Thursday, June 6, 2013

Who Am I? A Constant Tranformation

I traveled home to North Carolina for an entire week during the middle of May. While I was home (meaning the place I was born and raised, not necessarily the place I feel is my home) I reflected on my past, present, and future. I have been thinking about who I am as a 23 year-old female living in Chicago as a volunteer. What does that mean exactly? How do I really define who I am?

Well the universal theme that I have been feeling and discussing with people my age is the unknowingness of who I am; really who we all are as 20 something year-olds. I have noticed many themes from recent college graduates including a feeling of uncertainty in one's identity. There is no one way to define one's self because the way one define's themselves is based on their interest, personality, characteristics, etc that they hold most dearly to their heart. As a psychology and sociology student at UNCA (also a liberal arts school that emphasizes constant reflection and critical thinking outside of one's major) I reflected quite a bit on a regular basis on my personality, other's personality, and humanity as a whole. In college, I felt that it was easier for me to reflect because I was constantly drawing from my personal experience to define a new psychological term or sociological experience that I had to describe in a paper. Therefore, reflection, if I liked it or not, was a constant part of my college experience.

Living in an intentional community and working at a soup kitchen, I told myself initially that I would write down everything that I thought and came across to better understand the life of someone who visits and eats at a soup kitchen as well as a time of reflection my own thoughts and ideas. Well, with anything in life, those memos and notes to myself slowly dwindled and excuses pervaded. Instead, I would forget a funny line one of the guests told me or put up walls against the guests so I did not have to feel something that day because it is exhausting to care. So as I am coming in to the end of volunteer program I have noticed many characteristics of myself reflected in the work I do each day and the things I do outside of work on a day to day basis. These walls I put up are walls I have been putting up my WHOLE life. I can remember even as a small child that I would put up walls in order not to feel. These walls come from a time in my life when I was made to grow up faster then most 6 year-old's.

My father has suffered from illness his whole life but it became more detrimental after the onset and diagnosis of Lupus. My dad was in the hospital off and on through out elementary school due to Lupus. I did not have a real understanding of what it was exactly other then a thing that took my father away from being my father. Moreover, I am the youngest of three kids so I was the one who had to face growing up faster. I had to dress myself, pour my own cereal, and wake myself up. Don't get me wrong, my parents were not negligent but I chose to take these task on so that I would not have to bother my parents. My mom and dad continued to work but there were days when my dad was so sick that he was unable to go to work. As a child, I did not understand the reality of sickness because my brain could not comprehend the idea of it. (The study of the developmental psychology shows that many children do not understand abstract ideas until a certain age.) In order to survive, I pushed many emotions out of my mind to function  as a "normal" child.

Rather, I grew up self-motivated, goal-oriented, task-oriented, and independent. An employer would say that these are all positive characteristics, and I agree they are, but I missed a lot as a child that I am now dealing with as an adult. I am facing trust issues and emotional issues. I have learned to put things away in my mind to the point that I do not remember many aspects of my childhood.. whole years seem nonexistent.

Fast-forward to present day: A period of time that Erik Erikson would identify as the identity stage. Well Erikson believed this occurred in one's late teens but I argue that due to college, where identity is explored for 4 or 5 years, this is also a period of time where one can get away with not forming one's identity. Rather I would argue, identities are still being formed up until the late 20's because of continuous education such as college/graduate studies/phd studies, lack of palpable careers/choices, and an increase in technology. A recent Times article that I read while home in North Carolina at the dentist office spoke more about this issue, "Millennials" and their identity within a ever growing technological world. I can't quote this article because I could not find a copy of it available online but the identity theme ran throughout the article. (I recommend that everyone read it!)

So who am I? My past has made me a stronger independent person but caused many emotional problems that I am not facing as a 23 year old person. I see my ability to shut people out from my friends, family, boyfriend, and guests at the soup kitchen. I have noticed a theme through my life where I become numb in order to survive. However, my goal for the next two months is to make myself feel, to listen to people's stories, to balance emotional situations, and to talk about them upfront. Because at the same time I am a loving, compassionate person who finds joy in the guests at the soup kitchen, my friends, my boyfriend, and my family. I want to continue on in my identity formation to become the better me.

