Today began like last Thursday. As I said I decided to spend another night in the Hypothermia shelter. Last week when I was over night we never reached the maximum 25 in the shelter so I always felt we could let more in if they came. However, this Thursday it pained me when we filled up the Hypothermia shelter. To me what had become a place of refuge under my protection had become sort of club some people weren’t invited to. As the night wore on more and more people came to the door wanting to come in and I had to turn them away. Now they did have another place that we sent them to, but to me it didn’t make a difference. if they couldn’t stay at my shelter then I was unsure of what their plan was which made me skeptical of whether they were sleeping outside or not.
Now there was a young man, maybe mid-late 20’s, who had left the hypothermia shelter early last night and left his stuff. Now if you leave hypothermia your bed then becomes up for grabs if anyone else arrives. He had left the night before and had not come back. We had not seen him yesterday either during prayer service (of which he is a regular attender). This caused some question. He had left and left his suitcase, which was pretty much all of his possessions. As I heard the story from the woman who coordinates the hypothermia I was filled with compassion. I wanted to find this man and get him his stuff.
Around 2 o’clock this morning this young man came to the door looking not only for his stuff, but also a place to sleep. We were full up. He couldn’t sleep in the hypothermia. I wanted to help this guy. I wanted to be his personal helper, but I couldn’t help him. The least I could do was to get him his luggage and a ride to the Kennedy Shelter. He said that he didn’t want to go to the Kennedy Shelter. As we had a small talk back and forth about where he would sleep I let slip out of my mouth:
“We can either take you to the Kennedy Shelter or you will have to spend the night outside.”
…You want to talk about having the taste of vinegar in your mouth. Those words were really hard to swallow. I so badly did not want to have to tell him he would have to be out on the street, but it was his only choice. There were no other shelters that we could get him to, no where else to go. Kennedy was his only option. However, it pained me so bad to think that on a night as cold as it was that I could not help one of God’s children get a warm place to stay. Reluctantly after I said those words the young man said that he would allow us to take him to the Kennedy shelter. Part of me was relieved, but it still wasn’t in the shelter I was overseeing. There was still a part of me that wondered if Kennedy let him in or if he even stayed at Kennedy. The only way I would have known if he was alright is if he had stayed at Rising Hope, but he couldn’t.
The worst part about this story was saying those words. It hurt every ounce of my body to say them. However, it was necessary. If I had not said them I probably would not have convinced him to stay at Kennedy Shelter. Sometimes this tough love is what makes us do things too. It was not until now that I realized the compassion that I carry for this community. I cannot stand having one of God’s children suffering. I have not quite figured out what this means for my call yet, but I know that this trip has truly changed my life. I will never be able to look at the church the same again.
GOD’S CHILDREN ARE SUFFERING. WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO ABOUT IT? HOW FAR ARE WE WILLING TO GO TO HELP THEM?