As a member of the Diversity Service and Inclusion LEAD team we were encouraged to volunteer at the local rotating homeless shelter in Mt. Pleasant. The shelter is put on by the Isabella County Restoration House who teams with local churches and organizations to house and feed those in need. I worked two shifts at the shelter which was at the First Methodist Church that week.
This experience to serve and interact with the homeless gave me a new perspective on homelessness as an issue and the people who are affected. The first day I was there I was preparing coffee for the residents and chatting with some volunteers when a man came through the doorway opened his arms and gave me a hug and said, “Hi I’m Michael.” He was so enthusiastic and thankful for our work and the interactions we had. The second day I volunteered we had a really bad ice storm so the bus was delayed for their pickup. My mentee Molly and I were able to hang around with the residents because we too had a delay from school. We played phase 10 and joked around which I could tell was filling Michael with joy just the way he needed to be.
Another interaction I had was with a man named Richard. The first day I was there Richard was very quiet and was sitting at a table where I was talking to a few others. He said a few words but mostly just listened. He left early that day to go fill out some job applications. The next day I visited I asked him if he had any luck with applications. His face just lit up in awe that I had remembered about it and that I cared enough to ask him about it. Richard still had to visit the unemployment office for some help but was making his way. Even though our interaction was short, I knew a meant a lot to him to recognize him and let him know that he has valued and is valued by other people.
Sometimes we see impoverished on the street corners with signs asking for money, a job, or food. I think we often feel guilty if we aren’t able to provide enough to help them. But sometimes a simple interaction is just as valuable. Take your blinders off and see them as they are. Open your eyes and see them as you want others to see you. God created them just as he created you and they deserve to know that they are valued and loved. This time of life may not be easy or ideal but as a community it’s our job to stand up and help in any way that we can. These are our people, we will treat them as such and give them a voice that speaks in our words and actions.
“Each one should use whatever gift he has recieved to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.”
-1 Peter 4:10-