It’s Not Supposed to Be That Way by Bill Pike

Late on the afternoon of Saturday, May 5, I was sitting at a table in Trinity Hall at our church having dinner.

Our guests, homeless families from CARITAS (Congregations Around Richmond To Assure Shelter), had finished eating. Parents and their children were getting acclimated to a new environment.

homelessmomandchild (2)

These families are with us for two weeks. A commercial bus drops them off every afternoon and returns to pick them up every morning. At the end of the two weeks, these families will regroup and go to another church. Sometimes during that time frame, a family will have the good fortune to find housing. Securing that stability in their lives is an important step.

Sitting to my left is the overnight shelter supervisor. The rest of the table is filled out with friends from church.

I asked the supervisor a few questions about his work. His answers were transparent and reflected his 17 years of working CARITAS.

During that time, he had seen first hand the challenges experienced by the homeless. Not much that he hadn’t seen. From the pre-existing health condition that caused a person to pass away during the night to the expectant mother who was ready to give birth.

One of my friends at the table who has always been a part of our church team in working CARITAS shared a story.

Last year, there was a young lady in the program who was expecting. She was 17 years old. Her delivery moment arrived at our church. Fortunately for my friend, the expectant mother made it to the hospital in time.

The next day, my friend went to visit her at the hospital. He was surprised to find the young mother alone in her room. My friend asked about her parents. The young lady responded that her parents had disowned her. When he asked about the child’s father, her response was she didn’t expect to see him either.

At this point, my friend said to himself—“it’s not supposed to be this way.”

I wonder why in the Bible, Jesus states in Matthew 26:11“For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me.”

Does he say this to challenge us?

Look folks, the poor are always going to be with you, so I need you to work to figure out ways to eliminate all of those issues the poor are facing. And by the way, I’m not always going to be around to remind you of this obligation, so get busy.

CARITAS has been around since 1987 working to help the homeless. Here we are 31 years later, and while I’m sure CARITAS makes progress each year, we still have the challenges the poor face with us no matter where we look in our city, state, country, and world.

Recently, I watched the PBS series Super Skyscrapers. This show focused on the construction of one skyscraper in New York City. The title of the episode was The Billionaire Building.

Someone paid $90 million for the penthouse on the top floor that looks out over Central Park.

No luxury was spared anywhere in the building.

Bathrooms were constructed of imported Italian marble. Kitchens were custom made by hand in England by master craftsmen. The building even has it own state of the art window washing apparatus.

The show was fascinating from the perspective that we have the capacity to build such a skyscraper.  But, I  also found the show extremely sobering. We can build the most luxurious skyscraper in the world, but we can’t solve the daily challenges faced by the poor.

Why is this? Why can’t the talent and skills used to plan and build the skyscraper be applied to solve homeless problems around the world?

Maybe, the answer is that we silently affirm Jesus’ words: “You will always have the poor with you.”

All of those nonprofits and government agencies can handle the poor. Why should I worry and push myself to become involved?

Maybe because deep in my heart, I think Jesus made that statement as a challenge.

My friend’s comment about the deserted young mother:  “It’s not supposed to be that way,” caused me to reflect further.

If we really wanted to solve the problems of the poor, I want to believe we could.

But, I don’t think we see this as an urgent priority.

After all, the poor have always been with us.

The lyrics to Bruce Hornsby and the Range’s first hit record, “The Way It Is” have always intrigued me. The four lines from the chorus make me pause:

That’s just the way it is.

Some things will never change.

That’s just the way it is.

Ah, but don’t you believe them.

If Jesus was still walking around today, he would affirm that last  line.

He wants us to realize, “It’s not supposed to be that way.”

Baby Road: Epilogue by Bill Pike

Late on the afternoon of Monday, May 7, Nahna flew back to Richmond. Our son picked Nahna up at the airport. Nahna had been in Chicago almost three weeks.

