 1 Timothy 4:4-5

For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.

9) Psalm 28:7

The Lord is my strength and my shield; My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart exults, And with my song I shall thank Him.

10) Psalm 100:4

Enter His gates with thanksgiving, And His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him; bless His name.

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To The Grinches Who Stole Thanksgiving For Black Friday

Black Friday is the busiest shopping day of the year, but in recent years more and more stores are succumbing to “Black Thursday" hours.

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For the last 10 years, retail stores have been opening earlier and earlier in celebration of the highest grossing shopping day of the year: Black Friday. So far have these stores gone, now many stores are open most of the day on Thursday, Thanksgiving as well. Ask any person forced to work on this family holiday, and they will most likely tell you they hate it.

This year, my Aunt Alleen couldn't even attend our 2' o clock dinner because Walmart wouldn't relent. While the CEOs of these big chains eat turkey with their families, those at the mercy of their corporate decisions cannot even see their families enjoy a simple eggnog. This isn't right.

I'm guilty of going to the stores during Thursday night, too. Enticed by the crowds and comfort retail provides, I joined the masses. Everywhere I looked I saw overwrought Starbucks baristas, exasperated Target salespeople, and one lonely kitchen store owner whom shoppers seemed to overlook. Next year, I won't join the "Festivities" until after midnight--when it is actually Friday. Although it isn't shoppers fault for overworking the holiday staff, it supported by us as long as we choose to shop during the day on Thanksgiving. Although many stores open at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving, we forget that many of them have to come in hours earlier to prepare for the purge. People like my Aunt, don't even get to celebrate with their family--only their corporate family. Only those in relatively low paying retail jobs must sacrifice their sacred time, and that's a classicism trap if I've ever seen one.

To the workers who couldn't see their families on Thanksgiving, I'm truly sorry. This is a clear example of how capitalism creates a culture of greed, even on the one day set aside for the opposite.

The longer we allow things to go on like this, the more likely a Black Thursday will cement as a cultural norm. So what can we do when it is up to the ever ambiguous "The Man"? We can write, call, and contact local representatives to protest this injustice. We can boycott certain stores and support others who forgo Black Thursday vocally and online. If you're a worker, this becomes more difficult. You don't want to risk your job, so you don't speak out. It's almost unconstitutional that it operates this way--free speech includes speech against unfair practices.

Next holiday season, don't be a Grinch. Just wait until midnight to shop, if not the next morning.

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