Homelessness isn’t something that can be scheduled. Because of that, we get people checking in at all hours of the day. Sometimes it’s because their bus didn’t get in until late, and other times it’s because they got into a fight with the people they were staying with or the cops found them wandering on the road and couldn’t just leave them there.
Whatever the case, they come to us.
It is not an easy task to be welcoming within minutes of being woken up by a phone call. I found myself sick a lot this winter and I always felt like the people I was checking in were a little bit terrified of my raspy voice.
But I digress.
A few weeks ago, a woman checked in around 1 in the morning. She had gone to another city to try to find her son, but was unable to for some reason or another. In the process, she spent most of her money, gave up the lease on her apartment, and lost most of her possessions.
Despite all of this, she still found things to be joyful about. There were definitely times when she got frustrated with the people around her, and she told us a few slightly unsavory stories…but for the most part, she plowed through her days with an “I can do anything” attitude. I spent most of my interactions with her trying to get her to smile, because man. Her toothless grin (she’s 70. also her false teeth hurt her mouth.) took over her entire face, and it was, without a doubt, the highlight of my days.
And this woman was one of the most generous people I have ever met. On Valentine’s Day, she came into the Family Shelter office with bags of things for us. Among these things were two boxes of valentines, at least four blocks of cheese, and some cans of soup. She had found a good sale and thought that we could use them to start an “office pantry”.
This was not an isolated incident, and she is not the only one who has done that. I am often offered cups of coffee, candy bars, weird toys (I usually say no to those…), and various other items. It seems like nobody goes to a store without first asking if I want them to bring something back for me.
Despite the fact that most of the people here have very few resources, they are still willing to share. And their generosity goes far beyond material possessions.
They are generous with their time–I rarely have to look very hard to find someone when I need help with something.
They are generous with their advice–though, to be honest, I don’t follow it very often…a lot of it doesn’t actually relate to my daily life…
They are generous with their concern–I am asked multiple times a day why I’m not wearing socks or a coat (I tell them I’m trying to get spring to come faster).
Working here means that I am constantly challenged to be more giving in all of these areas. I am reminded regularly that the things I’ve been given (tangible or not) aren’t really mine, God has just made me a steward of them for the time being. For more on that, check out Matthew 25:14-30 (the parable of the talents. or, oddly enough, bags of gold. depends on your translation.).
As of today, I have worked at the Mission for 8 months and I am just now beginning to fully understand how much of God’s character is reflected in the people here, regardless of whether or not they always recognize it or even believe it to be true.
Because, really, God is the epitome of generosity. He invites us into a relationship with Him, He consistently gives us things we don’t deserve, He forgives us, He runs after us, He forgives us again, He loves us without hesitancy, and so much more.
Friends, we’re blessed.