My memory is a little sketchy on details, but I remember that as I approached the front entrance to the shelter that the sun was shining and there wasn’t a single cloud in the sky. Prior to starting my volunteer stint, I had been taken on a tour of the entire shelter. I suppose it meant to disarm any fears you may have had, to put them to rest.
I had a desire to volunteer at the local Men’s shelter located downtown. It’s probably been over 10 years ago, since I volunteered during lunch time on Tuesdays. It’s a part of the city that I normally don’t visit too often. Also, I don’t hang out with homeless people, and quite honestly, I was nervous around them. In my mind they seem different from me.Partly of the way they dressed and smelled, but also because I didn’t know what to expect of them. It was one of the reasons that I did want to volunteer; I wanted a chance to be around the homeless. I didn’t always associate kindness with the homeless, but after volunteering at the shelter I as able to.
Weaving myself around all the men on that first day, I was hoping that no one would hear my pounding heart. The vestibule was small, and crammed with men talking and laughing, and then there was me. It seemed that I was the only one at 5’1 and a woman in this small, well used space. I was trying to remember the directions of how to get to the kitchen, where I would be helping out; I didn’t want to be late on my first day. All of a sudden and unexpectantly, I heard a voice, and I wasn’t even sure if it was directed at me. The sun was shining in the windows, and blocking my vision to see in front of me. I hadn’t said anything, and I was trying to look inconspicuous as possible. No angels were singing, but rather a gruff voice, ” No smiles on Tuesday?”
My anxious heart began to slow down. Immediately, I smiled, however, I wasn’t able to direct this smile at any one person.
I can’t tell you what he looked like, or even how his voice sounded because the recollection of it vanished. Though the memory stuck with me, I wasn’t able to retain of what became my encouragement, and what got me past my irrational fears, and moved me into what was essential.