Miracles happen in Gilroy all the time. I witnessed a couple of
them myself this holiday season when I helped take a group of
teen-agers on a
drive-by giving adventure
in the streets of Gilroy.
Miracles happen in Gilroy all the time. I witnessed a couple of them myself this holiday season when I helped take a group of teen-agers on a “drive-by giving adventure” in the streets of Gilroy.
Alene Creager got the idea a few years ago when she was sick of hearing so many news stories about drive-by shootings. She took her children and began giving out Christmas gifts to those on the streets in need. This year she organized the event, and handed out Christmas gift bags containing warm gloves, rain ponchos, beef jerky, tangerines, thermal socks, hotel toiletries, wash cloths, band-aids, lip balm and other helpful items to the homeless in Gilroy. Local yoga instructor Debbie Waller donated a case of toothbrushes, toothpaste and dental floss. Each bag was topped by a hand-knitted neck scarf.
The Gilroy United Methodist Church youth group went out to distribute the gifts on Christmas Eve. At one point, the five youth riding in my van spotted a homeless man wheeling a shopping cart down the street at a location where we could not park the car.
Teen-ager Victoria Sanchez began anxiously saying, “Open the door, open the door!” but it wasn’t opening easily.
Finally, the van door slid open; one of the kids stuck her arm out, and the man took the bag with a grin and a thank you. We slammed the door and took off.
“It was a real drive-by. We did a real drive-by!” the kids giggled with glee.
Under a bridge in the middle of town, we gingerly stepped down an embankment and called out. A homeless man answered back.
“I’m the only one here today,” he answered when we asked if there were others down there with him. “It’s a sunny day, so they are out at the park, but I’m not feeling well. I think I’m coming down with something, so I stayed home.”
It was startling to realize that “home” to him is staying under a bridge.
When we stopped at a nearby park, the kids went up to give a gift bag to a petite homeless woman with weather-beaten skin. She gave one of the youths a hug, when this amazing thing happened. As we were walking away, one of the homeless men named Peter called out, “Wait, I want to pray with you.”
We had not identified ourselves as being from a church, but suddenly we found ourselves in a big circle –the kids, our pastor, Creager and the homeless all holding hands while a man named Peter prayed. We were surprised to hear him pray for us – for our safety and protection – and a thanksgiving for the scarves.
“I can’t believe someone took the time to make something for us,” he said with great emotion. “Someone took the time and the care to make these beautiful scarves by hand!”
What they didn’t know is the woman – she wishes to remain anonymous – who donated those scarves is fighting stage 3 breast cancer. Her mother died at Christmas last year and left a lot of yarn behind. She has been knitting scarves all year, and when she heard about the project to the homeless, she donated them all to us.
“Your words tell me my mom’s spirit was there,” she said when I told her how the scarves had warmed the hearts of so many.
It was a reminder that we’re all one family. We’re one village. And I think if there’s one thing that we learned from this holiday season, it’s the satisfaction of reaching out and helping somebody. If you just reach out and give somebody a helping hand, you can change a life. If you change a life, your own will be changed.
“Dear God, thank you,” Felix Kirchner, one of the young men on the drive-by began spontaneously praying as he was climbing back into the van. “Thank you for giving me the courage to make a difference.”
I couldn’t have said it any better.
For more, go to GilroyDispatch.com, click on the “News” tab and click on “Teraji: Making Connections.”