We always thought the office should just get rid of the windows.
It became a major expense for the apartment management to continue to fix them over and over again. We thought they should at least put in some sort of alarm system, a better lock, security cameras or even fake security cameras to discourage people from breaking the windows. The apartment management didn’t do any of that. They just paid for new windows and went on with their lives.
I don’t quite remember when I first met her. It was probably in the space in front of my apartment, where the kids ran and played in the sand. I could tell something was off when she first walked up. She is developmentally disabled, that was apparent, but I could tell something much deeper was going on. At first she was shy and didn’t want to come to the after school program we ran. Then over time she grew to love the program, and now she has the best attendance. Her life feels trapped, like most of the kids we work with. Poverty creates a world of problems in the families we serve.
Month 1 Update
I challenged the team to meet 300 youth in the first month. Let’s see how we did.
It has been an exciting beginning of the year for new things. New sites, new partners, new kids, new program… well not a brand new program, just a program with some COVID-19 considerations to keep our youth and volunteers safe.
It takes meeting people to really understand what is and isn’t there. Change is slow, time moves like tides moving along the shore, crashing up and down, going somewhere but always receding, slowly carving its way into the sand. It took meeting Lily for me to open the door to what it means to be without a home, on the margins some would say. It took feeling emotion, stepping into all the pain she was experiencing, a life that was and had been for some time washed away in the current. Something about this situation was different than other situations I had experienced before, almost like God revealed things in that moment that would open the gates for many more things to come. I was wondering what my role is in all of this mess and by the end of the night realizing that my role was right there where I was.
My roommate had started making dinner. We were having trouble with smoke coming out of the oven from the grease that slipped from the pan lately so he recently bought some oven cleaner to clean it up. This meal went much smoother, as I didn’t find myself running to open windows and turning the fire alarm off in a rushed panic. My other roommate and I were just settling down after an afternoon of hanging out with the neighborhood kids. We run an after school program in the neighborhood as a part of a nonprofit called Care Fresno. As a part of the program the people running the program also live in the neighborhood. We experienced what the residents experienced and we were able to give more than if we were just to come and go daily. And also, others were open to take more from us so our walls had to be guarded.
I heard a knock on the door and initially I thought it was probably one of the kids. I never thought I could get so popular until we moved in here, and now kids knock on our door all the time. I always wondered if it was because they had nowhere else to go.
“Eric, did you give food to someone the other day,” I heard my roommate yell from the doorway. I was doing dishes at the moment.
“Is her name Lily?” I responded.
Talked ensued and he responded back with a yes. And that is the first step to restoration - when you stop referring to someone as their title (homeless person) and start referring to them as their name. Lily was no longer a homeless person, she was a person with a complex past and wants and needs and dreams and all the like. I had met her a few weeks ago and given her food. I try to always have food in my car for situations like these, but I forget sometimes. We chatted for a bit and I told her I had to go but that she could come visit us at our apartment. Most don’t come around, but tonight she did and I think it was because she was at the end of her rope.
At first she spilled all her guts out on the floor, and as everything poured out, I caught myself in a situation where I didn’t really know what to do. Listen and do some more listening: that felt like the best thing to do, so that’s what I did. She had been without a home for quite some time. The construction workers who were remodeling the complex were letting her stay in a small shack she had built out of miscellaneous findings near the fence next to the road. Several things had been stolen from her from when she used to live out by the street. She had just got out of jail for stealing a shopping cart. She had been in there five days and then she was assigned to community service hours. Hurt by everything around her, she didn’t feel loved or wanted. And so naturally she wept.
My roommate and I stood watching her as she fell down to her knees on our doormat. I continued to invite her inside so she could get out of the cold and so I could also get out of the cold, but she continued to refuse. Eventually we got her to come into the home and she sat down right next to the door. It was a long time before she finished everything she had to say. My roommate and I just stood next to her and nodded for a time. I continued to ask her if she wanted to come to the table to sit down. She looked so helpless there on the floor. Lily continued to decline my offer, too weak to move from where she was.
