The night air was thin. It was cold. As we walked into the subway, I could once again feel my fingers that covered with gloves. As I looked around, there were several people sitting in the corners of the subway entrance, trying their best to stay warm despite seeing their breath in the night air. Tonight is another “code blue” night. Churches in the city would be opening their doors tonight to allow the homeless to sleep on the floors. Many would find a dumpster tonight in hopes that the trash would keep them warm for the night.
The Subway was well lit. There were many people who were already there, trying to keep warm. The smell in the air was horrendous. I cannot even describe the amount of different horrid smells filled the area in which we were setting up. There was at least three times where I thought I would throw up. “At least it wasn’t hot,” I thought to myself. The conditions for which we were serving the poor were less than adequate but we always seem to make due.
As we opened up for business, people came from all corners of the subway. The smell intensified as people who had not showered for several weeks made their way to receive coffee and a bag lunch. For a moment, I had to back up and take a moment to gather myself. After a moment, I saw my friend, Larry. Larry was wearing an army camouflage winter coat and a pair of skintight sweat pants. His skin was ashy due to the night air but he had a smile on his face, which made me feel like crap because I complain way too much. He told me that he was getting ready to move to New York and live with his family there. There would also be a job for him that would help him get back on his feet. I could tell that the night air had an effect on Larry. His eyes looked dry yet tears formed and dropped down his face. As he prepared to leave, he gave me a hug.
When I turned around, I found a source of smell that was beyond what I had experienced. As I looked for the root cause of this smell, I saw “gut-man” with his large, black, athletic bag, filled with a lot of stuff and apparently was very heavy for him to carry. As I walked nearer to him, I realized that he was the source of a smell I cannot even come close to describing. I prayed that God would help me get beyond the smell and talk to him for a little.
He was wearing a sweatshirt that smelled of alcohol and mold. He was unshaven and looked tired. I later figured out that he was both drunk and high, having smoked several joints and drinking more alcohol than remembered drinking. He could never look me in the eyes, which bothered me because I like to have eye contact with people. As we talked, he told me that a truck while delivering phone books to different places around the city hit him. He was in the hospital for a long period of time, healing and receiving a much-needed assistance. It was only recently “gut-man” got out and was walking. He limped around as he met up with people and drank away his pain. That is, after all why “gut-man” drank. He drank and smokes joints so that he could forget the loss of his family and relationship with a girl he loved.
After talking to him for a little, we found out that there was a group of people from some group called “Food not Bombs” around the corner that was giving out free vegetarian food to those who might be interested in receiving some free food. I went over with my buddy, Otto and received some free cabbage soup. It was spicy and good. They seemed like a cool group of people. I hope I get to see them again sometime in the near future.
We finally gathered once again and prayed. Several homeless friends joined us as we prayed for them. We prayed that they would be able to remain warm in the cold weather and that God would keep them. We gathered our stuff and left. It is hard to go to the Subway and serve the homeless. I find it harder than going to Love Park because it is harder for the smell to dissipate. Despite my own agendas, I will continue to go and be challenged. If the only thing I need to get over is the smell of someone who has not had the opportunity to shower, then that would be the least of my problems I face. I am learning how to deal with it, one new smell at a tim