Volunteer by Chance
By Christine Bowen
After my grandson Brendon was baptized in January 2008, my daughter Jeanette sat and talked with Sister Pearl (before she was a nun.) The next thing I knew, Jeanette, Brendon and I were taking the 2:45 AM shift for PADS the next day. It was my first experience assisting the homeless individuals and I wasn’t sure what to expect. Jeanette, Brendon and I sat upstairs in what was the old kitchen area. It was pretty uneventful and there was little interaction with our guests. However, when everyone started to wake up we had an opportunity to meet and visit with several of the guests. Jeanette and Brendon moved down to the social hall while I helped with the clean-up. Everyone was so interested in seeing the baby and he brought a smile to many faces. As the guests stripped their beds, washed and bleached the beds, Elizabeth and I sorted the linens.
As we were finishing the clean-up, Sharon came up and said to me “there’s a young mother down there with a tiny baby.” “It’s so sad but at least she had the baby baptized.” I told her that mother was my daughter and the baby was my grandson and we both laughed. Just then I realized how fortunate I was that my daughter wasn’t homeless. I also realized that all the women there were someone’s daughter and in some cases, someone’s mother. It really made me appreciate all the women who were struggling just to survive. I knew I was blessed because I always felt that I would have a home because I had such a wonderful family. I’ve always known that if I fell on bad times they would open their homes to me and my daughters. It made me realize just how wonderful it is to have that knowledge. This knowledge has always given me comfort because I knew I wasn’t alone out there – that my family had my back and I had theirs. Judging by the number of homeless people out there, I was given a great gift.
Over the years I have volunteered on an “as needed basis” when they can’t fill a slot or when someone has to cancel. There have been times when someone may have been difficult but never anything that couldn’t be handled. Most of our guests are very grateful to have a warm place to stay and food to eat. I think about the mothers there with their children and I think being safe is the most important part of their stay at St. Luke’s.
I may have decided to volunteer even if my daughter hadn’t done it for me, but I might have missed that “AHA” moment. I hope others who have never volunteered will just try it once. They might not feel what I felt but they will feel good about what they are doing to help someone’s daughter or mother.