And what goes through one’s mind when one comes across a new situation. The pressures of good and evil, of morally right and morally wrong, and all of the grey in between invade us and the moments stretch us. Am I doing something right? Who is this person? Are my roommates okay with this? This is my rest time, should I let her go? I don’t really want to meet people right now, is this bad? Is she going to use us? What do I say? What do I do?
Am I good?
And the last question hits us hard.
From the lessons we had in our class to what we read in the scriptures to what we felt in our hearts, this was something right. As the story flooded off her mouth, it started to match the story she had told me when I first met her, but more real, more emotional. It added to what was there and we started to learn about who she was. I gave my roommates a look and a nod and it appeared as though they were okay with this. It is the small, uncomfortable situations where we can’t communicate much that truly build us as a team. I’ve been doing this long enough to know that if we help someone rest now, then I will rest better later, as my heart will be calmed. And I don’t think my introverted tendencies are bad; if I were to climb in a hole to succumb to them forever, well then that might be bad. Everyone can use you, even the people you trust. I set my boundaries early by informing Lily that she couldn’t stay the night. That is against our contract with the apartment complex and a liability for the nonprofit.
Words to say, those were questions to bring the best out of her. And so what to do – one of my roommates texted me if we should call the cops. I shook my head no, we weren’t in any danger.
But am I good?
Eventually we got Lily to move to the table. My roommate finished cooking dinner, some tasty chicken wings, one of my favorite meals. We asked Lily to stay, well insisted even, because we had a few extra pieces of chicken. Something about the table opened up a new context. And the context matters. On the floor with us standing over her there was the oppressor and the oppressed – sitting at the table across from us was a person to another person. And the context changed the conversation.
Lily began to open up about how she used to work with the students in her neighborhood just a few years ago. Now she was in her forties, but when she was a younger mom, she used to talk to all of the neighborhood kids. The kids came to her just to talk because they knew she would be open to listening to them. She helped the people in the apartment complex from getting taken advantage of by apartment owners. From talking about how recently she has been homeless more often than she to how she wanted to go back to college to finish her degree, we saw a new light. And so this is the next step to restoration. The first is to refer to them by their name, the second, to build on something good.
We have a saying in our organization: “Broken can’t build on broken.” We can’t build on something that we don’t have; we can only build on something we do. If we only talk about the problems – it was homelessness for Lily – then we can’t start to build a new future. If we talk about what we have, then the possibility starts to seep from it. Lily had her memories, experiences, her dreams of passing college, her love of children, her family, her hopes, her wants, and everything in between, and though some of those things are but distant memories or long-lost dreams, they are still there and they are still something we can build on. The lights started to turn on as the moon shown just beyond our window that night.
Throughout the evening we ate dinner, watched an episode of the Office, talked about who we were and what we did with the after school program, laughed a lot, and Lily talked about the good and the bad, switching off between the two, never really in the middle. Like her life, flowing forward and backward in the waters, she felt as though she had no foothold on the bottom, and life took her like a river flowing to the ocean. I was standing on the shore watching, imagining what may have been and what is.
The evening started to turn into the late hours of the night and it was time to get to bed. We let Lily wash herself a bit in our bathroom. It took around an hour to get out of the house for she didn’t want to leave. Eventually when it was time to go, my roommate gave her a blanket, and I gave her some more food. I walked her out to the spot in the complex where she had built her shelter. We prayed and we went our separate ways. I told her I would check on her in the morning.
As I walked back to our apartment, I was stick awestruck but everything that had happened to her. It was still surreal for me to even imagine what life would be like without a home, on the streets left to the elements, where the government is out to get you and the strangers you meet could attack you. A life far from family, where home is the people you meet, for there is no building. Moving from one place to the next, praying that God will provide your next meal in some way, trying to reach at things that are good, unable to escape the past as demons haunt you when you sleep. There is more to her story that she told us that I am not going to tell as there is more to her story that is forgotten by most, left on the wayside. But God sees all of us in every moment, knows who we are and who we are to be, and watches out for us, placing people to walk in step with His will, knowing some will and other won’t, always loving, teaching us to do the same.
