Thursday, October 27, 2011

Faith Works 10-29

Faith Works 10-29-11

Jeff Gill


I am homeless



I am homeless.


I am also blessed to have a place to live; some might say "that is Jeff's house," and they aren't entirely wrong. My wife makes more than I do, so the whole question of how we saved the down payment over the years past and who covers the mortgage payments each month we will draw the gentle shroud of "community property" over.


For the Lovely Wife and myself, there is the fact that the bank which holds the mortgage owns more of it than we do. Can we sell it for what we paid for it? Maybe, probably not. If we could sell Sycamore Lodge, we'd be able to pay off the mortgage, but then we wouldn't have a home, would we? We are at least thankful that we're not, in the all-too-current phrase, underwater.


There are a few in the neighborhood who know it as the "BLANK house," blank being the family who lived here before us, and who sold it into our care. When we leave, someday, as we all must, it will likely be "the Gill house" for many years across the early ownership of the next occupants. Hope they don't mind.


And my family, my parents, still own the home I grew up in, and live there, at least for a chunk of the year that isn't ice-encrusted blown down off of Lake Michigan. That's unusual among my peers, I know. I can call the phone number I learned for kindergarten, and it still rings to a place where people who know me pick up. But my dad is starting to make noises about stairs, and downsizing, and . . .


I am homeless. We all are, in a way, because the place we call home is not certain and secure in any ultimate sense. Odd occasions of chance and ill fortune, a shift in the land itself, and my place is . . . not assured. There's a historic home near me, with many indirect connections that I still feel as personal, going back to the very first Anglo settlers of Licking County, over 200 years of history. But the soggy ground is shifting, and hand-made bricks have their weaknesses after a couple of centuries, plus a doorway cut into a foundation wall perhaps a century ago turns out, in the long run, not to have been the best of ideas. This – this landmark, a stable point in a changing village, is very likely soon to be no more, only a photograph, and a fading set of memories.


We are all homeless. There's a saying among housing advocates that "we are all three paychecks away from being on the street." That's true for more people than will easily admit it, but I suspect there's too much room for people to excuse themselves from such an analogy. I'd say it's true right now: we are homeless, in that we have a place to sleep tonight because of many factors, quite a few beyond our direct control, and the care and consideration of so very many others. I have friends who got down payments from parents, there are an assortment of mortgage interest deductions, and so on and so on. Plus that whole "three paychecks away" thing.


Why do some people miss the leap from ice floe to ice floe that we're so proud to have made safely, and instead slip into the icy water of homelessness? It may be they weren't looking closely, they might even have not taken care to lace their shoes carefully or had a bit too much to drink for warmth and lost their balance by their own fault.


No matter. I could have fallen in, and if I did, I'd want someone to reach out and pull me up onto the next stable spot, help me dry out and warm up properly, then we'd all venture on. That's what I should do.


This week you'll see the shoes set out along the edges of Courthouse Square. The Licking County Coalition for Housing will offer "Shoes on the Square" along with some signs telling stories of how particular folks (names changed) ended up in the water, if not under. Noon on Wednesday, All Souls' Day, Nov. 2, we will have a gathering at the gazebo on Courthouse Square, to reflect briefly together on what it means to help someone get back on their feet. Come join us, would you?


Then on next Sunday, Nov. 6, at 3:30 pm in the Midland Theater, just across from the gazebo in Newark, the Coalition of Care will hold their annual Gospel Celebration, which helps support their prayerful and face-to-face work with individuals and families in need around Licking County. Ticket info can be found at or likely at your own church tomorrow.


My home is somewhere on ahead, and we all will be welcome there. Let's all be willing to pause and help people get up, get moving, and head for home, finding secure stopping places along the way. Places warm and safe enough that for the time being, we can just call them "home."


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; tell him a story at or follow on Twitter @Knapsack .