Thursday, January 15, 2004

LA Scene: Helping people in the city

Compassion in the City

(Seventh in a series of occasional posts on Los Angeles life)

Dear Kari,

In my past posts about LA, I've concentrated on some of the entertainment venues and great places for culture and the arts. Today, I want to take a different tack. Indeed, there are many beautiful places and places to see beauty and they are to be enjoyed because they are reflections of the God given creative spark within humanity and there is often goodness and truth to be found in beauty.

However, besides the museums, palaces of performing arts, gleaming building of this big city, nice homes of upscale sections of town and charm of old style apartment buildings, there are parts of LA that aren't doing so well as is the case in all big cities. But beauty of the human spirit can also be found on the difficult streets of the city.

Almost monthly, I go to 4507 S. Western Ave. where Faith in Christ Ministries works to help people one at a time. In the weekdays, the site has a charter school that takes kids who the regular public schools can't handle. There are also after school programs to help kids with academics and activities to keep them off the streets and out of trouble. They provide clothing and food for those in need. And since it is a faith based organization, there are church activities with Bible teaching to help provide guidance in life and encouragement to turn one's life over to God.

I've helped a couple of times for Thanksgiving food service to the poor and homeless. Also, I help with others from my church on some Saturdays with general clean up and upkeep of their facilities. This past Saturday because of plans for the afternoon, I went early to help with the breakfast food service.

I helped "cook" which in this case entailed putting donated frozen burritos and breaded cheese sticks in the oven. We served local people who dropped in for some food. These people all have stories and Joe and Gywnn Brown who run FICM talk to and find out about them. I talked with a few people and observed some others. For some, it is pretty clear they don't have enough to eat during the week. In some, you see the physical scares and infirmity that time, health problems and perhaps violence have inflicted. There was one man who talked with Joe about doing community service for he had many hours he had to serve. I felt a thrill of hope for that man for he was seeking to turn his life around, pay his debt and make good on his opportunity.

In an absolute sense, my four hours on a Saturday isn't a whole lot. In the end, it is the people who are there day in and day out who make a real difference. But if a thousand people can come on a thousand days and do some of the little stuff so that the Browns and others can do the big stuff then our few hours matter.

One of my favorite quotes is from Robert F. Kennedy in his Cape Town, South Africa Speech:
This world demands the qualities of youth: not a time of life but a state of mind, a temper of the will, a quality of imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the life of ease ...

Few will have the greatness to bend history; but each of us can work to change a small portion of the events, and in the total of all these acts will be written the history of this generation ... It is from numberless diverse acts of courage that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.
Take care and be well,

UPDATE: I found out FICM has a web page.

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