The first step of restoration is to refer to them by their name, the second, to build on something good, and the third, is to let them fly. We didn’t get to build on much with Lily, but we did get to build on something. We never got to see her fly.
The next morning I made her a bagel and walked out to the small shelter she had made. She wasn’t there, so I left the bagel for her. Maybe she would know that it was from me or maybe she was already on to the next memory. I don’t really have any way of knowing.
To allow others to change you is to grow. To allow others to change you is to open up, to be vulnerable: to get hurt. The people we serve are going to break our hearts, in more ways than one. The situations they are going through will hurt us, secondhand trauma some call it, and in turn, most will do something that hurts us, whether it’s steal or lie or make fun of or gossip or physically hurt. Lily never did any of the latter to us, and so some of the people we meet never do. Allowing her to change us was the best decision we could have made. Invite people in, get to know them, give, and allow them to give back. Life works better that way.
As I walked back to my apartment, I dreamed over the world she described just before she left our apartment. She dreamed of a world where every neighborhood knew of the homeless in the neighborhood and they all took turns taking care of them so the homeless were never hungry or thirsty, where they always felt loved. And nobody would want to be the homeless person because they are homeless, but for the person who is the homeless person, it would be alright. And people would be proud of them and say things like “that’s my homeless person” and “I want to be the first to serve them” and the homeless person would feel a part of a community.
In the story she described, there was no movement out of homelessness, there was just a state of being, content in who they were, and loved by those around them. There were people who gave because of who they are and reality flipped over as the earth turned on its axis. The tides that flowed along the shore, moving in and out, going somewhere but always receding, slowly carving its way into the sand, embodied the change that had taken place over the years.
And it’s the small people doing the small things every day, accepting the slowness of change, moving with the heartbeat of those around them, these are the people that help turn that dream into a reality.
And are they good? Many would say they are.
Knocks on the Door
It started with just a knock on the door.
It was fairly common to get knocks on the door, living at the Care Fresno site. The kids knew where we lived and they knew that they would get a positive response from us. We got multiple knocks a day. Some students wanted to talk, others just wanted a snack, and on occasion, we got a student who really needed us. Maybe they were running from something or maybe something traumatic happened. Whatever it was, we were there.
This particular student on this particular day just wanted me to give him and his mom a ride to the store. I thought about it for a quick second. The store was within walking distance.
Did they really need a ride? I thought to myself.
I decided it would be a good opportunity to get to know the family more and I wasn't doing anything, so I took them up on the offer. The trip ended up taking longer than I thought it would, but I did get to know the family a little better.
A few days passed, and the student came knocking on the door again. This time his family needed a ride to the store to get money. I had work I needed to get done, but I figured since they needed the money to buy basic things, I should give them a ride. But again, the store was within walking distance.
Did they really need the ride?
I gave them the ride and I got a little upset when they took longer than I thought at the store. I kept my feelings inside. It was the right thing to do, right? I should feel joyful. Maybe they won't need rides after this. Maybe this was the last time.
The family started to ask me for rides multiple times a week. I stopped looking forward to getting knocks on the door and phone calls from the family. It felt like they always needed something and like they came at the most inconvenient times. The truth is, we all always need something.
I started asking questions in my head. Didn't they know I had a life too? When were they going to figure out how to get the resources they needed to go places? Why don't they ever just stop by to say hello and ask how I'm doing? Isn't taking them and serving the right thing to do? Isn't living a life of service supposed to give me joy?
I decided some of their requests weren't worth it for me, and I started to say no. Then they said they would pay me a few bucks in gas money to take them and I took them again. After a few more weeks, I started to say no to the money too.