Since I left Chicago back on April 26, some warm days of spring finally teased the Lincoln Park neighborhood. If you live in Chicago, you take full advantage of what mother nature gives you from late April into October. I still get chilled thinking about what felt like a winter wind on a stunning sunlit day at the Lincoln Park Zoo the day before I drove home to Virginia.

A long, long time ago when I was teaching at Hermitage High School, I remember my friend and fellow teacher, Bruce Bowen, saying to me as Betsy and I awaited the arrival of our first child, “If you ever doubted there was a God, just wait till your first baby arrives.” He was right.

Life is a blur. It zips by at a speed that defies a stop watch. All those moments in the raising of our three children I barely have any recollection. I wonder how we survived. I wonder how our parents, and their parents survived. Somehow, we did, and they did too.

I’m thinking that survival was graced by love. A love that was committed to doing everything within your power to nurture and raise that tiny bundle.

I will pray that our three current grandchildren and any that might arrive in the future will feel that same love. I’ll pray that their parents even when they are at their wit’s end can grab a hold of that love and allow it to sustain them.

On May 10, Hudson turned three weeks old. Recently, he awarded his parents with six hours of sleep one night. Maybe that was a payback to his parents for loving him. I suspect he can feel their love— dirty diapers, hiccups, and the impromptu whizzing during a diaper change.

Way out there in the future will be that day of reflection about all of this for Hudson’s parents, and it will be a blur. And, they will ask how did we survive it, and I hope their answer will be the grace of love.


For our son-in-law, the year 2017 was a tough one for him and his sister. At two different points, they lost their parents. For their father, Ron, the demon was an out of the blue devastating stroke. For Ron’s wife, Debbie, it was the demon of all demons—that wretched cancer.

Ron and Debbie were two people who were graced with love for their children, family, and friends. I’m sure as they look down  from heaven that they are tickled with Hudson’s arrival.

Over the last several years, I have become a  reader of the comic strips in the newspaper. Today, I rarely miss an opportunity to scan them. I marvel at the wit and wisdom of these exceptionally gifted writers and artists.

Recently, in The Family Circus by Bil and Jeff Keane, the youngest child in the family is in the arms of his grandmother. The child asks, “Grandma, how’d you get so good at hugs?”

My commander supreme, now crowned Nahna, by the Princess, is a good hugger. Her grandchildren know it, and those hugs come from the grace of love.

I hope that love holds them forever.

Baby Road: Day 10 by Bill Pike

I think I slept pretty well. Outside the first light of the dawn is slowly arriving in Chicago on Thursday, April 26. My goal is to be packed, loaded, and driving out of Lincoln Park by 6:15. My packing prep work the previous afternoon was a big help. IMG_1271

I dress, put the couch back together, and complete my daily devotional routine. Breakfast is next. Whole wheat grainy bread, sliced bananas, peanut butter, and honey make a sandwich. That is joined by a cup of blueberry yogurt and some cranberry juice.

Two trips are made to the car with assorted items. Luckily, I remembered not to lock myself out of the condo. A final pit stop is made. I make one last look for any misplaced items. Seeing none, I exit a still sleeping condo. In my heart, I whisper goodbye to the Princess, Hudson, and their weary caregivers. When I enter the car, the clock read 6:14.

Armitage to Lincoln to LaSalle to U.S. 41, also known as Lake Shore Drive and the Lake Michigan Circle Tour are my starting points. This was a good time to leave. There is traffic, but it is not crazy Chicago traffic yet.

A bright sun and blue sky christen the lake. Even though, I’m driving easily along, I already miss by co-pilot/navigator.

I’m working my way toward Interstate 90, or the Skyway. When I cross the state line into Indiana it becomes the Indiana Toll Road. Getting to I-90 is a series of well-marked turns for U.S. 41. From our past drives to Chicago, Nahna has trained me well. I miss none of the turns. Soon, I’m at the Indiana state line.

