Sunday, October 24, 2010

Experiencing the homeless shelter: no better place to stay.

- "We christians do not only have a ticket to heaven [God willing], but we are also already participating in the party we will find there." - With this words I was trying to explain to a friend of mine that spiritual experience of discovering -already in our midst - that One who is always live-giving; namely the heavenly Father, the resurrected Son, the ever-working Spirit. It is the experience of the kingdom of the loving God being at hand; an experience of the already-here-but-not-quite-fully-yet that infuses all christian life. We are constantly invited to share and grow into the life of God. My friend didn't quite buy my argument, and before departing he came with the teasing suggestion that my volunteering that very same night at a homeless shelter should be like participating of heaven, or was it not what I was saying? Of course it was.

Volunteering overnight at the homeless-shelter run by St Francis Xavier Parish was one of the experiences I myself wanted to live for a long time. For many months I didn't find the time to do this so when the joyful season of lent came I put volunteering at the shelter into my lent project, so as to cut any how-busy-I-am excuses. I'm glad I did it and the experience went very well.

I was first greeted by Jim, who has been in charge of the shelter for almost 20 years, who told me the few rules I had to follow.

Soon afterwards, about 9pm, the men came and we pull out some food and drinks for a light supper. After that some of the men start watching TV on the sofa area. This is when I produced a chess-table out of a closet and soon enough I was playing against one of them. Two games we played and I enjoyed them so much that I cannot recall the last time I had such fun playing.

At about 11pm the lights went off and everyone went to bed. Needless to say that I barely sleep that night. Being a light sleeper I noticed many of the sounds around as well as any casual trip to the restroom. And about 2am someone had to be told to turn off the music that he happened to start listening at, so we can have silence again. Night went on smoothly and I took the opportunity to pray to our loving God in thanksgiving. I was thankful because I could not imagine any better place to stay that night than where I was. Thankful for the gift I was given of an spot close to heaven. In this sense it reminded me so much of my active scouting days where it was so easy to discover the presence of God.

We turn the lights on at 5.30am. Isn't that a crazy early hour? Men where supposed to leave at about 6.30 when a bus picks them up and bring them to a day facility. As breakfast we had some cereals and milk and soon they were all gone. A new day started, and I left the place with many ideas to reflect on and comments to be done, yet these would amount for another post.

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