I took a step back to reflect on why I was growing bitter towards this family. I remembered something a mentor of mine had told me. He said when we are walking in the spirit and creating space to rest, then we won't burn out. He was talking about walking in step with the Holy Spirit. I realized I hadn't been seeking the Lord's guidance through this process and I hadn't been spacing out my time to give myself rest.
I communicated with the family that I didn't just want to be the guy who gave them rides. I wanted to be their friend and invest in the lives of their kids. They didn't know what to say to that. I started hanging out with their kids more and got them plugged in to my teen group. I started having better conversations with the mom and other family members. They opened up about some of the problems they were facing. I don't have many answers to their problems. I just listened to them.
So what is the right thing to do? Should we help the family and give them a ride or say no? There isn't really a straight answer for it. I can tell you this. When we seek the Lord's guidance and listen to the Holy Spirit, then He will show us what to do. It may just be a little tug on our hearts. I can also tell you when we lose the ability to say "no", we become drained. But when we have the ability to say no and choose to say yes with confidence and joy, then our service becomes refreshing and enjoyable. Remember to go deeper in conversation and be open to listening to the people you serve.
Boundaries are difficult, especially when people have need and are relying on you. When we establish boundaries, we can serve with a fuller heart. The students we serve will push out boundaries whether it is with material things or emotional things or with our time. By setting firm and consistent boundaries, we communicate with them how to develop trust with us, and by doing so, teach them how to set similar boundaries. Though it may be difficult at first, the students will learn and grow. The relationship will deepen and you both will find joy in the process.
I'd like to say that I worked all my boundaries out with the family and I never get tired of them calling me, but I haven't yet. I work through it every week. In prayer, listening to the Spirit, the Lord prompts me on what to do.
Somewhere in the back of mind, I hope that one day the family will get the means to get a car. Then they'll call me and ask me if I need a ride and bless me in that way.
I have been blessed so much by them already.
Lying About Grades
It took us a long time to get the youth to sit down.
It was one of those days where everyone had lots of energy and couldn't focus on their homework. I told the students that if they finished their homework, they could go upstairs to read for a bit. I had decided to sit with a few of the students and read with them.
I noticed the first few read slowly through the sentences. I wondered if they were on their grade level or not and also what a student at their grade level should be reading at. One of the students read much faster and more elegantly than the others. I commented on it, telling him that he is a good reader. I was attempting to build a positive culture around reading.
A few weeks later that student ran up to me to show me his report card. I looked and saw that he had all A's. I congratulated him, but as I went to give him his report card back I noticed he had changed a few of the grades. He did it very well, so I didn't notice the changes in grades the first time I looked. I asked to see his grades on his phone. Most of the students know how to pull up their grades online. He wouldn't show me and told me he already showed me his grades. I commented on how he changed his grades.
Why would he lie about something like that to me? I thought.
Maybe it is because he knew I valued performing well academically. I decided to work with the student a little more and show him that he is smart enough to achieve if he puts the time and effort into it. Eventually he got his grades up for real and I took him out to eat food.
Students love showing us their grades, even if they aren't very good. I have had students slip their report cards underneath my door before, communicating that they are smart and have what it takes. I even had a student with all F's excited tell me that he got one of them up to a D. Celebrating the small victories and taking those small steps helps us grow.
Encourage to student you mentor academically. He or she will see what you value and will want to model that. Just make sure you are modelling something good.
Our (Seemingly Unlikely) Top Math Student
The door slammed and everyone in the room looked over.
It seemed like a normal day at program up until then. One of our students had gotten upset about something and then proceeded to slam the door.
As everyone was looking over, he decided to cuss, spit on the door, and walk away. One of our volunteers went outside to follow him and try to talk to him. The rest of us went back to our normal day at after school program.
