My Trip to Skid Row

7:27 PM Shae Wilbur 5 Comments


I have to admit.  The thought of going into one of the roughest neighborhoods in LA freaked me the heck out. 

Today's event was put together by my friend's charity - Two Cents Project.  It's made up of a small group of friends traveling the US with the sole purpose of loving the poorest of poor in the cities they visit, and telling their stories.

When my friend Briauna invited me to take part in this outreach, I jumped at the opportunity without giving it much thought.  This morning the reality set it.  I was fearful, nervous, and anxious about what the day would bring, but I knew that I couldn't let that stop me.  


We would all meet down on Skid Row, set up a table, hand out snacks, play music, paint nails, and just hang with the residents there.  It's funny because I set out today with the mindset of "we're going down to Skid Row to bless people, to love on them, and to encourage them," which is all fine and great, however, after spending literally all day chatting with the people there and hearing their stories I am the one who left blessed, encouraged and forever changed.

I heard so many stories today.  From a guy who grew up living in tents on the streets, to a published author who was down on his luck and homeless for the past 6 months.  What moved me most was what I saw in their eyes.  Not darkness, or even sadness... but hope.  Literally we were standing on what the locals there called "the most dangerous street in Skid Row" and here I was being blown away by the love that THEY were showing ME!  

Proverbs 31:8-9 says "Speak up for those who can not speak for themselves."  These are a few of the stories from today that left me completely changed.

Meet Theresa.  


A mother of 7, grandmother of 7, and very well acquainted with the streets of Skid Row.  She seemed to know everyone that passed us by.  We chatted, we snacked, and painted nails as she told me about her life.   She was so proud of her kids - 4 of which are currently attending college.  "Spread joy" - that was her slogan.  Joy in the midst of her troubles, no matter what.  Why?  Because that's how God's love is shown.  "Joy and love cast out hate," she said, "hate can't live where love lives.  So I chose joy." 

Meet Zakia.  



10 years old, aspiring dancer, teacher and doctor.  This little girl had a strength and courage that I saw within the first 5 minutes of knowing her.  "Can I paint your nails?" I asked her as she came down the street, curious as to what we were doing there..."Can I paint YOURS?" she said back to me... and this was the result: 



Zakia stuck around all day, playing music with us, dancing, singing, and eating lots of popsicles.  Playing on the streets of skid row is a daily occurrence for her as her mom hung out in the park nearby.   There was not one ounce of fear in this child's eyes. The fact that she was pretty much left to roam around the neighborhood didn't phase her one bit.  "You're a strong girl aren't you?" I said to her.  "Yeah... I had to toughen up.  My mom said I would act too much like a little baby so I had to learn how to be tough."  UGHHHH so heart wrenching to hear from this precious spunky girl. All she wanted was a big sis.  Someone to watch her silly dance moves, to play with her hair, and to listen to her stories from school.  I feel like I gained a little sister today.

Meet Sonia.  


Her street name is "Lonely" but after talking to her, I came to realize she is anything BUT.  Sonia is a former drug addict, current Jesus lover and mother of 6 - 3 children by birth and 3 adopted.   I spent a couple hours with her and still felt like it wasn't long enough.  No doubt she lived a rough life.... but all that came out of her mouth was praise to God for all He has brought her through.  She was anything BUT lonely, as the Lord has truly been her best friend.   In God We Trust was tattooed across her chest as a reminder of where she's been, and how far she has come.  

She walks the streets with her adorable dog (WHICH YOU KNOW I FREAKED OUT OVERRRR), and her mission is to love those around her.  "So many people out here are protective of their stuff, because it's all they have.  But I like to bring my dog down here and just let other people hold him..."  at this point she passed her pup to a woman who was deaf and happened to be walking by. The woman seemed surprised to be handed the dog and suddenly a HUGE SMILE came across her face...  "see the smile that it puts on her face," Sonia said to me, "that's priceless."  What a beautiful mission - to make people smile.  Such a simple concept but wow, so powerful.  
 
The Bible talks about those who are poor being rich in faith (James 2:5), and that verse has such a tangible meaning to me after today.  I feel like I had the opportunity to meet some of God's greatest treasures.  Their names will not be forgotten, nor their stories.  My prayers for Theresa - that God will continue to protect her children and provide for them as they further their education.  My prayers for Zakia - that her sweet spirit will not be overshadowed by her surroundings but that God will continue to shine through her.  My prayers for Sonia - that she will be blessed beyond belief for her faithfulness to God, and that her entire family will come to know the love of the Lord.  Gosh, even just writing this I wish I could be back down there to hug her once more.  She was so special.  

This blog can't even begin to scratch the surface of the depth of what I experienced today, but I hope that these stories encourage and inspire you, just as they have for me.    So often it's not physical things that people are truly in need of.  It's a moment of time... a compassionate ear... someone who will stop to listen. 

So thankful that I had the opportunity to be a part of Two Cents Project's outreach today.  What a world changing group of people.  If you would like to be a part of one of their upcoming events as they travel across the country, check out their website (linked above) and Facebook page.

The photos below tell a bit more of today's story.  All pictures were taken by @JonVolk.

 




Isaiah 61:1 // The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.
 

5 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing your experience with us. I work with battered women on their journey to recovery and they also have faith and hope as you described. Many of the people I have served have blessed me beyond words. Volunteering has become a life long part of who I am now. I hope others are inspired to look at their communities through a different lens.

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    1. Wow, that's awesome to hear what you're doing!!! It seems that the more you give, the more you want to give, and I right? It's like a chain reaction... I keep thinking that I want to go down there again and do more!

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  2. Shae, this was outstanding! your best work, the ultimate vocation is blessing and serving. Just bringing it to the forefront here is wonderful. If I travel to LA, I want to help. God bless you, dear one

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    1. Just now seeing your comment here Barri. Thanks so much for taking the time to respond! :) It really was a magical day. :)

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