For this post I am going to share with you a story that has deeply touched my heart, to the point that I feel compelled to reach out and seek your help. I will back track at a later date and write many posts where we will share with you our experiences living in the Slabs, as well as many testimonies, stories, video and photography. I have so much to share that it is going to take me some time to put it all together for you. Our experiences were life changing, and I hope when I am able to add all of the posts, you too…will learn and have an open mind to the people trying to survive in the desert.
When we first entered the Slabs, we had talked to people who had been there and had read pretty much anything we could find on the internet to prepare us for what we were about to walk into.
Straight up….. If you have not lived among the people, if you have not developed relationships and built trust with the residents, you will never be able to fully comprehend the society, various communities and people that live in a place that is virtually unknown to the outside world. In fact, it is a community that a lot of people turn a blind eye too, and simply tolerate or have no mercy for.Yes, there are a lot of tourists who have heard about the Slabs, and they go to see the art work in East Jesus, marvel at Salvation Mountain, and enjoy the amazing talent that shows up on weekends to jam at a place called The Range. There have even been those that have gone in to make short films and documentaries of the people who live there. Personally the ones I have seen, really do not give you a full picture of the diversity among the people and existing communities.
Tourists drive though, take photos, gawk at the living conditions and drive back into their own comfortable world. They see garbage. It is everywhere. They see things that will amaze their friends when they share their pictures. What they do not see is the hearts of the people. They do not know their stories. They do not know why many of them are there. Some think they want to be there… some pass judgment on their chosen lifestyle, and leave “thinking” that they understand the hearts of these desert people. My two cents is… “no, you have not…” I am of the opinion that it is one thing to walk in and experience a few things, and quite another to see beyond the things I have mentioned and embrace the culture and people of the Slabs with an open mind and without passing judgment. We were fortunate to get past some very real fears we experienced the first two nights. In all honesty, we were going to book it! (high tail it out of there). We didn’t sleep at all. All we saw was the large number of residents who are drug addicts. We had to ask ourselves…. why on earth would we feel led to be in a place that was so frightening at night? We had so much to learn! The slabs can be very beautiful and peaceful.
If we had not of stayed and been fortunate enough to meet so many people, we would have walked away and missed out on a very important life lesson! In short.. we have come to love the Slabs, and in fact will be returning. You will get the chance to read more when I have the time to sit down and put everything together for you. I promise that a lot of you will be shocked and touched at the many people who made a massive impact on our hearts. For now, I’d like to draw your attention to one person in particular. The rest will come later.
After being entrenched and accepted into the various communities and hearts of assorted characters that exist within Slab City, our hearts are deeply burdened by one woman in particular there that we had the opportunity to develop a very deep and meaningful relationship with. I would like to share her story with the hope that hearts will be moved, and people can come together to make a very significant change in the life of one endearing woman. She asks nothing of anyone, expects nothings, and gives everything. With a little help, we could come together out of compassion and love for a fellow human being, and out of that shared love, collectively, we could have such a magnificent impact on her life!
I’d like to introduce you to my very dear friend, Connie.Connie is a woman in her mid 50’s who originally came to the Slabs around 1996. Out of desperation with no place to go, she and her husband found a patch of dirt in the desert to call home. She and her husband lived there for many years. Her husband was a very sick man, and suffered for years with diabetes and the latter stages of cancer. At one point they left the Slabs and Connie worked her fingers to the bone while providing 24 hour care to her husband. In 2003, they returned to the Slabs and made it their permanent dwelling. Five years ago, her husband passed away, and she has been there by herself ever since.
Connie receives a small check, much of which she gives to others in need. She also uses her limited income to help vaccinate the Slab dogs from Parvo and Kennel Cough that at times plagues the community as drifters abandon unwanted pets or puppies are born.
When we first met Connie, it was clear that she had a deep seeded mistrust of people. Especially people who she did not know. It took two days for her to accept an invitation to come and sit with us and accept a hot cup of coffee. Although she attends church on a fairly regular basis, she sits on the outside by herself. She does drift from camp to camp to say hello or offer things to various people who live around the church “community,” but I had never seen her actually sit and enjoy conversation or or time with someone close to her. I was drawn to this woman like a magnet. Within a short time, we became fast friends! In fact, as she began to open up to me, and trust me with her story, I came to love this woman of the Slabs. Her smile and laughter is infectious!
Connie has a story that would rock almost anyone I can think of to the core. It’s easy to see why she has such a deep rooted fear of trusting people.
When she reached her teen years, Connie managed to run away from home. She gave birth to three children. Somewhere in this time frame, her father had died, so the Uncle stepped in and threatened to use her children for unspeakable things. Try as she might, and she tried everything….. eventually family services got involved and her children were removed.
She did everything in her power to get her children back. With a massive broken and shattered heart, she gave them up for adoption. She cries to this day because she has no idea where her babies are, how they grew up, and if they are doing all right. The oldest was three and the youngest a baby.