If you didn't know the student and didn't know the context, if this incident was completely isolated, then you may have thought a few things. Maybe you thought, well this student must be angry. Maybe you thought he was a bad kid and needs to be disciplined. You might think that he was just having a bad day. You may have looked further into his family background and wondered, "I wonder what it is like at home for him or I wonder if there was anything in the past that led to this reaction." These are healthy thoughts and can move us closer towards understanding trauma.
This student in particular was special needs, came from a very poor family, and wasn't fed a balanced meal. His father was in and out of prison for violent behavior and his mother was doing what she could to provide. He ran around the neighborhood when he wasn't in school unsupervised. There was trauma in his life and he reacted because of it.
Scientists have found that something changes in the brain when one goes through trauma. The brain goes into "survival mode" and the child may overreact to a normal occurrence such as our student here who cussed, slammed the door, and spit on the door. Understanding how this happens and why can better help us care for our kids.
Here at Care Fresno we don't believe there are bad kids, just good kids who may make bad choices. Some of these choices might be a response to the environment a child grew up in.
We started to invest in this student's life both outside of program and during program. We talked to his mom and started to share positive things he was doing at program. We told him many positive things as well, but we were still firm when he did something wrong. We would explain just what it was he did wrong.
After the time and care put in by the team to build a healthy relationship with this student, we saw growth. He went from yelling and slamming doors at program, sometimes multiple times a week, to not having an incident in months. And he eventually became our top student for math hours.
This just shows how understanding his trauma, caring for him, building relationship, sharing positive things with both him and his mom, being firm, and seeing him grow made the difference. We hope that you can make the difference as well in your youth's life, whether they come from a traumatic background or not.
Odds are, you probably are already making the difference.
From an F to a D
"I just want to work at this restaurant for the rest of my life."
We were talking about what this high school student wanted to do with his life. It kind of shocked me that he didn't have any other aspirations. I asked him if he enjoyed working there and he said sometimes. Then I asked if he ever wanted to do anything else and he said that he didn't.
This student was being raised by a single mom and had made some bad choices in his life that got him an ankle monitor. He had been working at a soul food restaurant downtown that his family owned and was pretty successful there. He moved up to become someone who had to tell people they were fired which he didn't enjoy.
I found out that this student had straight F's in his class and was meeting with a counselor to discuss his future. It seemed like there wasn't much going for him and he didn't have many, if any, healthy role models in his life. I was starting to understand his career choices.
This is true for many of the kids that we have worked with. They don't think they can have a successful career either because nobody in their family does or nobody believes in them or they just don't know how to. We as mentors can help our students imagine a better future and have bigger aspirations.
This student always felt like he had to be someone else. He felt pressure from his friend group to make bad decisions. I didn't feel like I met the real him until one day he came over to get some food, like he normally did. I invited him in to chat and hangout. I told his mom he was over. He turned on a show that looked like it was for little kids and started laughing and joking around. He no longer put on the tough exterior that he normally wore. He was just a silly kid, having fun. Maybe all the pressures in his life got to him, and for some reason, he felt safe here, and acted like himself.
I was driving to work one day and I saw him walking on the sidewalk. I decided to give him a ride the rest of the way to school. He told me about all the things that were happening in his life. And then he told me, with a smile, that he had gotten one of his F's up to a D.
And so maybe that's the first step.
“You did a good thing” is part of our chant for the year. My friend got it from a Tik-Tok she saw. We’ll talk more about it later in this post.
God really provided for us this year. In a time of isolation and separation, my team went to work these past few months and managed to build an enthusiastic, diverse, and talented team to serve under-resourced communities in Fresno this year. From friend recommendations, to a pastor sending someone our way, to people moving from out of town, to a guy one of our team members just met, we found people from all sorts of places. We have people who have been working with youth for years to people who are just starting out from different ethnicities and different denominations, some single, some married, one with kids on the way. Diversity can bring us together and help us grow or tear us apart because of our differences. So far it has brought us together and we pray this continues. We all serve the same God and have the same mission. This brings us together.
