Articles

>"Not many black people in Seattle"

In family, Friends, Fun on August 27, 2007 by mstevensrev

>Our time in Oakland, CA was a time of great growth for both Karin and I culturally. Living in a historic black city as a white person will educate you. Most of our experiences in church life there were difficult. The stories didn’t end up being wrapped in a bow with a happy ending like I often expect them too, perhaps I watch too many After School Specials as a kid. This weekend we have been bless with the visit of a friend, the last person in the world we would expect to have visited us, and are able to see that her story is going in an entirely different and wonderful directions. Perhaps there is hope for the eternal optimist, an after school special can come true.

Our church was located on Grand Ave. in Oakland a pretty cool road that at one point wraps around Lake Merritt, but the north end of it is a business district and our church was just north of the business district. The two closest shops near us were Safeway and Ace Hardware. On a regular basis outside each of these establishment there would be someone selling a Street Spirit, in SF it is Street Sheet, and in Seattle they are call Real Change, but they are all the same. $1 newspapers people who are homeless sell with a permit. So in our time in Oakland, CA our family got to know one of these people really well, Dee.

Now I am taking too much credit. I would say hi to Dee, or once in awhile buy her something. She loves Cranberry Juice Cocktail. It was actually Karin though who really began to connect with her. The developed a friendship, through Karin chatting with her, but also Dee’s love of kids and affection for Aidyn. Dee ended up attending our church and I met with her to try to develop a plan to help her find a place to live and work on some addiction issues. For most of our time there there really wasn’t much new happening with Dee. Multiple physical issues, occasionally missing appointments we would set, seasonal attendance to church, and ultimately her addiction had a hard grasp on her life. Throughout all of it our family would have great interactions with Dee.

One of the funniest had to to with Dee knowing that she was not going to make it to church one week and wanting to make sure that her tithe money made it. So she tried to give it to Karin outside of the Safeway store. Already it was uncomfortable for Karin to be handed money from someone who was homeless, but on top of that the Oakland Fire Department was there sitting their engine looking down at this white woman wrestling over money with this homeless lady. Needless to say when Karin still tells me the story I crack up.

The most touch part of our relationship with Dee came down to how much she and Aidyn love each other. Aidyn would regularly take gifts to Dee, but every time Dee saw Aidyn she would give her at least one banana. It was great as a parent to talk with my daughter about generosity and how special that banana really was because Dee didn’t have much and yet she gave what little she had to those she loves. Aidyn got it. The funny part is Dee hates banana’s. And I guess that was an easy thing for people coming out of a grocery store to give someone. They just rip off one of their bananas as they walk out to their car. Even then since being in Seattle we got a card from Dee and there was $5 for Aidyn, her “banana money”.

Just before we left Oakland things with Dee did take a dramatic turn and it was for the worst. Our last few connections with Dee were in psychiatric hospitals. Without going into the details, things just had piled up for Dee and it broke her. Unlike most of what I hear of people experiences in state run facilities like this, we were able to make good connections with staff, and did what we could to make sure Dee would have the best care. Karin also made one trip where she and Dee were able to go out shopping and pick up some real basic needs, and some just for fun, but there were things that got lost in the break down.

Then we left. After arriving in Seattle we would get regular phone calls and messages from Dee and it was clear that she was doing better and we were very excited. Again she sent the wonderful card to Aidyn and we were hopeful for what was happening in her life. And then she began to mention leaving Oakland moving back East closer to family, and before she did it she was going to make a stop in Seattle. Last Thursday night Dee made it to Seattle…

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