Monday night I had the opportunity to participate in a homeless outreach event. A friend from work was leading it that particular night and invited me. Some of his friends started it by just wanting to provide meals to some of the homeless community in downtown Nashville. Because of its success, it has sense become a weekly event. They get together on Monday nights to pull their money together to make meals and take them downtown.
It was kind of cold on Sunday night and I found myself kind of dreading it. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks…I realized that I was complaining about it being cold outside, but they’re the ones living outside, trying to find warmth. I have the ability to put on extra layers of clothing, and wrap up in my scarf and gloves. I felt like a complete jerk! So, I changed my attitude and by Monday afternoon, I was actually looking forward to going to hang out with the homeless.
I left work a little early and met my friend at the store. We picked up 40 hot dogs, buns, chips, and water. Then we headed over to one of his friend’s house to cook and pack everything up into little brown bag dinners. Each bag had a hot dog wrapped in aluminum foil to keep it warm, a bag of chips, a bottle of water or soda, a banana or an orange, and some type of dessert. We also made a large cooler of tea, and a large container of clothes to pass out.
Then we headed downtown to set up shop. It was my first time participating, but most of the others are regulars. As soon as we walked up, the homeless men and women started flocking. The coolest thing was witnessing the relationships that had already been established. Some of the homeless men were asking where some of the regulars where. Some of the regulars were asking about things that would have happened in their lives over the past week. It was neat to see that just by passing out a meal, true community was actually happening. I had several incredibly interesting conversations. To listen to these men tell me stories about old jobs, their sons and daughters, broken relationships, old jobs, growing up in East Nashville. I realized that they just wanted someone to talk to…someone to invest in them. Probably even more than that hot meal.
I haven’t stopped thinking or praying for the people I encountered Monday night. I’m hoping to be able to go back when I’m able. I heard someone say recently that when we volunteer, most of the time we are benefited just as much, if not more. I truly agree that my heart definitely needed a reminder this week.