Homeless Feet Washed
by Allan Appel | Apr 23, 2011 8:01 pm
When volunteer foot washers removed Dorothy Jordan’s sneakers and socks, the excoriated toes were so red and raw that as she dipped them in a basin of warm water, she called out in pain and clutched at the shirt of her friend David Pratt. Jordan, an extroverted homeless woman with a drinking problem who likes to go by the name of Dolly, tried to make a joke of it. “Look at the smoke!” she exclaimed.
This was no ordinary ceremony of foot-washing that traditionally and symbolically takes place on Maundy Thursday before Easter in Christian houses of worship.
Thursday afternoon’s event was was a full wash cum podiatric clinic sponsored for the second year by Trinity Episcopal Church and its outreach program to the homeless, called Chapel on the Green.
The service commemorates and recalls Jesus’ washing the feet of his disciples and, before that, Abraham’s cleaning the sand off three visitors to his tent in the desert, in Genesis. Those visitors turned out to be angels.
To Jordan and many of the other homeless people at Thursday’s event, the washers were, if not angels, then providers of much needed comfort. According to Rev. Alex Dyer of St. Paul and St. James in Wooster Square, the average homeless person walks 8.5 miles a day.
John Nelson, whose feet were being washed by volunteer Margi Pikaart, said 8.5 is nothing. “My feet is my money,” he said, adding that he often covers 18 to 20 miles a day collecting cans and doing odd jobs. He sleeps in the city’s overflow shelter, he said.
At Thursday’s outdoor service, volunteers washed Jordan’s and 39 pairs of other homeless feet.
They also conducted a brief interview on the health and welfare of each washee. Then they massaged and lotioned the feet. If all was well, a new pair of socks was offered along with a voucher for $40 towards a pair of shoes at Bob’s Surplus.
The washers, who included Ian Douglas, the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut, in some cases found indicators of diabetes or other worrisome conditions, as in Jordan’s case. They called over Ron Dunhill (standing behind him), a nurse with Hill Health Center’s homeless outreach program, for further investigation and action.
Dunhill said he was alarmed by Jordan’s condition and would try to get her to the podiatric clinic at Hill Health Center. He said he met her at the railroad station nearly three years ago when she came to town with her boyfriend, a veteran. When the boyfriend cut out, she was alone. She has been on the street, he said, for at least two and a half years. Dunhill, who’s been celebrated as a Colorado-born tracker, who keeps track of New Haven’s homeless, has treated Jordan for a broken ankle in the field, as it were; for a variety of reasons she doesn’t come into the clinic.
At Thursday’s clinic he checked her ankle and found it healed and OK. And yet the feet were alarming. “I need to do something quickly.”
After he makes an appointment for her he intends to take her to the clinic by hand.
For those interested in supporting the foot washing program or other aspects of Chapel on the Green’s work, the contact is here. Or call the coordinator Chris Evans at 203-777-2197
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There are angels in New Haven, we’re blessed to have them with us.
Me & my liberalism take separate paths right about here.
Louis Untermeyer, ed. (1885–1977). Modern American Poetry. 1919.
Robert Frost. 1875–
67. The Road Not Taken
TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth; 5
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same, 10
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back. 15
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. 20
One night a man had a dream. He dreamed He was walking along the beach with the LORD. Across the sky flashed scenes from His life. For each scene He noticed two sets of footprints in the sand. One belonging to Him and the other to the LORD.
When the last scene of His life flashed before Him, he looked back at the footprints in the sand. He noticed that many times along the path of His life there was only one set of footprints. He also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times of His life.
This really bothered Him and He questioned the LORD about it. LORD you said that once I decided to follow you, you’d walk with me all the way. But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life there is only one set of footprints. I don’t understand why when I needed you most you would leave me.
The LORD replied, my precious, precious child, I Love you and I would never leave you! During your times of trial and suffering when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.
Carolyn Carty, 1963