On my way to work this past Friday morning, I saw a homeless man dragging a blanket behind him while crossing the street at Belvedere and Union. A grown man looking down, looking beat and broken by life. I watched him as I listened to Grizzlies analysis on my AM dial while sipping warm coffee in my warm car.
What if that were me? I thought. What if I were dragging a blanket on the dirty ground?
I thought about where this guy was headed, what his day was going to be like. I’m kind of a clean freak, so I thought about how dirty his blanket was going to be later.
I’m sure a dirty blanket was the least of his concerns.
When I got to work, I was greeted by horrific and violent news out of Mali. So much pain, fear and conflict in the world these days. I looked at these poignant images by photographer Magnus Wennman of Syrian children sleeping in all sorts of different places due to displacement from their homes.
As a father of two young girls, I can’t even begin to imagine what these families are going through. How do you explain to your child that rather than sleeping in your own bed, in your own home, you are now going to be sleeping in the woods? The streets?
You do whatever it takes to keep your children safe. My heart goes out to these families.
The homeless population of Memphis isn’t so different from these beautiful child refugees, are they? They all have stories, dreams, hopes, fears and struggles, but in so many ways, they get left behind.
By many, they’re forgotten.
But Room in the Inn Memphis remembers.
Modeled after Room in the Inn Nashville, RITI Memphis provides dinner and breakfast, a shower and a warm bed for guests one night a week from November through March, the coldest winter months. Currently, there are 17 congregations in Memphis participating with RITI by hosting the homeless. To put it into perspective, RITI Nashville has more than 150 congregations.
There are so many ways you can help RITI Memphis. You can make a donation or provide meals or supplies that will help sustain guests through the night. Like to shop online? Check out RITI’s Amazon Wishlist.
Oh, and don’t forget, Giving Tuesday is December 2. This is the day when people all over the world will be giving back to the causes that are doing real good in the world. There’s no shortage of causes to support, but remember to think of the need in our very own city of Memphis. Put your hand on the pile and say, “I’m in!”
My friends Miki and her sweet daughter Janie Kathryn have put their hands on that pile. As members of the “Inn Crowd,” they make beds and get the different congregations ready for their incoming guests.
You can be like my friend Emily who runs Sunday nights at Calvary downtown. She’s so committed, she sleeps up there to make sure things run like a top.
You can be like my friend Whitney who is running all things Carpenter House downtown. The Carpenter House is basically HQ for Room in the Inn. It’s where all donations are stored, sorted and packaged for guests. Talented volunteers are still needed to finish the much-needed renovations to the building.
Then there are Lisa and Barry.
Both ministers in town, they are the mom and dad of Room in the Inn. They’re married and adorable. They both wear many hats and do whatever needs to be done. They fundraise, they host, and they recruit volunteers. They even run the shuttle that delivers folks to a warm bed and a warm meal. They are humble, patient and passionate. Their work and commitment is inspiring.
Of course, I’m leaving hundreds of other committed volunteers out, but it’s important to point out the great work that Room in the Inn is providing our homeless population.
Chances are, the man dragging the blanket has experienced the hospitality of Room in the Inn, but if he hasn’t, I’m positive he will soon.
Join Me & Leah at 3 p.m. this Saturday, Nov. 28 for a set at Shangri-La Records. Bring by items Room in the Inn could put in survival kits for the homeless. They are always in need of tube socks, new wash cloths, soap, gloves, combs, toothbrushes, toothpaste, garbage bags and individually wrapped snacks.
Jeff Hulett is the Communications Manager at the Church Health Center and co-founder of Rock for Love. He is married with two little girls and loves his city. He also plays in multiple bands including Snowglobe, Couple Skate, Me & Leah and JJ FREEZE. When it comes to puns, he likes his intended.