I had challenged the last team to finish strong, and as a whole, they did. Despite being limited to only six youth max in a room due to regulations and social distancing procedures and masks, we put on a camp at the Courtyard apartment that reached over 30 youth. The team came together with a skit video, games, message, and more. After a season of online programs, it was nice to finally have a chance to see the kids’ faces in person again. Before the camp, the team did everything they could to reach these kids such as Zoom calls, letters on the door, food giveaways, fruit handouts, packets, arts and crafts for youth to do, and more. But now, we had the chance to come together and put on something for the community, and the team really had a chance to shine.
We had our going away dinner for the team with delicious food, certificates, and speeches. We as a staff are proud of them for finishing the year strong. Some had been in our program for two years, three years, one person had been in it six years. We loved having them and seeing them serve these communities, but there is a time for people to move on, whether it is to get married, start a career, finish school, or move to a different ministry. Goodbyes are hard, but necessary. They did a good thing and now it is time for them to do more good things in other places.
Three team members decided to return and we gathered up 14 new team members at 4 new locations this year (with a potential fifth in January). God has continued to bless us during a difficult time. I made everyone get tested for COVID and we headed up to Shaver for our Fall Retreat kickoff.
It was a fun time of bonding, learning, training, casting vision, and prayer. It was also a time of eating lots of food, acting out whacky skits, jumping off big rocks at the lake, wrestling matches, fun hikes, crazy board games, and good chats. Everyone seemed to enjoy it and when everyone prayed on our last day, I knew we were ready to start the year.
The year of transition, is what I’m calling it. From a strong, stable team these last three years with a few additions to a new, also strong, time will tell if they are a stable team this year. With four new locations and a whole new way of doing program social distanced-style. The team will continue to meet youth (with masks on), get youth connected to school online, and prepare a safe space for the youth to get tutored and engage in fun games, mindfulness, and bible study. I told the new team that they joined in one of the most difficult seasons in Care Fresno. They didn’t seem phased.
We have a few new community partners which I’ll talk more about in future blog posts.
You are probably wondering what “you did a good thing” has anything to do with any of this. If there is one thing I learned in the last four years of doing ministry in high-crime neighborhoods, it is that it is hard and we need constant encouragement. My prayer is that this team will become a family that supports each other, and that we’ll be able to build a support network to help support us.
Our new chant involves some standing up, saying something good they did last week - it could be anything from helping tutor a youth to talking to a parent to buying someone food to sharing about Jesus to encouraging a roommate, just has to be something good - and then everyone responds with, “You did a good thing” and a clap. Then someone else goes and everyone responds with “You did a really good thing” and two claps. Then two reallys and three claps and so on, you get it now. Then at the end, we all cheer and someone says “that is the sound that Jesus makes when we enter heaven, having served him.”
And after that person said that someone said, “That could be the sound he is making right now.”
I hope and pray that we can honor God with our work this year. I know God is encouraging us along the way, through every hard thing and every challenge. And there will be challenges. God gives us all good things so that we can give to others.
And I hope at the end of it all, he’ll say,
“You did a good thing.”
“This place where you are right now, God circled on a map for you.” - Hafiz
I first heard this quote in 2010 while I was in college, during a time when I was preparing for and dreaming of becoming an international missionary. However, instead of some far-off land, God sent me to Fresno, my birthplace. I joined Care Fresno in 2014 with a desire to learn about urban missions and take what I learned elsewhere, but I ended up learning concepts and tools that I am applying to continued service in Fresno.
