Please Excuse Our Mess

by Stefani on 10-July-2012

I know you probably have questions. Lots of them.

Lots of you have emailed and wondered where I’ve gone. I’ve been here. Just here, going about real life. Real crazy, busy, messy life.

From time to time I’ve thought I should pop back in, but… well the longer it got, the harder it was to explain and to know what to say. I’m sorry. I really shouldn’t have left so abruptly.

So, here I am.


We’ll get around to catching up, but for now I just wanted to take a stab at breaking the silence and tell you a real life story that after so many stalled efforts finally pushed me over the edge into blogging again.

There is an older man who lives in the woods and spends his days under the overpass close to our house. After reading “Same Kind of Different as Me.” I felt kind of convicted that I should at least TRY to do something for the man that I pass by every single day. So I took him a sack lunch and some mosquito spray, fully prepared for it being a very awkward and uncomfortable couple of seconds, after which I could drive away feeling great about having done a good deed for the day.

Instead I had the pleasure of spending a few minutes getting to know him. He was mightily impressed with the mosquito spray. He said no one had ever thought about him getting “bit up” out there before. And just like that he opened right up talked to me some.

He doesn’t see so well and doesn’t hear so well, but he’s friendly, funny and well… human. A human being with a name – John. His name is John, and he was obviously surprised that I wanted to know it.

So was I.

I drove away not feeling good about myself like I’d thought I would, but ashamed. I’ve passed him by hundreds of times and tried to look every other place BUT in his eyes. I will fully admit that I’m still scared and skeptical of the homeless. It makes me feel awkward every single time I pull the unlucky spot right next to them at the red lights around town, but my experience with John has been eye-opening. They’re just people. I’m not going to fix them or cure them, or maybe even like them much, but if John is any indication, it’s worth the small effort to show them some kindness.

I wouldn’t suggest passing out money (or your phone number or offering rides or anything like that). John had himself a tall beer in a bag at 9 AM. He was a lot more lucid when I talked to him in the morning than when we said hello in the evening. I’m pretty sure he drinks whatever money he gets and by the end of the day the heat and the beer have taken their toll. I can’t say I blame him really, but I’m not going to feed his fog. Still, it won’t hurt me any to make an extra sandwich now and again now will it?

I guess the light bulb moment for me in all of this was this: I mess up. I say stupid things. I do stupid things. I overindulge, fly off the handle, puff myself up and tear others down. I am a real piece of work actually, but I hope that people can look past my messes and love the good parts of me anyway. Who am I not to give John the same courtesy?

So, you know, try it. Next time you see a homeless person, look past the grime and your skepticism and ask them how you can bless them. Get to know them a little. It will make you want to be better.

Rick July 10, 2012 at 3:06 pm

Hooray! Glad you’re back!

Pam July 10, 2012 at 3:13 pm

Soooo happy you are back! I have missed you. Though you don’t know me personally, but just a couple of weeks ago I was reading an email response you sent me back some time ago. I was going through a hard, stressful time with homeschooling and life and wanting to make the right decisions for our sons and your email really gave me a lot to think about and it was so comforting. I always felt you would come back and to my surprise it was today.

Stefani July 11, 2012 at 12:31 pm

Hello Pam! I’m so happy to have given you some comfort. I know that it can be so harrowing- trying to make the best decisions for these people we love so dearly. Hang in there!

Anne July 10, 2012 at 3:25 pm

So happy you are blogging again. I’ve missed catching up with you and your homeschool adventures.
Hope to be reading more updates from you.

Barb July 10, 2012 at 3:57 pm

It is so very good to see you back here! You have been missed! I have been a reader for awhile now. Thank you for sharing your story. Living in Las Vegas for 8 years, I found myself in this situation almost daily. Your advise is wise and your reminding all of us that the homeless are our fellow humans and deserve the same respect and consideration is much needed.

Your blog and voice are unique and special and I am looking foward to reading again 🙂

Tonia July 10, 2012 at 4:02 pm

Yay! I’m so glad your back! I feel odd being so enthusiastic since I don’t think I ever commented before, but I have been reading for a long time. And enjoying your Book of Days with my kiddos. 🙂 I look forward to future updates!

Stefani July 11, 2012 at 12:33 pm

Welcome Tonia! I’m working on getting all those back issues of the Book of Days up on this site for FREE download. I’ve been meaning to do it for ages now and just haven’t gotten to it. Stay tuned!

Tonia July 13, 2012 at 11:29 am

That’s wonderful! There were a few that we missed, and my kids LOVE them. 🙂 So glad you’re back!

jessica July 10, 2012 at 4:04 pm

Well! what a nice surprise to pop up in my feed reader. Welcome. And that’s a beautiful story. We don’t have many mosquitoes here unless you’re in the mountains but maybe there’s something else Idaho’s homeless would find useful… wheels are a spinnin’.

Stefani July 11, 2012 at 12:37 pm

Did you just say that you don’t have mosquitos? Hmmm… don’t be surprised if I move in next door. They’re awful here!

From what I’ve read, one of the best things you can do is just ask. Just say, I don’t have any cash to give, but if there’s something you need, some way I can bless you, I will get it for you. Doing just that, we found out that John needed a new tent. He’s apparently battling the raccoons in the woods and they’ve done a number on his tent.

I know a lot of people pass out toiletries and crackers and such, which I’m sure those things are very appreciated, but individuals have individual needs too that we can’t understand unless we ask.

Kate July 10, 2012 at 4:15 pm

What a lovely surprise to “hear” from you! It’s one of those weird things about the blogging world…you feel like you know someone, even if you’ve never actually exchanged words, and then when they “leave”, you’re left wondering about them and their lives. I hope you and your boys are doing well – can’t wait to “catch up” with you all!

