Hosts Day 29
Good Shepherd Alliance
The original overnight site had to cancel at the last minute, and after much scurrying about, our intrepid organizers came up with yet another miracle. Through the Church of the Brethren we were linked up with The Good Shepherd Alliance Inc., a non-profit organization established for the purpose of providing housing and food on a temporary basis for people in crisis, and although our group isn't exactly like their normal clientele, the 30 or so people in our walking group would consider it a crisis if they didn't have any food or a place to stay this night. We were directed to the drop - in center at 37 Sycolin Road, a tidy, clean little house in a residential section of Leesburg, and since our contact hadn't arrived yet to let us into the house, the runners/walkers were soon laying out bedrolls in the spacious yard for a nap before supper. Our contact person, Janice King, director of social services for the center, came to let us into the house, and soon the least exhausted members of the group were partaking of showers, or jumping on the computers to check emails or conduct the ongoing business of setting up future contacts. Most of us hadn't stopped to check out what kind of organization had so graciously extended their hospitality. It wasn't long before other supporters of Good Shepherd were carrying boxes of food onto the building as they smilingly nodded at the strangers in their midst.
As one of the elders of the walk, on those rare weekend dashes when I am able to be with the group, I always try to meet our hosts and convey our heartfelt thanks and appreciation to them. I also, as a steward of peacehq, intend to collect their stories for the web site, as we choose to honor all who honor us by helping to further our efforts to "get down the road". Once I met the people involved in Good Shepherd, I began to realize in conjunction with the other stewards, that we had a story worthy of expanding into a tale of its own, rather than a simple tribute. The first sign, to me, was the motto on Janice's business card, which said "providing unconditional love to those in need...". Since I am always on the lookout for signs, symbols, omens and such, this motto got my pulse rate up a little, and I began to think that another segment of "hope is alive in the world" might be in the works. This motto caught my attention because we who engage in these types of walking and running events have expressed many times that the essence of our experience "on the road" is unconditional love expressed through what we call Footprayers. We say "every mile a ceremony, every step a prayer", and I believe the majority of us accept this as one of our core values. We seemed to again have been brought to our brothers and sisters.
The next indication that these people at Good Shepherd walked the walk as well as talked the talk was meeting board chairperson, Joy Trickett, whose favotite motto and scriptural passage is "Jesus said, for I was hungry and you gave me somthing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in" (Matt. 25:35). They certainly lived by that passage in how they treated the 30 plus strangers, to them, in our group. These remarkable people were 2 for 2 so far in their assistance to us. The thing that stood out in my mind and heart about Joy Trickett (a long term,tireless worker for aiding and building up the needy) was the fact that her name perfectly described the emotion she effortlessly spread everywhere she went, as she met and conversed with the walkers and runners that inhabited her center. She seemed to intuitively sense the common thread of unconditional Love that permeats our group effort.
My view of what we were encountering at Good Shepherd Alliance expanded again when I met Mark Gunderman, and was able to spend some time listening to his story of what they were trying to accomplish, and why and how. Mark is a full time engineering analyst at Lockheed - Martin, who devotes much of his free time to the Good Shepherd. As he explained the extent of their $600,000.00 per year mission to further the healing and rebuilding of many lives in some form of crises, managed primarily through the volunteer efforts of many like himself, I was somewhat overwhelmed by their level of committment. A committment I recognize within our efforts at Peacehq, Footprints for Peace, OREPA, The International Peace Pilgrimage, Nipponzan - Myohoji, and others who sponsor and support our walking/running events to further peace, justice, and healing of Mother Earth and humanity. I have for sometime been aware of the need for a resurgence by people of Faith to accept the challenge and stewardship necessary to facilitate positive change in our modern and troubled world. Just as meeting the Catholic bishop who had brought 80 of the faithful from Mich. to the Y 12 facility in Oak Ridge, Tenn. for the Hiroshima day rally gave me hope, meeting Mark, Joy, Janice, and their crew also fanned the embers of hope in my heart into full blown flames . Mark was explaining to me that Leesburg is the fastest developing and one of the wealthiest communities in America, because of this not everyone in town appreciates what they are doing. Some even try to maintain that Good Shepherd Alliance draws homeless prople to Leesburg, and that they should farm them out to outlying townships. Marks response is that since the per capita income is very high in Leesburg, the community has a responsibility to do more than other less affluent places. That leads me to the title of this story and the final puzzle piece of the "hope is alive" puzzle for another encounter with extraordinary people. When Mark expressed the sentiment that they needed to do more, I responded with Jesus teaching that the first shall be last and the last shall be first. Without hesitation, Mark quoted the scripture "He who is greatest among you shall be your servant; whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted." Matt 23:11. I knew with certainty in that moment that we were exactly where we were supposed to be, doing exactly what we were supposed to do, and I believe I also saw the same conviction and recognition on Marks face. I would like to express my heart felt thanks for the unconditional love given to the stop the bombs walkers by The Good Shepherd Alliance, commend you all on the way you live up to your credo's (even Janice was moved to stay the night with our group at the drop in center), and encourage you to continue to do the magnificent and important work that you do! I hope to see you all again sometime, somewhere down the road.
It is said that hope springs eternal from the heart of mankind, well it is a good thing it does, because without it we would probably get despondent and do nothing! It is the remarkable people we meet along the way on our cross country journeys that continue to inspire the hope in our hearts, and gives us the energy to continue in our mission of moving prayer and healing ,fortified by our sweat sacrifice, for Mother Earth and humanity. I felt that since our group is such a diverse group of relatively different looking people this childs drawing pretty much sums up what we are all about! I hope you have enjoyed this story and will support The Good Shepherd Alliance whether you live in Leesburg or not, if there were more remarkable people such as these, the world would surely be a better place indeed!
Til the AM!
Stewards of Peacehq
Who Are The Homeless
Meet Joy Trickett
Meet Janice "Road Mom" King