As one Mission Care year ends and another begins, I wanted to share a few thoughts and tips for new Mission Care team members (and worth repeating to returners), thoughts that are not my original concepts but that I hope will guide others and myself in ongoing work and ministry:
Enter the community in which you are placed with a learner’s posture; you don’t know the neighborhood and what it has or needs better than the people who have been here and there is a lot they can teach you if you are willing to learn. You are not bringing God to the neighborhood; God is everywhere, so He is already here. Look for where God is already at work, for the assets and strengths of the community rather than for signs of poverty and crime, and join God in what He is doing. At the same time, be open to learning about systemic injustice and how the history of this city has influenced the way your neighborhood is today, including poverty and crime rates. Spend time with kids outside of program hours. Get to know their parents and see yourself as here to support parents, not rival them. Love the families as if they were your own family. Invest in relationships with the Mission Care team members. Work on your relationship with God and develop healthy habits because Mission Care can be challenging. Every year I spent with Care Fresno was hard, and each year was harder than the year before it. Give yourself space to process what you’re going through and learning, and find wise counsel to talk you through it.
Through my time with Care Fresno, I’ve grown in my relationship with God and gained a better understanding of what it means to love my neighbor and the marginalized. I’ve caught a glimpse of God’s heart for justice and righteousness. I’ve learned to live in community and walk alongside people whose stories are different from mine. I’ve learned about other cultures and more about my own cultural background. I’ve seen how God has channeled my passions and skillset to serve Him from my birthplace rather than overseas.
This past weekend, I moved out of my Care Fresno apartment and said goodbye to this place that has been my home for half a decade (in addition to my year at Summer Park apartments). I’m looking forward to where God will lead me next, that place He has already prepared and circled on a map for me. While I intend to maintain some contact with those with whom I’ve built relationships, I am saying goodbye to this season of life as a Mission Care Resident. I’m engaged to be married and my soon-to-be husband and I hope to incorporate what we have learned through Care Fresno to wherever we live as we serve our community through church, work, and neighborhood engagement together.
I’ve been told that I’m a good-byer; I value closure and goodbyes. If you have been reading my blog posts, that includes you. Thank you so much for being on this journey with me and for caring about what God is doing in neighborhoods through Care Fresno and in my life. May you engage a little deeper in the contexts in which God has placed you, and may you be open to pursuing God’s shalom in the new places and relationships to which God may call you.
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” - Ephesians 3:20-21
In mid-March, so much of life felt like it came to a screeching halt in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. As a society, so many things have changed. For Care Fresno, after school programs ceased with the Fresno shelter-in-place order, as did our Mission Care classes, though both later resumed via Zoom. While we were suddenly no longer running a physical program in our neighborhood, my roommate and I continued to physically live in our apartment at a Care Fresno program site.
I have been working from home and spending more time at my apartment under the shelter in place ordinance. I’ve been in my apartment during times when other activities would previously have had me elsewhere. I’ve been able to listen to the birds, observe my neighbors, and literally and metaphorically smell the flowers. I’ve taken more walks around my neighborhood and talked with my neighbors who are also out. My pace of life has allowed me to slow down and focus on those around me instead of the next thing on my agenda.
This is a confusing time, with conflicting information, constant updates, and frequent changes to what people should or shouldn’t do. In the midst of social distancing, should I hug one of my kids who’s crying or an eager kid running up to me with a mask on? I’m no longer sure what is acceptable - not just based on what the government or health officials say but based on my neighbors and families’ levels of comfort, and my own comfort levels are also in flux.
My roommate and I have brought food, fruit, and books to the homes of families we know. We’ve been able to regularly check in with our neighbors to see how they’re doing, provide conversation, and listen to them share how the coronavirus is affecting them. Some families are excited to have social interactions and some are nervous and want to keep the conversations short, with one putting on a mask or gloves before opening the door. Through all of this, we continue to do life alongside our neighbors, sheltered in place in the same complex as them, navigating this season together. To be sure, the coronavirus is affecting me differently than it is my neighbors, but I view this time as an opportunity for me to show that I am still present and care in the midst of other areas of uncertainty. Though the methods may change, being a good neighbor should never be cancelled.
In a way, this is what Care Fresno prepares its Mission Care Residents for: living in community and loving neighbors beyond the parameters of any given program, because it’s about building relationships, not running programs. Hopefully, each of us emerge from this shelter in place a little better at loving our neighbors.