I was the lead volunteer on ‘Street Services’ for Serving People in Need (SPIN) for 16 years (I only missed two ‘runs’ in that time) and weekly, from a van, curbside, face-to-face, fed a large population of the poor and homeless and the mentally ill and drug addicted behind the Civic Center and on the backstreets of Santa Ana, CA. I wasn’t a social engineer, but simply tryin’ to walk the walk and ‘feed the poor’.

There were better volunteers than I was, but I did the very best I could and that was somewhat sufficient most of the time.

We’d take 200-450 sandwich bags on a run and hygiene kits, clothes and blankets when we had them. The most important give-aways were Love and Dignity. The younger gangs left us alone because the older gangs told them to and it was an ongoing joke that my name and number were scrawled on prison and jail release areas throughout the state (Sandie and I often talked of a prison release outreach to aid men and women with their new found freedoms).

There are dozens of ways to give an hour or a few every week or two that can really help someone’s life. Feeding the poor isn’t for everyone, but you can find your cup tea if you want too.

Stepping outside of your life and wearing the shoes of another can really summon the virtue of compassion. Big charities like the Red Cross, Make a Wish and Habitat for Humanity need volunteers as do local institutions like Fire Departments, Hospitals, and Community Centers.

Whether reading a book to a senior at the Veteran’s Admin, mentoring a troubled teenager, planting trees in a community garden, helping with adoptions at an animal rescue, helping women at a domestic violence shelter or simply sweeping and setting out coffee at an AA or NA meeting; it is in essence: all the same.

So if you have the time and are so inclined, volunteer!

Read Nov. 20, 1996 at the UCI student union terrace for ‘Homeless Sleepout’ and hunger awareness campaign.

This University is a community, but not unto itself. It is part of a larger community, an American community, a global community, a community of humankind made in God’s image.

In April of 1959, Martin Luther King, Jr. Spoke of community. This is what he said. The highest love is Agape. Agape is love in action. Agape is love seeking to preserve and create community. It is insistence on community even when one seeks to break it. Agape is a willingness to forgive, not 7 times, but 70 times 7 to restore community.

The Cross is the eternal expression of the length to which God will go in order to restore broken community. The resurrection is a symbol of God’s triumph over all the forces that seek to block community. The Holy Spirit is the continuing community creating reality that moves through history. He who works against community is working against the whole of creation. I can only close the gap in broken community by meeting hate with love.

Dr. King was talking about loving thy neighbor as thyself. All of you who have come here today and those of you who will sleep here tonight, are expressing your willingness to live out those words, to identify with the hungry and homeless, not just here in Orange County, but everywhere that poverty afflicts the human spirit.

The fight goes on. The war on poverty rages on. Let us meet apathy with activism, let us meet ignorance with knowledge, let us meet fear with courage, let us meet self-interest with sacrifice and in God’s presence, let us meet the poor with mercy and compassion. Engraved on the statue of liberty, it reads, Give me your tired, your poor, you huddled masses yearning to be free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore, send these, the homeless, the tempest-tossed, to me.

They are here. They are among us. They are part of our community. Let us never turn away from them, or we will be turning away ourselves.

In the book of Matthew, Jesus told his disciples, you fed me when I was hungry, you clothed me when I was naked, I was sick and you comforted me, and his disciples asked him when did we do these things to you? And he answered, when you did it to the least of these, you were doing it to me.

This is the great power of love, of Agape, of community and you who are here, who offer yourselves to others in need, you give meaning, give life to the wisdom that upholds community, love your neighbor as yourself.


Den the Pen has been a respite worker for those people and families who suffer from ALS (Lou Gerhig's disease). He has also supported the growth of the Blind Children’s Learning Center in Santa Ana, CA for 20 years. In addition, He has worked with the homeless and the poor in Santa Ana for 15 years as a volunteer for the ‘Street Services’ program of Serving People In Need (SPIN), a non-denominational charity. For any cause, for even the slightest amount of time, he encourages you to volunteer in your community.

I have been a supporter of The Blind Children’s Learning Center (BCLC) in Santa Ana, CA since its rebirth 27 years ago.

Anyone who has experienced an infant or a pre-K child that is visually impaired, blind or deaf and blind knows the importance to the child, their family and their friends of local and regional teaching facilities like the BCLC.

The school teaches the skills necessary for a kid to integrate into mainstream education. Won’t you please donate a few dollars or volunteer at your local school that provides similar services.

The BCLC has 75 kids on campus daily, helps 60 kids and families at home every week and mentors dozens and dozens of past graduates and their families. (a link to the BCLC is on my Likes page)