It isn’t long before I’m entering the ramp for I-90. From there my next connection is I-65 which I will follow all the way to Louisville, Kentucky.

Traffic isn’t heavy, and I watch commuter trains running parallel to the interstate.

Connecting with I-65 south goes smoothly, and the gritty steel towns of northern Indiana are behind me. Gradually, the landscape becomes farms. Acres and acres of farms are on both sides of the interstate.

From a distance, spring is still stubbornly slow in showing up. But some farmers have plowed their fields. That turned over soil reveals a rich palette of chocolate hues. Those flat farm plots are sprinkled with tree lines, farm houses and their buildings, and  gray roadways. Those roadways are a means for breaking what appears to be a solitude of loneliness in every direction.

Near Remington, Indiana, I exit for some gasoline and a potty break. Back in the car, my cell phone rings. It is our youngest daughter, Elizabeth, checking on me and to wish me safe travels.

Back out on I-65, I continue to push south. Tractor trailers are plentiful in either direction. Parts of I-65 are getting some much needing repair attention. A few of these sections require using the right shoulder lane of the interstate to keep traffic moving. This makes for some tight quarters at times and attentiveness to the worn out road surface.

I always stare in wonder at the massive wind turbines north of Lafayette. Today, the three-pointed, rotor blades are almost motionless out on the flapjack farmland.

No interruptions with traffic flow, and it isn’t long before Indianapolis is within reach. I hold tight to I-65 as the downtown section of the city starts to come into view. I always forget this is the home of Butler University.

I wonder what kind of morning they are having back in Chicago?

The push south continues. Those northern Indiana farms are gone. Getting closer to Kentucky, I’m starting to see more of the greening of spring. I haven’t traveled on I-65 going into Louisville in a few years. On recent trips, we have taken U.S. 35 through Ohio and West Virginia.

If my memory is correct, new bridge construction was a traffic factor the last time we traveled through Louisville. But that wasn’t the case today. A new bridge spanned high over the Ohio River. Connecting to I-64 had been improved too, and it wasn’t long before Louisville was behind me.

I stopped at the Kentucky visitors center just outside of Shelbyville for a little break. Also, I checked in with Nahna as she had sent a couple of text messages. Then, I stopped again in Shelbyville for gas and to do some rye whiskey searching at the local Kroger—yes Kroger.  But, they didn’t stock the Pikesville rye whiskey I hoped to find.

Back in the car, the state capital Frankfort is coming up. This is followed by the rolling hills of Lexington. Green pastures, some spotted with horses and pleasing fence lines at times filled both sides of the interstate.

Past Lexington, the landscape continued to change. Hills became taller and assorted shades of rock appeared. At Ashland, I would cross the Big Sandy River, and before I knew it I had crossed the state line of West Virginia.

One of my challenges on long drives is staying awake. But today, I only felt sleepy once, and some peanuts, followed with mints cured that. At this point, I felt like I could make it to Richmond without stopping for the night.

From Huntington, I pursued Charleston where some road construction slowed me down to a single lane, but we kept moving. The twists, turns, and steep grades going up and down on the West Virginia Turnpike awaited me. Even with a bit of local rush hour traffic, I kept moving.

Pretty landscapes with a touch of spring appeared like picture frames on a wall. I saw a narrow waterfall splashing over panels of rock that had been chiseled over time by nature.

Needing a break and some fuel, I decided to exit at Sam Black Church. After filling up, taking a potty break, and buying a snack, I asked the cashier about the name Sam Black Church*. I wondered about the history. The cashier had no clue. When I asked him how many times during the day people stop and ask about the name, he said I was the first. But, he did say he might Google the name later.

Before returning to I-64, I called Nahna, and let her know I was heading for Richmond.


The further east I pushed, I tried not to look at the mileage signs. At this point, those signs only serve as discouraging news for me.

Eventually, I crossed back into Virginia, and while it took time, just past Lexington I merged back on I-81 north. Traffic wasn’t too heavy.

