Friday, June 12, 2009

No sacrifice at all

It is 7:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning and I have been awake for almost 2 hours. This is a rare phenomenon. Even more rare is the fact that I really don't want to go back to sleep.

Last night I was having dinner with a friend, not so unusual on a Friday night, when I got a phone call from the church receptionist asking if I might step in at the shelter that evening because the volunteer for the night had failed to show. I felt inconvenienced, but as a martyr, accepted to invitation and gathered a few things before meeting the group of guys outside the church. As soon as I saw them any smug self-congratulation was squelched and replaced with the more accurate realization that this really was no sacrifice at all, but instead, a much needed reality check. The men were laden with "things" for when you are homeless, you carry all you own on your back or in roller suitcases.

As some of us went to the shelter kitchen to make sandwiches for dinner, one man carefully laid out his regiment of pills treating his diabetes and heart condition. Another man put in the latest Van Damme movie while another opened up his bed, pulled a sheet over his head and went to sleep.

"Lights out at 10 p.m." and our short evening together came to a close. I set out coffee and cereal and muffins in the morning and I received warm and insistent thanks as they ate and gathered their things for the day. Thank you nice, rich lady for sacrificing a whole evening of your time to make sure we didn't have to find a place on the street last night.

Not much of a sacrifice at all.

One gentlemen, let's call him 'R," was telling me about what life was like in Alabama where he was raised. His mama used to make him grits and eggs and cold cereal has been ruined for him forever. He said he was catching a bus later that day to go to Rockaway to fish for the weekend and I wished him well. I cannot help but wonder what it would take for R to obtain the dignity of a safe place to keep his clothes, his diabetes medication, a fishing rod, and a collection of goods for cooking grits. Wouldn't that be nice.

Here I sit, fingertips on a laptop, reading facebook posts from my lovely 16 year olds who are preoccupied with their clothes and shoes and parties and exams completely oblivious to R and others like him. I don't suppose I am all that different. But I should be.

Photo courtesy of a friend (Udo Wiegartner)


Doanz said...

Right on, Carmen. May God open our eyes and our hearts. Working in downtown Portland hospitals has some of the hardest moments- discharging patients on to the streets where you know they won't pick up the prescriptions they need, and they will be back in the ER in a week. But more than the healthcare I can provide, they need the Great Physician. Draw them to you, Jesus, and your people.

Carmen Goetschius said...

And thanks for your note Renee-- indeed-- I cannot imagine having to watch folks walk out of that hospital that have no where to go... Blessings upon your work. May God strengthen you as you love and heal as best you know how!

Carmen Goetschius said...

Ooops... I definitely offended one my readers. Sorry Brad. Internet conversation is always a bit tricky.

C'est la vie....

Kricket said...

This was a nice thought for me today.

David Hallgren said...

You sound very pensive of late. I hope you are doing well. I miss you and enjoy keeping up with you on the blog.