The New Year began at 5:30am with my shift at the Overflow Homeless Shelter. Our numbers have significantly increased since the beginning of the season and I’m on a weekly rotation to help with check-out in the mornings. When a guest comes to our shelter, they are given a bin that contains a pillow, sheet, and a blanket. If they come each night, they get their same bin. Such a small but profound gesture of hospitality. Yes, it’s a mat on a floor with 20 other women, but you’ve got your own pillow and your own blanket. Those of us who sleep in the luxury of our own beds each night know how important that is. My role is to help the overnight volunteers assist the guests with their bins. They get their clothes and items out of the bin and place the pillow, blanket, etc. back in the bin.
I always learn something when I’m there. On this day I learned that a winning smile and infectious personality (!) doesn’t always work. At one point outside with many of the guests on their smoke break, one guests was having a particularly rough morning. Nothing a little charm couldn’t solve, I thought. I smile and said “Good morning, Happy New Year!.” I was then told what happens to priests in prison, or what should happen to them, it wasn’t entirely clear, followed by some other words. It was completely my fault. She was having a bad morning and I should have let her be. That’s what I get for thinking I can fix everything. I can’t swoop in first thing in the morning and sprinkle a little sunshine and make her problems go away. My job is to help provide a place where she can be. Over time, with patience and consistency, progress can be made.
It struck me that after she made it known she had no time for me, she walked over to another guest and politely asked for a cigarette. When she was given one, she sincerely promised to replace it when she bought her pack. She was gentle with impeccable manners. We cannot quickly judge anyone and we paint portraits with broad strokes at our own peril. If anyone thinks there are easy, simple solutions to society’s problems, I encourage them to volunteer for a bit and listen and observe. Things are far, far more complex than politicians or Facebook meme’s make it out to be.
Ran home, changed clothes, and returned for the Feast of the Holy Name. I love this feast day and I hate that so few have the opportunity to observe it as it falls on January 1. I was pleased to have six join us for Morning Prayer and Mass, some for the first time. Whereas the Name of God was unspeakable, now we’ve been given a Name to remain forever on our lips.
The office was closed for the New Year, so I went home and did my best in preparing the collards, black-eyed peas, and ham I bought the day before. It was…ok. My wife had to work that night and needed to sleep in the afternoon, so I pulled the pots off the stove earlier than I should.
That afternoon, I watched a couple of episodes of Broken from my newly acquired BritBox subscription. Sean Bean is good as a Roman priest in the UK. Parts are hard to watch, but so far, it’s a good series.
I turn 40 this year. One of my goals is to have a book proposal and chapters submitted by April 13. I finally had an idea that might work and wrote about 18 words towards it!
Evening Prayer (79 BCP) for the Holy Name and lights out.