While I enjoy the spontaneity and the day-to-day surprises that this job brings, there are certain things that happen here regularly enough to make me wonder if there’s not some calendar somewhere that I don’t know about that would help clue me into what’s going on.
It would just be extraordinarily helpful, for example, if I knew when certain kids were going to all of a sudden start screaming in the parking lot. Or dining room. Or the middle of chapel. I’m sure there’s some sort of secret schedule that all of them are on, but I can’t quite figure it out.
Also, if I could figure out which days people were going to run out of their medications (or just decide to stop taking them), I could, in theory, be better prepared for those encounters. I am sometimes accidentally overconfident when it comes to certain conversations; I assume that the responses to my questions will be rational, and then am caught off guard when someone tells me my dad’s just given them a job (he hadn’t) or they’re being seized by the government (they weren’t).
And then there are the people who come back to the Mission near the end of most months because they’ve spent all of their money. One would think that I would remember this because it happens so often, but I get caught up in other things and then am genuinely surprised to see them back here. This creates a pretty chaotic environment at the end of the month, and this month is no exception.
Currently, we have also been inundated with people who have come up from camping at the river because the police are doing what are called “sweeps”. They go through the camps every so often, looking for people who have outstanding warrants and things like that. Some of the people who come here are hiding from them, but most of them just don’t want to be relentlessly questioned while having their worldly possessions picked through and examined. Can’t say I blame them.
Rarely do those last two events occur simultaneously; when they do, though, things get hectic. Currently we’re in a season like that. I’m being dramatic by using the word ‘season’; at the end, there will really only have been about 10 days of being filled to the brim. Yesterday a couple, a single woman, and a family of 3 all checked in, bringing our side of the Mission nearly to capacity.
Sometimes I get overwhelmed thinking about the fact that there are several nights a week when I’m the only person overseeing all of these women and families. Last night I sat at dinner and counted 55 different people in our section–that means 55 different life stories that I’m familiar with, 55 different plans that have to be thought out and worked through, and 55 different personalities that I have to figure out how to relate to in a helpful way.
It’s absolutely worth the exhaustion that I feel, however, when they begin to trust me enough to ask me to pray for them or they tell me the truth about something even though they’re not sure what my response will be.
I’m learning to listen both to what is being spoken out loud and to what is actually being said; it’s necessary for all relationships, not just the ones with the people I’m working with. People can tell when they’re being genuinely cared for, as opposed to simply being dealt with or managed.
So even though there are times when it feels like I can’t even keep track of my own life, let alone the lives of friends/family members/coworkers, I’m reminded of how important it is to even just remember small things–to ask about things that they care about, even when I have no interest in the topic. If we all listened to others as much as we want to be listened to, I think the world would work a little more efficiently. And I think Jesus would be pleased by our efforts; after all, he created us to love…so we might as well do it, right?