Did you know there are Angels on State Street?

You can see them there every day if you look hard enough. They aren’t dressed in white with feathered wings blaring of trumpets flying overhead…They wear t-shirts and jeans, so they can walk among us undetected…sometimes have backpacks and pull wagons.. they would be embarrassed to read this, because it is not in their nature to want to be recognized.. they are strong of character and are quick to do the humble work of caring for those who others have forgotten. Those who are treated as a blight on the city of Madison.

They will hold the hands of the suicidal and get them into treatment before it’s too late, sometimes they find people who have self-medicated to the point of alcohol poisoning or overdose.. and they get them to accept help and go on the ambulance, to live another day and have another opportunity to get their life back.

Sometimes they clean wounds and heal infections before sepsis sets in, sometimes they wipe up vomit and urine, and put clean clothes on a person with the flu who is too sick to do it themselves and they take him to a safe place for the night to heal and get safe sleep in the comfort of a hotel room. They claim the bodies of the unwanted or unknown, and provide the dignity of a burial- so they don’t lie on a cold slab in the M.E.’s office indefinitely. They put forth resolutions to provide housing for the poorest families in the city, even if it means a long battle with “the powers that be” because they don’t like finding families with young children living in their cars and on the street in Wisconsin in the wintertime.

These Angels are not wealthy, but they scrape together enough of their own money to feed hundreds of meals every week, not because they have to, but because their own moral compass tells them to “feed the hungry”…and that self directive is more important than having money for nice clothes or a night out. They give their time to come and smile, hug or hold the hands of those who may have no one else.

Sometimes these angels buy necessary things for those they watch over- like new underwear, a blanket, a sleeping bag, a new cane or pay a copay on a prescription that is needed. There are even a few angels who will take people into their own homes and give them shelter, share all of their worldly possessions and try to help them figure out how to move forward and off of the street.

They accept and love people as they are, with no judgement or expectation of repayment or even thanks.. and they do it because they know it is right, and good, and that they may be the last line of defense before the ugliness of a broken system, or addiction, poverty, illness, prejudice or hatred swallows someone whole.

There are Angels on State Street my friends… and they know the suffering by name. “Never underestimate that a small, committed group of individuals can change the world… indeed, it is the only thing that ever has…”

Do not despair the state of the world, because as long as there are Angels… the ground battle of the greater good over self-interest is being fought.

Being an Angel to the suffering is what it means to volunteer with Friends of the State Street Family. It’s not easy, or sexy or even popular…but it is meaningful work you can feel good about. So if you want to be an Angel… contact outreach@friendsofthestatestreetfamily.org or, if you are a cynic and think the world is too far gone… start to look for the Angels, because they walk among us. If you pay attention you may realize that there is still hope, kindness, and selflessness in a world bombarded by bad news.

Tamora Fleming
Founder of Friends of the State Street Family