Others are not so lucky. I met many of them a couple weeks ago when I had the privilege of serving at our city's homeless shelter.
When people think of Traverse City, most people imagine the beautiful beaches, Cherry Festivals, Sleeping Bear Dunes and unique downtown shops. They don't consider that we also have our own homeless population.
While Traverse City has a homeless shelter, it doesn't meet the needs of our community. To solve that problem, a group of people developed a program called Safe Harbor that provide sanctuary to the homeless. Safe Harbor rotates among a network of local churches each week from November until May. Each participating church recruits members to prepare meals, visit with the guests, clean the facility, serve meals and spend the night to ensure the safety of all.
The night I spent was eye-opening. I learned that people are the same no matter their circumstances. They have hopes for their future, they dream about a better life. They follow sports and news. And they listen to a little ZZ Top. Like Disco Don.
When I arrived, Disco Don came up to my car listening to his ipod and doing a little dance. (And, yes. I said ipod, because everyone needs their tunes.) Disco Don offered me his ear buds so I could enjoy the song he was boogieing to. I politely declined, explaining that I could hear it just fine from where I was. He then said to me, "You know Ma'am. I love Jesus. And I like my smokes. And I love God, but I like to drink." I smiled and said that I also love Jesus and enjoy a drink every now and then and he danced happily away.
I also met a man and woman who are planning to get married in April. They were talking about the details of there wedding: who is going to be Best Man, what kind of dress she wants to wear, hoping their friends will be able to make it. Why had it never occurred to me that homeless people meet, fall in love, and plan a future together? Just like you and I.
Then there was Philip. Philip has nicely trimmed hair, white, straight teeth. He's smart as a whip and very well-read. He discussed the primaries, gas prices and shared his opinions on many other subjects. His clothing was clean, brand-name and he was very well-mannered. And yet, he has no job, he has no car, he has no home.
I met Carol who was certain all of the women at the shelter were conspiring against her. She refused to sleep in the same room as them because she feared for her life. Instead she made up a cot outside the parish library and stayed there all evening. Even to eat her meals.
When I sat down to talk to her, she asked me about the business I am in (real estate) and proceeded to tell me how standards and practices of the real estate and mortgage industries need to change. She explained in great detail how she knew there is a recession around the corner and offered her suggestions as to how it can be avoided. And yet, she is homeless.
I met mothers and father. Grandparents. A young gentleman who works hard every single day but just can't seem to get ahead.
Another of the guests goes out every night around 10pm and spends three or four house collecting beer and pop cans to return for money.
I met very young adults who have family in town. And yet, they are homeless.
As I sat in my chair during my "awake" shift in the early hours, I listened to the quiet (and sometimes loud) snoring of these men and women who through some bad habits (drugs and alcohol), poor choices (drinking under age, not paying tickets) and other more complicated reasons (mental illnesses) do not have the blessings that I have.
It is my belief that our purpose in this world is to serve others. Whether it is our own families, a depressed co-worker, a sick neighbor, the homeless. We can"buy a man to fish" or "teach a man to fish", we just need to get that guy a fish.
Our challenge is to touch people's lives. In whatever way we can, every single day. And then go home and shake our groove thang like Disco Don.
I wrote this post originally a couple years ago at my other blog Sisters of a Different Order. Since then, I have had the pleasure of serving guests with Safe Harbor at different churches. The Faith Group will be taping a show all about serving our brothers and sisters in need next week. Please pray for our special guest, and for those who really need our help so much.