Along with the help of a few friends who live in the States, we are now in the works of trying to get her registered to see if her children are looking for her. They would be in their 30’s, and were born in Redding California in 1981, 82 and 83.
As I had said earlier, she has been a full time resident of the Slabs again since 2003. She lives in a 12 foot trailer with a make shift chicken wire fence to contain her five little chihuahua’s. This is it below. She actually owns four but someone asked her to watch their dog while they went into Niland for supplies and they never came back. Those yappy little cuties keep her safe, and provide her with an alarm system if anyone is lurking around her unit with the intend to take things or cause her harm.
Sadly as she told me, about two years or so ago, three men smashed down her door, and knocked her unconscious. She woke up in the desert with duck tape over her mouth, her hands and feet had been bound, and she had been attacked and cut her with razors. She still carries the scars of that horrific event. I am not sure who it was that found her, but to the best of her knowledge the men were caught and sent to prison. Who knows if they ever were.
We had offered to help her fix her door after she told us that she gets rattle snakes and scorpions in her unit. For now, she is adamant that she feels safer without one. If you were to walk within 100 yards of her dwelling, those dogs set off such a commotion! I know when we were there that if those dogs woke us up in the middle of the night, we sat in the dark until morning looking for tweekers (guys high on Meth). They often wander around in the dark with flashlights, looking for things to steal, or scream at the things they see in their hallucinatory state. Needless to say. Connie does not sleep at night, and has agreed that a door would be a good thing to have again.
For the most part…. people tend to leave her alone. She has had a few things stolen, but she seems to just accept that as part of life, shrugs her shoulders and trusts that God will provide her once again with the things she needs. She has an innocent child like faith in God. What a tender soul.
People often try to take advantage of her. Once she has helped someone in need. they come around and demand money for food, or they want money. I admire that Connie can stand up for herself and put her foot down when she is threatened unless she give people what they want.
I think I have shared enough for you to understand that trying to get her out of the Slabs would probably not be the right thing for her. I believe she would be lost in a small town or city if there was anywhere we could find that could provide her with a safe and affordable place to live. We talked at length about her options because she would do anything to live somewhere where she can feel safe and actually feel like she has a home. It has been impossible for her to get into any government assisted housing, and no one will take her four little dogs. Leaving them behind for her of course is not an option. Her life is the Slabs, and to be honest, it is all she really knows.
As a Social Worker and with the feedback from a couple of people, probably that the best way to help her right now, is to try to find a way to make her life in the slabs more bearable. She has her little community there. She can isolate herself when needed, and she can walk about to say hello to those she has some form of feeling comfortable with. More importantly, Pastor Dave and the church are close enough to keep an eye on her. She is a woman of the desert. She would not function well if we were to try and get her set up somewhere unfamiliar to her with people she does not know.
Thus the request I have of those who may be able to help in some way, or would perhaps know someone else who could extend a hand to “Bring Comfort To Connie”.1) Somewhere out there…. someone has to know of or have a larger 5th wheel, trailer or motor home that we could manage to get to the slabs for her to live in. One that, no matter how old, is not full of mold, one that would have a fridge or maybe a stove that works. A clean and comfortable bed, room for storage, a chair or couch to sit on would be more than she could ever imagine owning. WE CAN DO THIS????
If we can accomplish this and find someone who can yank her current trailer out and set up a newer residence for her, then we are making good progress.
Now keep in mind that I ASKED if we were to put out the call for help would she want a better home…………..
Her eyes lit up, and then became sad because she believes that not only does she not deserve it, but that no one would ever have anything they would be willing to give to someone like her. Well to that I say hogwash! We believe this can be done! We believe there are people out there who would love to help someone, but they just don’t know how or who to reach out to. I am begging you to consider Connie!
Can you imagine how much her life would change, if a unit were to come in for her to call home…. no matter how old?
If we could find a unit to GIVE to her, or raise money to buy one really cheap…. then its a matter of man power and a couple of days work to set her up for perhaps the rest of her life?
Do ya think it can be done? Can some of us work together, get the word out, contact people, businesses, Junk yards…..people with the skills and trucks to move units and build fences and get solar donated and hooked up? I believe it can!
For now I will toss this in the wind, and pray that this story will be picked up. Perhaps we do not need a Go Fund Me Account. Perhaps people will come forward and volunteer their time, and resources?
I am gonna trust this will get passed around, and those who can help or share to get the word out will do so. Please…. lets “Get Comfort To Connie”!
Thanks from the bottom of my heart. You can reach us via a message on the blog, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 250-718-6410.
If you think you can be the one to co-ordinate this better than we can, please step up and let us know. Keep in mind we do not live here. Canada is home. While we are here, we are willing to do what ever is called of us to do. We can not save the world, but we can help one person at a time. Lets start a ripple! Connie at the moment is our calling. Please make her yours. If you personally can not help.. SHARE this story with everyone you know 🙂 Help us make this request for help go viral! Please tell your friends, church family, pastors, business owners etc…..
Thanks in advance!
Sherry Doug, and Chicago.