During this section on I-81 before reconnecting with I-64, my sister in North Carolina called me to make sure I was still living. I affirmed that I was and thanked her for calling.

Daylight was fading, and I kept pushing. It seemed like forever before the connection back to I-64 arrived, but it did. Into Waynesboro daylight had disappeared. Surfing the radio was helping to keep me awake and focused.

Though I was becoming more frazzled,  I continued to drive with a purpose. Thankfully, a few minutes after 9:15, I was home.

I called Nahna. Unpacked the car and fixed a couple of pieces of cheese toast.

Before collapsing, I sort out mail and newspapers, check land line phone messages, and today’s e-mails.

Finally, I’m. Ready to head upstairs.

With a prayer of thanks, I’m ready for sleep.

But before closing my eyes, my mind thinks about my family in Chicago— I hope that Hudson is sleeping too.


* Sam Black Church

I decided to do a bit of research on Sam Black Church.

Today, it is a United Methodist Church. It is small white framed building located in Greenbrier County, West Virginia. The church was named after Sam Black who was circuit riding Methodist preacher. Built in 1902, the church earned a spot on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999.

Baby Road: Day 9 Part 1 & 2 by Bill Pike

It was quiet when I woke early on the morning of Wednesday, April 25. Even after 5:30, I could tell it was going to be a bright day. But, I had also had heard the wind whipping around during the night, plus the local weather guys had talked about a cold front blowing through—another delay for spring in Chicago. IMG_1268.jpg

My plan was to take an early morning walk up Armitage, and maybe snap a few photographs.

Completed my Upper Room and Bible verse reading, then I dressed anticipating brisk air outside.

Our son-in-law was up, and I let him know I was going for a walk.

As soon as I hit the sidewalk, I knew I had dressed correctly. The wind was flapping around the Irish flag outside the River Shannon Bar. I started heading west on Armitage with no destination in mind.

Runners and dog walkers were out. So were some early commuters and construction workers.

An early riser, politely tooted her car horn as she pulled out from an alley letting foot traffic know her presence.

A Chicago police officer sat in a patrol car filling out a report.

About a block from the elevated train tracks, I crossed over to the other side of Armitage heading east. Architecture all through  these neighborhoods amazes me. Something different always catches my eye.

I stop at the Lincoln Park High School and walk over to its main entrance. Four massive columns grace the front doors. As I scan my eyes upward toward the apex of this unmovable frontage, I note the date 1899.

A significant construction project is taking place at the school. The city has mounted a large bold sign touting this plan on a fence along the Armitage sidewalk. As I walk past the sign, I note a large brown bunny scavenging around in a sparse green space dwarfed by the building.

Further down Armitage, the sun is casting it beams against the facade of a building. For a short span of time, it is like the building is in a natural spotlight.

One sign, I noted earlier on Armitage at the entrance to an alley displayed: No Outlet.

During our stay, I’ve been drawn to one alley that I always stop and stare down for a few seconds.

Way at the other end is a church steeple. IMG_1284

I wonder in our world today how many people find themselves in situations where they believe they have no outlet, no options, no alternatives.

I also wonder in those situations if people ever consider looking down a different alley, the one with a church steeple at the end.

We have a busy morning ahead of us. I need to get back to the condo.




Part II

Hudson has his first follow-up visit with the pediatrician this morning at 9:30. While he is there with his parents, Nahna and I will be taking the Princess over to the Lincoln Park Zoo.


After breakfast, there is a different pace in the condo this morning.

Our daughter and her husband have compiled a list of questions for the doctor. Soon it is departure time for Hudson’s appointment. He is carefully placed in his car seat. I am given the privilege of walking Hudson downstairs where his father is waiting in the car. Making sure she has everything, his mother isn’t far behind me.

