Mailbag: Though I live in a well-to-do neighborhood, I have gotten to known those without shelter

A homeless man in Costa Mesa.
(File Photo)

Thanksgiving is almost upon us, as I write this from my home in a well-to-do neighborhood in Huntington Beach. My blessings are both manifest and manifold: health, work I find meaningful, comfort, the love of my spouse and the close presence of my children. Without losing sight of these remarkable gifts, my thoughts turn to the less fortunate among us, as occurs often at Thanksgiving.

Over the last few months I have volunteered with the Shower Ministry of the Community United Methodist Church, 6652 Heil Ave. I have gotten to know many of the un-housed people of Huntington Beach by name and handshake over a meal provided by the church and served on the campus of Goldenwest College.

President Tim McGrath graciously made disused shower and locker room facilities available over the last few months during construction at the church. I am personally thankful to McGrath and his staff for making these facilities available.

The people I have met and served are veterans, and they are parents. They put themselves through school, and they are seniors and neighbors, and they are lonely, and they laugh and chat and enjoy their time together for two hours on a weekday afternoon, just sitting and waiting their turn to bathe.

I have seen tears provoked in the eyes of tough men by a trivial, kind gesture on my part. I have seen a hunger for simple respect and a simple acknowledgment of existence and humanity and intellect and worth.

Recognition of our common, simple humanity is powerfully communicated by a smile, a firm handshake and a direct eye-to-eye gaze. Serving has taught me a lot about the homeless of our city. I do not relate this to establish my own good works. I am not a particularly good nor bad person. I am just as arrogant and selfish and afraid as any human being. But I am capable of learning, and I am deeply grateful for what these people have taught me.

For the first time in my half-century walking the Earth it is in grasping a hand and greeting a stranger that it is I who am no longer the stranger. In the company of the “least of these” in our city, I came to see that it is I who was the least of these.

They have seen me, looked into my eyes, known me as a friend. It is deeply moving — shocking, actually — to look into the tired, smiling eyes of my fellow humans and for the first time see Christ looking back at me.

I understand now that even with all my apparent good fortune, it was I who was the truly unfortunate one to have not received, or been able to receive, this blessing before. I have received this gift outright — undeserved — from some of the finest people I have ever met.

Galen T. Pickett
Huntington Beach

Build the new pool in Lower Castaways

As some of you have heard, we are in the midst of attempting to build a community pool here in Newport Beach. We have done several informal inquiries, and have found that the community, in general, does enthusiastically favor this project as something Newport Beach has needed for many years, or even decades.

City officials have identified four open acres at Lower Castaways Park at Dover Drive and West Coast Highway as an ideal location for a 25-yard, eight- to 10-lane pool for swimming laps, year-round lessons, water fitness and therapy classes.

While we currently support both Newport Harbor and Corona del Mar high schools for some pool time, having our own pool is a better alternative in the long run. I need to compliment Laura Detweiler, our recreation and senior services director, along with her colleagues, for all their due diligence in vetting each and every possible location over the past couple of years, and we have learned, as has our Pool Committee, that there are particular issues with each and every past proposed location.

The Lower Castaways is our best option, and it is 100% doable. It is a 4-acre property that is large enough for a pool complex, along with adequate parking, with the future possibility of some type of activity center for rowing or kayaking. I am hopeful the City Council and community will embrace this unique opportunity, and continue to move forward with this needed project.

Mike Zimmerman
President, Friends of OASIS
Newport Beach

Question Junipero Serra’s intentions

Compassion — the dictionary definition of which is “sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others” — is a quality, like good grammar and sophisticated mealtime manners, that must be taught, practiced and praised.

Humans aren’t all bad, according to UC Irvine’s Compassion Action Project.

But it’s also important to consider for example, that Junipero Serra, thought by many to have been practicing Christian compassion, may instead have been imposing Catholicism and involuntary servitude upon native peoples. The friar’s incursion into what is now known as California, might also be framed as a dire example of cultural imperialism.

Therefore, when exercising “compassion,” it’s essential to remember and respect the words of Uyen Mai, quoted in the article, “(W)e should be asking (of others), ‘What do you need?’”

Ben Miles
Huntington Beach

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