The “boyfriend” came to the door in a bathrobe. It was late afternoon and our entire Peace of the City [POTC] staff was “switchbacking” across Buffalo’s West Side delivering “family gifts” to the homes of our POTC kids. “My name is Diann. May I speak with Vivian* please?”
The door closed and I wait outside in a windy, freezing drizzle. Vivian came to the door and we began what became a thirty-minute conversation about her three children who attend POTC programs. We didn’t go inside as the boyfriend did not want us to.
It’s amazing what you can learn about children when you visit their home and talk to their mom. Life is hard at Vivian’s home. She wants to enroll in some college courses. I tell her to call me when she needs help. We exchange phone numbers, hug and I leave.
I join two other staffers who had more homes to visit than I did. At our first stop, Pedro* stands in the door dumbfounded that we had come to his home. He barely knew what to say. Then Pedro’s whole family comes to the door and stares at us. We introduce ourselves, pass the gift and thank them for sharing their beautiful son with us. They nod and thank us. The eyes say it all: “Who are these people that come to our home bearing gifts, Christmas cheer and gratitude for our son?”
We next visit the teen who lives upstairs from Pedro. Aaron* comes to the door. Same reaction. This time his smile says it all: “You came?!” No adult is home, so we pass the family gift to Aaron and tell him how grateful we are that he has joined POTC.
While we are visiting, we hear a whoop of joy from Pedro’s apartment downstairs. Pedro opens his door and sees us talking with Aaron. “Did I hear someone opening their gift?” I ask. “Yes” Pedro said cheerfully. “My mom is happy with her gift–we needed new towels!”
Several more visits and then our last. The mom is a long-time friend of Tieza, a POTC staffer that grew up in our programs. Teenage Carlos* answers the door. He is shy and obviously pleased that we were there. He’s not sure if his mother will come to the door. He runs up the apartment stairs. His mom soon descends and is embraced by Tieza. Introductions follow and then we hand her the family gift. It’s dark outside and the hallway is dimly lit, but I know the wince in the face of a woman about to cry. Cry she did. We thank her for the gift of her son at POTC.
We leave. By the van Tieza tells us their “story”. Another child in the family, a two-year-old son, had died in a house fire a few yeas ago. Acts of kindness especially at Christmas time have twice the impact for a grieving mother.
Our deliveries completed, we drive to POTC to return the van. Along the way, the many twinkling Christmas lights on the West Side shine in defiance of the harsh realities of so many residents. Resilience and camaraderie are the ornaments of my neighborhood all year long.
Why house visits? Why go to the home of every child and teen at Peace of the City?
It’s Christmas and Christ came to us. And so we bring Love–Christ’s love–to them.
Please consider a generous end of the year gift will enable our Peace of the City staff to continue home visits and so much more.
To view a video of “home visits from the past” and hear and see a much younger Tieza share about “what kind of person she wants to be when she grows up”, just click here and push play on the second video down. http://peaceofthecity.org/about-us/videos-media/
* Not their real names.