I hand Hudson off to his dad, and that northerly breeze pushes me quickly back inside. Now, the focus is getting the Princess ready for our walk to the zoo. The Princess is in a playful mood—no rush to get to the zoo. Nahna and I comply giving her space to play.

Once every few minutes, we remind her of our pending trip, and she attempts to cooperate with the getting ready request, but there is no follow through from her. After several minutes of play and with more timely reminders about the zoo, the Princess finally commits.

We take the back stairs down to dump some trash in the bins in the  alley. We put the Princess in her stroller, and now, we are walking toward the zoo.

Our route just happens to take us by a Starbucks. Nahna picks up a drink for herself and a cake pop for the Princess. In a matter of seconds that cake pop is gone.

When we arrive on the grounds of the zoo, the Princess from her previous visits sets our focus on seeing her favorites— the chimpanzees and the penguins. She knows how to guide us as she occasionally says: “this way.”

The favorite animals for the Princess did not disappoint. But we also observed a snow leopard, an exceptionally noisy zebra, a giraffe, and a number of other creatures. Also, fish displays earned a high approval rating from the Princess.

To break up this journey, we attempted a walk through the Conservatory to view a diverse collection of tropical plants from around the world.

A reluctant Princess granted us a quick walk, but that was it. At this point, the Princess was rapidly approaching a meltdown. Somehow, we were able to regain cooperation, and we started the walk back home.

Even with bright sunshine, as we were leaving the zoo, a cold gust of wind really chilled me. I thought to myself this is the coldest I’ve ever been on April 25.

We made it back to the condo. Hudson had a good report from the doctor, and questions from his parents were answered.

Lunch was ordered from the Chicago Bagel Authority (CBA). The CBA is famous for their warm steamed bagel sandwiches. I ordered a Messy Katie. It was delicious, but appropriately named.

Later during the afternoon, Nahna and I ran errands for the family. Target, Trader Joe’s, and Binnys were our destinations. We were successful in meeting the requests on the shopping list.  When we returned, the Princess, up from her nap, helped us unload the bags.

After this, I started my prep for heading back to Richmond on Thursday morning. This didn’t take too long. It was just a matter of making sure I wasn’t going to leave anything behind.


On our trips to Chicago, I like trying to make the short walk to the corner bar, The River Shannon, for a beer. When the Princess finished her dinner, our son-in-law and I were granted permission to make this trip. Established in 1946, I enjoy going in just to see if anything has changed since my last visit, and the answer is always—no.

For dinner tonight, we order a couple of pizzas from Bricks. Located in the basement of a building on Lincoln Avenue, it is a short walk from the condo. But, a walk that is always worth it as their pizzas are really, really good.

While we were going to pick up the pizzas, Hudson continued his proficiency with his whizzing. Another saturated diaper during his feeding that of course leaked out on his mother.

Hudson has whipped us into a quick after dinner cleanup. Maybe someday, he’ll implement the same protocols when caring for his new-born daughter or son.

Sleep is needed. The drive back to Richmond is long.

My usual navigator, Nahna, will be staying longer in Chicago. Her skills are more valuable than mine in helping out Hudson and the Princess.

Baby Road: Day 8 by Bill Pike

Tuesday, April 24 was a quiet day.

For the Princess, her father was going to take her to the Pee Wee class at the local fitness center.

I took the trash and the recycling into the alley behind the condo and dumped them into the appropriate containers. The sun was warm on the back side of the condo.

Back inside, I had orders to take down the pink curtain in what would eventually become Hudson’s new room.

Even with little activity, the morning passed quickly.

Hudson had been awake, then asleep. Fed, then back to sleep. He had given his parents a primer on his capacity to whiz when least expected during diaper changes. They had also learned about the lack of snugness with newborn diapers. Despite this learning curve, Hudson captured a room.

Just past noon, the Princess and her dad returned from her Pee Wee class. We received a full report about all of the activities, but then the Princess realized the handcrafted helicopter she made had been left behind.

Pretty soon, the Princess was headed for her afternoon nap.

