I started volunteering at a local day center for women and children experiencing homelessness a couple of weeks ago. My friend suggested it when I was looking for a place to volunteer as part of my plan toward returning to work with the help of the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation. I have the joy of doing “Guest Relations” work, which basically means hanging out, being a listening ear, sitting with, just being with the women. How lucky am I?! Oh, and we play Bingo and color together. Yesssss!!!
My husband texted me to ask how my time went yesterday. I sent him this text back:
“Today was great. The house was packed because of the rain and cold. It was fun to do my activity with the women*, and more are trusting me with their stories the more they see me and get to know me. I got to watch some Price is Right with some of them. They have male models now. (laughing crying emoji) A woman came in angry that she couldn’t get services til January 1 (she somehow did something to lose them), and when she blew out of there yelling that she was calling the police, etc. the ladies all stopped and prayed for her and her kid. They are broken and beautiful women.”
I see myself in them, my own brokenness. Many of them are dealing with health challenges for example. One woman talked with me about how she started losing her vision, was blind for a time even, shortly after finishing all of her formal art education. She was devastated and wondered what she was going to do with all of her passion and learning. She has since joined a tactile art group with other people experiencing blindness, has had a piece make it into a juried show, and was telling me where I could find her collaborative sculptures around town. What resilience! She pushed through the literal darkness to find joy again. What perseverance for me to learn from.
And I can see ways that I have much to learn from them, these beautiful, beautiful women. I mean, think about your girlfriends. If I’m being totally honest, if I were with a group of mine and we witnessed someone lose their cool and create a scene, I’m knowing that our first collective thought wouldn’t be mercy, grace and to start praying. Ouch…! These women have beautiful hearts! One said under her breath, “I know how I’ve gotten to the place where I’ve done that before.” Humility and a vulnerable “me too” – I need to drink down more of that!
I get to watch the small ways they care for each other every time I’m with them. One woman shared yesterday that she is going to use her little money to buy a soda and a candy for a friend from the day center Saturday; they have time planned to hang out, and that is what good friends do, they share and they give. One woman spent 3 hours yesterday scrubbing down the kitchen until it shined. It is normally a chore that two women do together. I offered to help her twice, and both times she’d say something pretty much along the lines of: “You just go have fun, I’ve got this; I enjoy doing this, it’s my way to give back and take care of others here.” The second time I decided she was for real. When is the last time I’ve cleaned up after 30 other people for 3 hours hand washing dishes with nothing but joy & gladness in my heart? Ummm…never. One woman had her headphones in her ear all day, and spent an hour singing loudly enough that you could hear her throughout the upstairs of the house (and you know how no matter how great of a singer we are, headphones in our ears are not our friends). The only comment I heard was from one woman: “She must have her headphones in still. Just listen to her praising God and doing her thing.” These women are all so different, but one thing they share in common is making space for and actively showing grace for one another. They truly knock my socks off every time I’m there. They spur me on to see the best in others too, and to grow in grace and love and mercy. This is a place where the fruits of the Spirit are alive and well. Not what you thought about a homeless day center? It’s seriously like church sometimes up in there!!
In these last going on two years, I’ve spent a lot of time mostly by myself at home. I’ve spent a lot of time with me. It is so refreshing to be back out in the world with other women on a regular basis. Women who, like me, are broken and beautiful. Women who challenge me to grow in love and faith and perseverance. Women who think different than me and the same as me, but who’s graciousness cover over all our differences. There is laughing and crying and joking and silence and talking and all of the good stuff of life. I read the news and my heart breaks. I look at my Facebook feed and my heart breaks again. But I spend time with these women, and I see God’s goodness all around and am filled with hope. Hope that God’s people can be a people of love and light. That we have the capacity to lift each other up and be salt and light to each other no matter the hard circumstances of our daily lives or the junk of the person in front of us or beside us. I am grateful for the love these women show me, for the love they model to me, for the love they have for each other, for the love that I get to witness and be a part of when I am there. For how that love follows me out the door and helps me see that things can be alright in the world if we’d just take our cue from these women.
Find yourself some people like this!! Find a place to be love, receive love, be a part of love. Ooooh, I am filled with hope! This is God’s upside down kingdom at work, and I am ever grateful for these women.
*we watercolor painted Scripture cards (and faces and tattoos and all other kinds of stuff)