Thursday, February 4, 2010

There ARE signs of life...

...but WOW!  What a weak week!  I made it to one class in the past 7 days.  I'm finally turning a corner with whatever kind of virus this is that has kicked my @$$ -- and I really can't take any more, so that's good!

Gotta story to tell.

I drive by a shelter every day to go to my practicum placement.  I noticed there was a sign requesting "Blankets Desperately Needed".  So, I cleaned out my linen closet and found six blankets that could be passed on, and ended up with a nice, neat linen closet!  I tossed the blankets into the laundry and put them in my car to drop off when I had a few minutes to spare. Three of the six were good heavy, serviceable, blankets, two quilts (not handmade, but department store fakes), and one rather ordinary blanket.

Today, I had time to stop and deliver them.  I parked, and got my bundles out of the back seat.  There was a group of men huddled outside the door of the shelter, and one asked me, "Are you dropping off a donation?"  I said yes, and asked if he could direct me to where I should go.  He agreed to help me, and took one of my bags.

As he took one bag, and felt the heft of it, his eyes lit right up!  "Are these blankets?"  I said yes, and that I hoped they would come in handy.  He looked up from the bag and into my face.  "You don't know how badly they are needed. Thank you.  Thank you miss."

The small group gathered around.  One young man - tall, good looking kid in his mid-20s maybe, with red hair and glasses asked me: "Can I have that blue one?" pointing to the blanket folded over my arm. I put the blue blanket in his hands, and said "There's a total of six in there." and my helper interupted: "ohhhhhh there's two quilts in here!!!" he quietly breathed to the men gathered around us. My business was through here, but I overheard the redhead boy tell the others, "I slept under a window last night, and nearly froze."

As I headed back to my car, the group of men called out their gratitude and words of appreciation, and I was hit with a sudden overpowering feeling of awe.  I like to think I'm a generous person, as generous as my means allow at any rate.  But I think this was the first time I ever took something of my own and put it DIRECTLY into the hands of a complete stranger and felt --- I don't know --- I don't have the words to describe how the experience shook me.  Giving feels completely different when you omit the "middle man" who takes the gift, and then divides it out. It was an enormously humbling, near-religious experience. 

Next stop: a 'coffee-house' drop in centre about two blocks from the shelter, which services homeless people.  A student at the school where I'm doing my placement had put out a call for coffee, cups, cleaning supplies, books, playing cards, etc.  I put together a box of things, and loaded a totebag with books.  I wasn't sure if I was at the right place, so I parked, and walked to the house, where there were about 15 or 20 men standing around outside in small groups.

I recognized a volunteer, and told her I had a couple of things to drop off.  One man asked if I need help, and I said yes, so he tapped his buddy and said, "Let's go help this lady."

On my way back to the car, I explained how grateful I was that they had offered to help me, because my packages were heavy, and I was feeling very week and just recovering from a very bad cold.  The younger, taller one replied, "That's okay, it's not a problem.  I understand, I'm just over a bad cold myself."

He told me to follow him in, so that I could retrieve my totebag.  The room I stepped into was comfortably warm, with old stacking tables, and wooden chairs set out in small conversational groups.  There was a long low bookshelf, stacked with books on one wall, and posters advertising different projects and events on another.  The conversations were low, no jokes, no songs, no reminiscences.  Just simple advice on survival.  One man warned another not to be too helpful to another person, because it's so hard to say no when you don't have what they need. "What are you going to tell him at 2 in the morning when he's begging you for a Tylenol?"

This made me think about the boy who just helped me unload my car, and about my last week, when I've had the support of family, friends, not to mention a health care system that didn't make any judgements about me based on how I looked, what I wore, or what my address was. And I had the money to buy any comfort I could want - pain medicine, ice cream, a bed, and time. How did that boy manage with his cold, living on the street? 

Again - - - an enormously humbling, near-religious experience.

I think I'm hooked.


  1. This was quite moving. My place of employment is right next to the community kitchen and I see the people -- men, women and even children -- going into the church basement for lunch. Most are inadequently dressed. I have been knitting mittens and hats since Dec 31 and am just about out of scap yarn. Instead of turning it into the homeless services I think I'll step next door at lunch time with my bag of knitted items.

  2. What a moving story..thanks for sharing :o)

    Off to get a tissue!

  3. There's nothing like putting it right in their hands is there? Enjoy the good feeling. Lane

  4. Great stories! I bet more people would give if they had more experiences like yours, instead of always going through a middle man. Good for you. What comes around, goes around, you know.

  5. Thanks so much for sharing that Nancy!! I need to go and get a tissue too :-)

  6. Thanks for posting that! It helps me to remember that I'm so blessed!

  7. This is beautifully written! Thank you for the inspiration.

  8. Hey Nancy:

    Got to thinking in Church this morning...would this be another good project for our quilting group to collect items that could be put to good use in these places?

  9. That was very inspiring...thanks for sharing that!

  10. I came for the seven shirt quilt and poked around. Loved this story and hope you planted seeds to people to realize these are real people suffering real problems. Thanks for this blog.