Once a month, my littlest one and I head downtown to the Calgary Drop In to serve lunch. We happened to be scheduled for thanksgiving which would enable my six year old to be able to come as well! For those who may think both my kids are always interested in being with the homeless, I’m about to burst that bubble. My oldest stated he would only come if he could have a slurpee after. In his words, “That way I can get through the boring stuff.” Granted, serving lunch to him wouldn’t seem that exciting on their day off, however I did tell him that I’d be happy for him to come just because he wanted to be there…. and there would be no slurpee at the end. Typical six year old fuss followed…
I was surprised to see that those who were volunteering to serve lunch were the homeless people themselves. There were only two of us who were outside volunteers. Every other time I’ve gone, there’s always been many outside volunteers. One homeless man grumbled about the twenty hours of service he has to do each week in order to have a room on their fourth floor. He wasn’t too happy about having to serve lunch. I bit my tongue, wanting to get all momma up in his face about thankfulness. It’s guys like that who give homeless people a bad rep. However, the other homeless man on the other side of me stated, “It’s not like he described. This place treats us amazing.” Most people at the shelter are very grateful to have a place to go, and when you serve them, always give a big “thanks” in return.
My son Chris is a highlight each month among the guests at the Drop In Centre. I often hear them tell me about their kids. Some of their kids are grown up, or some have young children just like mine. Like one of the women I met today who has a one year old. Her boyfriend has custody of their baby because she is living in a shelter. You can see the brokenness in all their eyes when they speak of their children. I often wonder, and wondered especially today, where their families are on a holiday like this? What events in their lives brought them to sit alone in a shelter to be served soup and sandwiches on a traditional family day? You feel their loneliness. Because we’ve been volunteering consistently for a couple of months now, I have been able to talk to some of the regulars who have started to accept our love. Looks of skepticism have softened into familiar smiles.
I don’t volunteer at the shelter to get a check mark for “good deeds”. I volunteer because I realize that these people each have a story. They are significant and have great value. I want to value them even through a smile and a shared sandwich. They are a lot like me; they have families, dreams and brokenness. I could so easily be in the same position. I don’t do it to teach my kids to do the same – I do it because I want this to be “normal” for our family. I don’t see myself separated from them. I see “us”. Humanity is a wide foundation to find commonality.
I would have loved to have been there all day. Yes, it reminded me again that I have much to be thankful for, but most, that time spent among the marginalized fires up my insides. Perhaps that’s because my Saviour loves it too.