Friday, December 7, 2012

Do we get to...

Since I was unable to fly home to MN during Thanksgiving week  (because I could fly to MN…..or Paris for the same price!) I spent some time volunteering at the Winter Interfaith Shelter in San Francisco.

The first night I was there was “opening night” of the Winter shelter.  Thirteen of us gathered in a church kitchen, cooking everything from scratch --meatloaf, potatoes, a variety of steamed vegetables, 2 desserts,  dinner rolls, pats of butter. 

We watched them as they checked in at the door and found a place at a table.  Before dinner could be served, the rules of the shelter were read aloud to everyone.   The men get a 7-day pass to the shelter.  So for 7 days, they know they will have a hot dinner, a place to sleep and breakfast in the morning.  After the rules were read, one man raised his hand to ask a question.  He was visibly dirty, tired, thin, and rather young (I would guess mid-forties).
“Do we get to take a shower?” he asked.  And all I could do was stare at him from across the room seeing the hope in his eye of hot water and soap.  In my head, I kept replaying his words, “get to,”  “ get to,”  
 get to.” 
 I’d never thought of a shower as a privilege.  And it lead me to think about what I take for granted, what I complain about, what I get to do.
Get to take a shower. Sometimes more than once if I get to go the the gym.
Get to make coffee every morning.  Get to go to my job. Get to drive my car. Get to eat three times a day, every day.  Get to do my laundry. Get to know where I am going to sleep each night, not just for one week.

My friends said I was doing, ”such a good deed.”  The truth is, I felt guilty because being there brought me such a sense of joy and honor getting to meet these men and the other volunteers.  To have the pleasure of cooking and preparing food with so much thought and love behind it, and to say,  
” Welcome.  We have a place for you here.”