Here in Manhattan, I volunteer at a homeless shelter once a month at the local Quaker Meeting House. I'm going again on Tuesday. The shelter takes some of the overflow homeless people from the city. There are two volunteers and 12 homeless guests. We serve dinner, get the cots ready for the evening, stay overnight, and serve breakfast in the morning.
My friends ask me, "What are 'they' like? How did 'they' get there?"
'They' are just like you and I, folks. Some have jobs, some go to work. They might have had a string of bad luck; medical bills they can't pay, depression, or right now, they were dealt a bad hand. Maybe they don't have a support network. I don't know. As volunteers, during the training, we're reminded not to ask. If people volunteer information, that's one thing, otherwise the volunteers are just there to make their night at the shelter pleasant.
I always leave the shelter saying to myself, "There but for the grace of God go I..." (And no, I'm not singing the disco version.....)
After dinner, for dessert, we usually serve ice cream. It's not Godiva creme de leche, it's not White Rose brand, it's just regular ice cream.
We eat together, and for a moment, while we're eating ice cream, we're all happy.
I know so many people who have so much, yet still want more; a bigger house, another car, a cuter boyfriend. When is it enough?
One guest, Sam, always thanks me for volunteering. Each time, he says the same thing. He gives me a big hug and says "You know, I used to work. I worked for 28 years, then they laid me off. You know what they say, from Park Avenue to park bench. Thank you for coming here, it really means a lot to me. From the bottom of my heart, I just want to say thank you."
I tell him, "Anytime...I'm sure you'd do the same for me."
I let him get away with that "bottom-of-my-heart" cliche...I can be nice....