Darla July 10, 2012 at 4:19 pm

So wonderful to hear from you and no need to explain one little thing. In my own mind I knew you were busy homeschooling those three young men and taking care of the business of being a Mom, surviving the Texas heat and being the best you can be. There’s only so many hours in the day and it’s hard to do it all, but we keep trying. Welcome back and I look forward to reading whatever you have time to write!

Stefani July 11, 2012 at 12:40 pm

You summed it up really well Darla. These days it really feels like there are just never enough hours to do all the living we need to do! Thank you for being so gracious!

kristi richards July 10, 2012 at 4:48 pm

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE that book. I am not sure you know, but I credit you for getting me started on reading fiction again when you gave me the Fannie Flagg book. Like I said on your FB post, I started volunteering with Church under the Bridge after I read that book. I met Antonio, he actually graduated from ACC a few months back. He was doing great and then started drinking so he could sleep through the night. I cannot imagine the stories and the pain they deal with every day. It is very hard b/c you want to do make a difference, and I know you did. We keep bottles of water, small toothbrushes and toothpaste and pkg of gum in the car, but the bug spray was a great idea. They love socks too. I don’t do money either. But they also love bus passes especially when it is cold.

Stefani July 11, 2012 at 12:41 pm

Bus passes. Interesting. I’m going to think on that one!

Jacinda July 10, 2012 at 5:18 pm

Hooray, I almost can’t believe you are back. It just shows that it is possible that a good thing returns. Whatever you have got to give in your writing, I am grateful to receive. And BTW, good on you for connecting with the man under the bridge…..I think it is the hardest thing for us to do – to connect human to human with all the discomfort and awkwardness that goes with that.

Dawn Suzette July 10, 2012 at 5:19 pm

So wonderful to read your words and wisdom again! No expectations. Just happy to see you here when you do appear!

Visty July 10, 2012 at 5:43 pm

I like you for all your imperfections. And your willingness to write about them. I encountered a lot of begging in Ethiopia and it made me think about the way things are here, and how even though people get so indignant about homeless begging, really it’s just a guy standing on a corner with a sign. Polite begging. We can choose to participate or not, and true, nothing changes except our view of humanity and the homeless man’s view of humanity. Pretty good trade, though.

Stefani July 11, 2012 at 12:51 pm

Polite begging, and honest begging too. The other day some ladies had taken up residence on John’s corner. They had t-shirts advertising their charity (homeless victims of domestic abuse) and were passing out little cards and lollipops for donations. John says he’s seen them lots of time’s before, getting out of a “nice biggo SUV driven by a man with bunches a gold chains ’round his neck.” To hear John tell it, the guy will come pick them up when they’ve earned him $75. There is no charity.

And the saddest part? John says he never makes that kind of money in a day. They make it because people think they’re giving to a charity. So in the end, folks are more generous to the fakes than they are to the real deal.

Angela July 10, 2012 at 6:36 pm

Squee! I’m so happy you’re back. Thank you for sharing.

Heather July 10, 2012 at 7:19 pm

Like everyone else who commented I am glad you are back. I wondered if I had missed something! I often cringe when I am first at the stoplight. I try to smile, but not commit. You are right, we are just all people. Good reminder.

Debi July 10, 2012 at 9:37 pm

So glad you’re back!

April July 10, 2012 at 11:22 pm

I am so glad you are back!!!!! It was so awesome to see that little (1) in my reader next to your blog.

Eren July 11, 2012 at 10:09 am

Hi, Hi…this very story is why I continue to hold you as a dear, dear friend. Love you.

Mousy Brown July 11, 2012 at 11:28 am

I was talking to a friend today about how important (and often how difficult) it is to look beyond the obvious…whats on the surface. I think you just proved my point…. 😀

Cynthia July 11, 2012 at 11:30 am

It is so good to read your words again (and what a beautiful re-entrance you have made!). I have missed you. Thank you for sharing your story.

Rebekah July 11, 2012 at 2:57 pm

I have missed your stories! Glad you are back and for sharing this one.

Kelly July 11, 2012 at 10:39 pm

So, so glad you’re back! I’ve kept you in my reader hoping the day would come that you would pop back in! Yay!

I love this story! I worked with the homeless community in my life before kids. I know there are a lot of opinions about how to handle those we pass every day. My suggestion is to keep $5 gift cards to local fast food joints in your glove box, maybe with a pair of gloves & a hat in the winter or sunscreen in the summer (since, like Jessica pointed out, we here in Idaho don’t have to contend with too many mosquitos :)) and hand those out instead of cash. A free lunch never hurt anyone!

Looking forward to hearing from you again soon!

Debbie R July 20, 2012 at 1:49 pm

I am so glad to see that you are back. You have been missed, your words, your photos and your b,ok of days. whatever kept you away it is so good to read your words again. And what a way to start back up thanks for the inspiration and lift. I have been thinking a lot about random acts of kindness in recent months. I guess it is high mtime I get out and do it too.
W-e-l-c-o- m-e B-a-c-k!!!!!

Kris July 23, 2012 at 9:44 pm

I saw you pop in on Instagram and then there was a blip on my old blog and well, looky ~ here ya are.
And here ya are with a touching & encouraging post.

Koni August 27, 2012 at 11:46 am

Hi, I have just found you from a Pin on Pinterest. Your writing is amazing and so helpful. I couldn’t stop reading. I am not one to follow blogs, and I don’t even know how, but that might just change now. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with others.

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