Monday, February 22, 2010

Project Refuge

I watch a homeless guy eat ten cookies. He washes them down with a glass of milk. I am volunteering at a temporary shelter housed in the east wing of a local church. Each guest is granted linens, a cot, transportation, and access to the kitchen. Tonight the pan of cookies is favored.

My job is to make guests feel at home and human. We play games and share stories. They are victims and vagrants, convicts and Christians, addicts and dads. They are the least of these, and admit feeling thus. Cookies are a consolation.

I stay awake all night, making sure no thefts occur, no emergency alarms sound without immediate response, and no one sleeps past breakfast. My eyes grow weary. I read books and pace the hallways. I can hear one visitor snoring.

In the morning someone carrying a hot dish will relieve me. I will return to my home feeling warmed by my good deed and the hope of a nap. The guests will eat egg casserole and return to the streets, feeling cold and ambivalent toward the church.

Fortunately, I am not here to help them love me or the church. I am here to offer refuge. The mission is accomplished; they are all sleeping.

(NOTE: Project Refuge is a seasonal homeless shelter sponsored by the Greater Warsaw Ministerial Association and Salvation Army)

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