It’s a bird…it’s a plane…no, it’s…


Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat.     –Mother Teresa

A local tattoo artist…

A local millionaire…

A mother of twelve…

What do all of these folks have in common?  

They are super-heroes.  Super-heroes with no capes, no special powers, no need for an empty telephone booth…

How many of you know who Mary Jo Copeland is?  

How many of you know that she received the 2012 Presidential Citizen’s Medal yesterday?

If you are from Minnesota, you most likely have heard of her.  She is the founder of Sharing and Caring Hands which she started back in 1985.  What started as a small volunteer organization to help the homeless in the Minneapolis area, has become an extraordinary organization over the past 38 years.  Mary Jo has made sure that there is a place for the homeless to have food, shelter, education for children and a safe place for women (Mary’s Place).

Mary Jo Copeland took a life of adversity but a victim she is not…she was raised in a dysfunctional and abusive home, transitioned into foster care, got married, raised 12 children and then continued on in her journey as a super-heroine.  Is she the main character in a comic book or movie? No.  However, there have been a few awards (more like dozens), speeches, books and news stories talked about and written in her behalf.

Having lived in Minnesota most of my life,  I have had the opportunity to see small news stories and clips of this woman over the years.  A woman who appears a bit shy, a true humble servant to those she serves. A woman who has been known for washing the feet of those who enter through the doors of Sharing and Caring Hands…washing their feet as a way to honor and comfort…

Presidential  Citizen’s Medal?  Okay

Sainthood? Absolutely

What about the tattoo artist?  

He collects donations from his customers around the Christmas holidays to contribute to the homeless.  He drives into the inner city, walks down under the bridges and distributes those items directly into the hands of the homeless.  No middle man,  no corporate contributions,  no overhead.

The millionaire?  

We went to a cobbler this week who told us the story about the Viet Nam Vet who transforms himself into a shabby, worn out homeless Vet.  He comes in to collect worn out shoes or other items that could be used for those Vets who cannot provide for themselves. He apparently goes to live on the streets with them…to live in their world…to honor them.  No one knows his name…

As I right this,  I feel a bit selfish…a bit too comfortable…a bit sad.  I have never been homeless,  I did not grow up in an abusive home, I have never fought in a war for our rights or the rights of others and I have never had to struggle with a serious mental illness, drug or alcohol addiction.  Can I make a difference?  Can you make a difference?

Who  are the super-heroes in your neighborhood?

4 thoughts on “It’s a bird…it’s a plane…no, it’s…

  1. We all have the opportunity to make a change. I know some that believe what’s theirs is theirs and that’s it. My true happiness, above all else, comes from giving someone what they need. I’m in a position in life that if they need it more then me, it’s theirs. I can replace it if I truly “need” it.

  2. I have met Mary Jo,she is a very nice person and I think its great what she’s doing for women with children.I do have mixed feelings about the feeding and clothing of a lot of others. Her hand outs are being abused by people that have homes. She’s feeding and clothing addicts and alcoholics whom would otherwise sober up and work to eat if they couldn’t get it. On the other hand the people who aren’t capable of caring for themselves at all need her services. So,what do ya do? I think she’s a saint for her efforts. Because being in the mix of people she works with you really do see the best and the worst of what a human can be. The universe needs her to do it for those that truly do need her.

    1. Hi Scott,

      I struggle at times with what is considered enabling those with chemical dependency/alcoholism and what is considered caring for someone who might otherwise die if they did not have the basic human needs for food, shelter and clothing (especially in winter). Do you think that because of shelters such as Sharing and Caring hands, people tend to not recover because they are unable to experience the full impact of their addictions? Is it possible that through her efforts, there may be some who actually feel like they may have a chance because someone cares? I also struggle with the fact that many addicts and alcoholics are self-medicating other psychological problems (PTSD, Schizophrenia etc.). How can one turn away someone who is suffering from a mental illness or mental trauma – how would you determine who is who?

      As someone who had lived with someone with severe alcoholism and having been involved in Alanon and treatment progams more times than I can count – I do believe in the “tough love” approach and need for accountability. However, as a mom, I would hope that if my child was an addict, someone would provide the food and shelter that they would need.

      I definitely hear what you are saying and appreciate what you are saying. I am just torn on when is it the right time to step back vs. support.


Leave a Reply