Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Evening After

Once a month I stay the night at Friend's Homeless Shelter on 15th st. Much more to come about this place and the interesting neighbors who stay there, but I wanted to write about the most moving part of the experience of volunteering; the evening after.

A night at the shelter usually means poor sleep and a day without a shower (or if you forget your toothbrush....). When I arrive to my apartment at night, I lock the door and am suddenly safe. I make some food... whatever I want. I take a shower. It feels so nice to be clean and warm.... it makes me cringe at how nice it feels. I might watch some tv or read a book or use the computer. I might talk to Erin or maybe just go to sleep early.

In those moments, I look at each of these seemingly standard activities in a new light. I realize what a miracle a home is. It's a mix of guilt and gratitude, the fact that I have refuge and the reality that I've just witnessed a world in which people don't. How very seldom do I think about the luxury of the worst party, or the blessing of a mediocre restaurant.

The evening after the shelter, I can't stop thinking about these things. My clothes smell of the standard issue DHS sheets and my back still feels the bent frames of the cot. Of course, my clothes will be washed, my backache will subside, the strength of this feeling will fade. But to me this means we must continue see, touch and taste the realities of how other people live in order to realize what we truly have. Or maybe just to keep our hearts outraged and open, still longing for a new neighborhood.

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