A Week Helping the Homeless

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Being married to a very active, giving person is not always easy. My wife (Susan) volunteers for so many things, I get tired just thinking about it. Of course, nowadays I get tired thinking about most anything.   This year, I was vol...

Being married to a very active, giving person is not always easy. My wife (Susan) volunteers for so many things, I get tired just thinking about it. Of course, nowadays I get tired thinking about most anything.
 
This year, I was volunTOLD that I would be spending the night on the first day of the men's PACEM week. Susan, of course, was the lead and I was designated (delegated?) as a helper and to stay overnight. I was also invited (by the Mrs) to volunteer for any additional duties during the week that I felt able to participate in.
 
So, I signed up for “any additional help” and “shower monitor” on Saturday. Since I was going to be there on Sunday morning anyway, I knew we would be serving the coffee and cleaning up – I didn't feel the need to sign up for that, knowing Susan, she would put me to work.
 
I looked at the volunteer schedule several times the week before, trying to figure out what else I could do to help. The two of us discussed hosting a dinner, but I decided the time was too short to plan a meal.
 
Suddenly it hit me – nobody was signing up to stay overnight. I mean, that's perfect. I can help out the cause while sleeping (or trying to) for the majority of my “shift.” So I signed up for most of the nights.
 
* * *
 
Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
 
* * *
 
The first morning didn't go too well. We got up at 5AM, which proved to be too late, and we ran out of coffee. We had cracked the servilator door as we tried to finish up, and all I could see were pairs of feet in front of the window, the men waiting for their coffee.
 
I managed by the end of the week to get a good schedule, including getting up way too early every morning at 430AM. On the last morning I worked, I hit the snooze alarm on my phone and thus, turned on the coffee ten minutes later than usual. Let me just say that, they might need PACEM to have a place to stay, but those men still have schedules. I finally had to poke my head out to explain to them that the coffee was going to be ten minutes late due to my laziness, so that they would quit shuffling around in the dark like a mob of disgruntled zombies.
 
* * *
 
I enjoyed my week and hope to be able to repeat the experience in the future. It was a nice feeling, helping. I had conversations with several of the men. The differences struck me – some of them looked homeless, others looked like they were off to a job in an office. Their ages varied from young to old, their personalities from cheerful to withdrawn. Some slept all night, while others were on the internet way into the dark hours. As familiarity grew, they would ask me for things – by the end of the week I was bringing one a cup of milk, another a glass of ice water, and I saved “bear claw” pastries for a third.
 
I felt like I didn't want to bring up anything in a conversation about me, being conscious of the fact that I have a home, a job, and food to eat – every day. Their stories, in the little I got to hear, were as different as the snowflakes that fall from the sky.
 
Most fascinating was a man who appeared to be older than me. He told me about his day volunteering at the soup kitchen, among other things. That stopped me in my tracks. This man, who did not have a home, spends his days volunteering to help others. Some things in life make a person feel very small.
 
I am glad that I was part of the PACEM week.
 
* * *
 
Dear Lord,
 
As the PACEM shelters close for the spring, help these men as they navigate their world. Help them find shelter, food, employment, friends, family. Help them reattain their self-worth.
 
Help us who are more fortunate, Lord. Help us to remember that people everywhere need help every day – not just at Christmas and Thanksgiving. Help us to remember why we are here and to avoid idolizing the material trappings of this world, as they interfere with our relationship with you.
 
Amen.
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