While she was napping, Nahna and I took a short walk to an overpriced grocery store to pickup a few items for our baked salmon dinner.

Once we returned, the afternoon was interrupted for our daughter. It appeared that the C-section incision wasn’t healing properly. So, she had scheduled an appointment with her doctor to check out the incision.

When she returned, all was well. But, I was sent to the CVS to pick up a couple of items the doctor recommended to promote the healing.

It was still a bit cool, but the afternoon was sun lit with blue skies. The Princess wanted to go to the park. Within a few minutes, we were organized and ready for this trip.

At the park, all the Princess wanted to do was swing in the swings, and the higher the better. We sampled every style of swing at the park. While swinging, the Princess reconfirmed her sighting of a faint white moon high in the eastern blue sky. IMG_1259

Sometimes at home, the Princess is able to coax her father into a bit of interior swinging. The Princess finds a shopping bag with sturdy handles. She snuggles into the bag. Her father swings her back and forth until his shoulders scream for mercy.

Eventually, we were able to coax the Princess out of the last swing. We started the walk back home. We took a slightly different route with the hope of rolling over more bumps in the sidewalk.

After eating her dinner, there was a surprise awaiting the Princess. To replace her broken wand, her dad had ordered an assortment of new wands for her. The Princess was pleased.

Our evening routine fit a familiar template. The Princess starts heading for bed around 7. Then everyone is glued on Hudson, and we try to figure out eating dinner. Despite eating dinner much later than when we are in Richmond, this schedule has worked.

And tucked away in that routine is the hope that Hudson will have another good night.

Baby Road: Day 7 by Bill Pike

IMG_1269.jpgMinus the Princess, the adults in the condo were moving slow on the morning of Monday, April 23.

On his first night in his new home, Hudson was intent in creating a memorable evening for the adults. He won. White flags were raised all through the night.

Hopefully, there would be some recovery before the sun was cast away for night number two.

On the agenda this morning was walking the Princess to the Old Town School of Folk Music for her Wiggle Worm class. We arrived before the start time. Parked our stroller in the lobby, and Nahna and the Princess headed to the 45-minute class. I figured the Wiggle Worm class might be too intense for an old grump like me.

So, I sat in the lobby, and watched it fill with strollers of all shapes and sizes. Parents and nannies herded kids to the Wiggle Worm classroom. Some moved fast. Others moved slow. Some needed coaxing with countdowns or food driven bribes.

Occasionally, my solitude was broken when a harried grandparent arrived late with a wiggle worm. In the background, a wonderfully diverse playlist of music was lilting through the speakers. It seemed like a good time for a nap, but sporadic stomping from the Wiggle Worms up above prevented that.

When the class was over, the lobby was a stroller traffic nightmare. Somehow, the departing and arriving negotiated with no collisions or ruffled feathers.

It was a brisk walk back to condo as we pushed into a cool breeze that felt more like fall than spring. However, the Princess enjoyed every bump on the sidewalk.

Back at the condo, Hudson was settled. His demands from the first night had subsided.

After lunch, Nahna and I were slotted to make a run to Target. I should have stayed at home. I’m not a very good cart driver.

With Target behind me, I was scheduled to do some sprucing up of the shrubs and landscaped beds in front of the condo. Once I was organized that turned out to be a good chore—a full afternoon.

By the time I re-entered the condo, the Princess had finished her dinner of macaroni and cheese. Soon, she would be getting ready for a bubble bath.

Once again, Nahna had prepped another crock pot dinner. This one featuring beef, onions, carrots, and potatoes. Based around Hudson’s needs, we ate in shifts. The meal hit the spot.

Wondering what the night held for Hudson, everyone scurried to clean up the kitchen and to get ready for bed.

Deep inside, I think we had silently prayed that Hudson’s second night would be more restful and less stressful than his first.

God must still be hanging around up there.

Night number two was a significant improvement.