I ended up at the meeting because I plan to start volunteering twice a month doing devotions at the womens' shelter (Technically, I was only going to do it once a month until I spent 2 hours at the shelter on Saturday. I'm fighting the urge to say every Sunday just because I know better than to trust myself with that kind of commitment right away!) and they ask that you attend the meeting to familiarize yourself with all they do.
We all know how large a problem homelessness is and there are so many levels of opinions regarding the homeless themselves. What gets me, though, over and over again, is how close I came to being on the streets myself. For me, I didn't have an addiction and I have a family who was willing to take me in and didn't want to see my son end up sleeping in a car. The people I met over the weekend, though, don't have those luxuries. They didn't wake up one morning and set out to become an addict, lose everything they had, put their own and their children's lives in jeopardy, become a "burden to society," deal with the constant rejection of having people not even willing to look them in the eye or even refer to them as real people. That wasn't a dream they had, they didn't aspire to be the lowest of the low. Yes - there are those who choose to live on the streets but they are not the majority. Our host on Saturday told us of a woman who, when she was in a group at the shelter and introducing herself and telling her story started by telling of her mother who gave her & her siblings drugs when she was 8 years old to keep them quiet. That woman didn't choose addiction - it was chosen for her and for a good part of her life, she didn't even realize there was an alternative that she was entitled to live.
My heart aches for these people. C.S. Lewis once said "It will not bother me in the hour of death to reflect that I have been "had for a sucker" by any number of imposters; but it would be a torment to know that one had refused even one person in need." My experience in San Francisco has been a torment to me. There isn't a single day that goes by where I don't see that woman holding her sign saying she is hungry and this not two minutes after I left 1/2 of a club sandwich sitting on my plate in a restaurant.
Today, too, I read an article about Irene Sendler. She was often referred to as the "female Schindler" and she worked to save thousands of Jewish children out of the Warsaw ghetto in Poland during WWII. What got me, though, was her refusal to allow anyone to call her a hero. As much as she had done (over 2,800 children saved by smuggling them out in suitcases, boxes, etc. and then placed in homes all over Poland), she felt she should have done more. She was arrested by the Gestapo, tortured and sentenced to death. She survived because a community organization in Poland at the time was able to bribe a guard and helped her escape. She was left in the woods with both arms and both legs broken. At great cost to herself, she did what would seem to be impossible and because of her so many children survived the horror of the Holocaust.
I don't want to be a hero, I don't want any kind of recognition - I absolutely can't stand attention and do everything I can to avoid it. What I want is to stop turning my back. To stop pretending the problem is someone else's, that I can just write a check and have done my part. It's not enough.
Even this is incomplete. The thoughts, the ideas, the frustration at having to be at my job instead of off volunteering somewhere - all of that keeps me from focusing right now. Perhaps in a few days, few weeks, when I have settled down a bit. We'll see. I'm just going to go to work and see what happens next, see where God leads me.