Monday, December 7, 2009

Serving the Homeless; a few lessons learned

Mondays. I don't know what it is about Mondays that makes me want to stay in bed and pull the covers over my head just a bit longer. I know why I feel that way today. It's cold and it's rainy. The sound of the rain drops hitting gently against the roof of the camper in a soft, soothing pitter-patter makes it hard not to fall back to sleep and into dreamland.

Aaahhh...Mondays. The kids don't have an excuse for not hopping out of bed at the crack of dawn. They are teenagers; they never want to get up. If left on their own, I'm convinced they would lay there awake or not for the entire day. Well, maybe not, eventually, they would get hungry. I guess that's what normally happens. They stay in bed as long as they can and then they have to get up and feed their belly. On Monday I always allow them to sleep in just a bit longer. Any other day of the week I would hear their alarms going off right around 7:30, but not today. It's nearly 8:30 and not a creature has stirred since my husband left for work two hours ago. Except the puppy who jumped on my bed, licked me to my displeasure and after he was convinced that I was truly awake, laid down at my feet and promptly fell back to sleep. Satisfied that his work for the morning was indeed done.

Mondays are one of the only days that we have regular scheduled activities so despite the temptation to sleep in, we are needed elsewhere. And today elsewhere happens to be to a nearby homeless shelter where we have a standing appointment each week to serve lunch to nearly 150 men, women and even heartbreakingly, a few children.

I have to admit that our reasons for helping are a bit selfish on our part; my son is determined to earn the Presidential Volunteer Service Award. Self-serving or not, after each experience we have left blessed beyond measure by the amazing people that we meet. This particular shelter has a program available for its residents. They are fed, clothed, counseled and have some place safe to sleep that gets them off the streets. In exchange, the participants agree to be part of a 'program'. I'm not entirely sure how it works, but the residents are given jobs like working in the kitchen, guard duty, etc. They are also responsible for attending all programs that are offered from different individuals and churches. One of the men told me today that last week they had a rock band that was made up of bikers that are Christian bikers. They gave their testimony and shared Christ with the residents. They also sang Christian rock songs. He was amazed because he'd never heard of Christian Rock music before and he really liked it, as he described...'because it was just like Van Halen, but the words were different!'

I also worked with a woman that has just celebrated 30 days of sobriety! She is so proud of herself, as she should be. She's taken a huge step by enrolling in the program and she's had a really difficult time the past month and faced a lot of temptation, but she hasn't given up. She's determined to remain sober. Tonight she will be recognized in a special program and she's excited to show me the pin she will receive when we return next week and I'm excited for her. I pray that this will truly be a life changing experience for her.

I know our hours of service have certainly been life changing for us. I for one am learning not to judge. To be merciful and kind. There are many, many people that have been affected by this economy. I don't think any of us can take for granted what we have. Many of those that gather at the mission daily are not alcoholics, they've never taken drugs, they've planned for the future and then sometimes, something, out of their control has left them not knowing where to turn. Many have suffered car accidents, illnesses, the death of a loved one, or job loss. Many had nice clothes, beautiful homes, cushy jobs and a family- and yet they've found themselves somewhere they've never wanted to be, often alone.

One man I spoke with remarked that he would have a good day today since I spoke to him. Wow! He'll have a good day, just because I had a kind word for him? That really made me think...and feel guilty. How many times in the past would I walk past someone in his shoes and not even look at them, let alone offer a kind word? How could I think that they weren't just like me? From now on, I'll try. I'll make the effort. Even when it's uncomfortable, which makes me think of one of my favorite songs by Casting Crowns, If we are the Body, that you can watch below. I chose a video that displays the words, because I don't know about you, but sometimes I really need a reminder of what I'm supposed to doing, living for Christ and sharing sharing His unfailing love with others. I am part of the Body. Sometimes, I just need to a reminder.


  1. I know what you mean about feeling like you are doing volunteer work for selfish gains. When I started doing free blog makeovers for people who blogged for therapy I think a lot of it stemmed from a pathological need to help people. I did it because it made ME feel good. I guess it was a positive result that it made them happy too though. These days though I do it because it makes THEM happy so things have changed a little...these days I don;t EXPECT to get anything out of it, but I do :) I think your family will be getting something else from it to - volunteering is always character building. I;ve been volunteering in one form or another for 18 years now and can vouch for that.


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