Posts Tagged ‘Jinna Marbry’

By: Jinna Marbry

As I work to get back into my regular routine of school, work and motherhood, I still see visions in mind that ache to pour out in words. This is one of those stories.

I will never forget the first time I saw Michael. He looked withered and scruffy. His wiry hair was long with a bright red bandana wrapped around his head to protect him from the blazing Florida sun. He smelled strongly of alcohol and cigarettes. As we stood in line patiently waiting for dinner, Michael told me it was the first time he had come to the COSAC shelter; he came because he heard the food was good. Like others, Michael’s focus was quickly distracted by the sweet smell of garlic and tomato sauce permeating the dining room. I slightly chuckled to myself when he slowly maneuvered his way ahead of me in line as if he was worried they might run out of food. I guess when you make the streets your home, there is a constantly reality that there is never enough. Worse, what there is can quickly be taken from you.

Michael boastfully told me how he was a Master Electrician but had been out of work due to the economy and drop in the construction market. He was proud of his skills, but no longer had a job to use them at and after a few months found him no longer able to pay his rent.

Just as we were edging to the front of the line, Michael spotted another homeless friend from the streets abandoning his inside voice, he bellowed a boisterous “Hello” to the gentleman. At times Michael swayed slowly from side to side, I suspect in part to the alcohol, ever the while his voice getting louder as he talked to those around him. Abruptly, Michael stopped still in his tracks, someone caught his eye.

“Who is that?” Michael pointedly asked. I replied that the gentleman he was pointing to was Sean Cononie, director and founder of the COSAC shelter. “Really!” Michael replied. “I have never met him before.” As I looked at Michael’s face I fought to hold back my own tears. Michael, this bold, loud, gruff gentleman from the streets was starting to cry. Michael quickly abandoned his cherished place in line to go shake hands and greet Sean.

As I went about my way, I waved a quick goodbye to Michael as he sat down to his awaited meal, smiling from ear to ear because he had met a hero in his world, Sean Cononie.

Jinna Marbry, after an 18-hour workday on Sept. 5, 2010

By: Jinna Marbry

Why would a 46-year-old single mom with no free time or extra money who hates flying want to drop everything to hop a plane to Hollywood, Fla. to spend Labor Day weekend at a homeless shelter with people less than half her age?

Believe me, when I felt the plane lift off the ground, I was asking myself that very question.  The answer, however, only became clear to me after an 18-hour grueling day that made me want to scream, laugh, and cry – all at the same time.

I have always had a heart for those in need and upon getting the courage to go college at 41 I wanted to share my love of journalism in a way that could make things better for our big ol’ world (syrupy sweet idea, I know). I digress, sorry.

Upon discovering the information on Will Write for Food 2010 through the Society of Professional Journalists, I couldn’t help but think what an awesome way to use my skills, but I was scared.  Back and forth I would visit the info page, talking myself into submitting work to be considered, then quickly talking myself out of it.  I can’t do it, I’m too old, I haven’t had the same opportunities to get in the field as all the other college students, I thought to myself. After all, I’ve been playing around with frills like working to pay the electric bill and keeping my 8-year-old daughter in zuzu pets. Yet I sucked up the courage and applied. Then I waited and bugged Rachael if I had been chosen.

So I got on a plane to share a room with giddy college girls who I had no clue about, going to spend my one and only free weekend in a smelly, dark homeless shelter thinking, “What the Hell am I doing?” Later I would find that my roommates were two of the most amazing, bright, intelligent, and sweetest humans beings God put on this earth.

On Sunday, Sept. 5, 2010, I figured it out.  I was on an adventure: a crazy quest to do something, to not let all the excuses of my station in life get in the way. I was reaching out of my nice little warm cocoon to prove that I can matter – that I can give a voice to someone through my writing and media skills (when I can get the stupid Final Cut to work).

I met Ellen. She is 45 years old – one year younger than me.  She is a prostitute with a $400 a day crack habit. She’s been abused, and a few ways that you would never imagine existed. All Ellen has to her name is a hand full of clothes and a story – a story that I had the honor of telling on Labor Day weekend thanks to Will Write for Food 2010.  Yes, I may have screwed up the video segments or missed out on some of the younger college crowd jokes. I may have been clumsy in my interviewing skills, but I gave Ellen a voice.  If I can do that for others, I have figured out my purpose. Thank you my Will Write for Food 2010 team. You Rock! Hey, I’m not too old to use that expression, either!