My past is creating my future and the changes I create now and help mold will be my future. Who am I? A constant change in the direction God grants me every day.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Senses Beyond Sight

Last year in my last semester of college I took a course, Creativity and Consciousness. The course load required that we complete three separate projects, one being sound, one being movement, and the other being lines. Ever since that project I have thought about the perceptions of senses beyond sight. Working in a soup kitchen serving people who are homeless or marginalized, sight is important. I can easily tell that someone is homeless for a multitude of reasons that I use by sight alone. For instance, it is pretty common for guests to carry an ALDO or Treasure Island bag because they are hefty and have handles or they might have a suite case where they keep a majority of their personal belongings. One who is homeless might wear the same clothing each day that seem dirty or has lots of holes in them. I sometimes comment on one of the guest's attire because I like the shirt or the color of the hat which most of the time leaves the guest with a puzzled expression. At first I was also confused about their expression and then realized over the months that  most of the clothing they are wearing is something someone gave them and they did not really have a choice in wearing that object. Moreover, I have to laugh because they best way to advertise is through a t-shirt that you give to a person who is homeless because they will potentially wear it almost every day. For example, last fall a couple guests came in to the kitchen wearing a "walmart sucks" shirt.  These are all things I have experienced through my ability to see.

However, if one is to close their eyes and use other parts of their senses, such as smell or hearing, different feelings are aroused. On any given day many smells are mixing in the soup kitchen area. There is the obvious smell of food being cooked or baked streaming from the kitchen area. On shower days there is the smell of shampoo, conditioner, lotion, and body wash as guests leave the shower area on the second floor. Most days, especially during the winter when the air is thick from the cold weather, human smells of perspiration  cigarettes, pee, and poop are wafted through the building. This is a smell that I had a difficult time getting used to especially when I am the laundry person. I have learned not to smell instead to breath out of my mouth when I open a bag of cloths into the washing machine. This sense is quite unpleasant to experience in a soup kitchen and my verbal account of it is not presented to make fun of the guests or to point out their flaws but to present a truth of someone living on the streets. My most favorite sense to experience at the soup kitchen is sound.

I guess my favorite sense in general outside of the soup kitchen as well as in the soup kitchen is sound. I love music which is mostly a sensory used by my ears. The other day I was reflecting on a day of sounds at the soup kitchen during my morning cleaning. I have learned to know who a guest is merely by the shuffle of their feet or the sound of their voice. Below I am going to reflect on the sounds I experience on a day in the soup kitchen in poem form.

Outside my window I wake up to the noises of voices in the alleyway. Trash cans line the alleyway which attract humans and mice. I hear the trash can lids close and open while people go through the 20 cans lining the alley. I hear guests singing through the alleyway. As I walk through the upstairs where I live with 12 other housemates I hear people talking in the kitchen. Soon the whole kitchen breaks out in laughter. Kitchen cabinets close, kitchen doors close. More conversations occur. Pop music is streaming from my housemate Patrick's Ipad; Carissa and Patrick sing along. I go downstairs to work. The dishwasher is turned on. Swish swash, click clack, swish swash, slam, bang, click, clack goes the dishwasher. The radio is streaming from the boom box. Everyone is singing along. The kitchen manager is talking, setting up the meal for the day, and giving orders to the kitchen crew. Cans are placed on the table, slam, cans are opened, punch, click, chick. Slop, slop, food from the cans are poured in to the steel container. This goes on all day. Later the guests are brought in to the kitchen. The lobby is filled with sounds of laughter, talking. Many languages are occurring all at once. Numbers are being called out, numbers 1 through 10, 11-20, 21-30. Questions, bantering occur. A guest sits down at the piano. Music streams from the piano keys while notes stream from his voice. He stops playing, guests clap. He plays another tune and another. Trays are placed on the table, slam. Guest pull out their chair, screatch. Coffee is dispensed in to the mug, gupgupgupgup. Sugar packets are ripped open, ripppp. Dinner is over. The announcement is made by the kitchen manager: "the kitchen is closed, you have 5 minutes to finish your meal". The buzzard rings, a guest is late for dinner. One of the other kitchen staff yells, "we need a bagged dinner". Refrigerator doors open and close, bang, the dishwasher cleans, slip slap click clack bang, slip slap. The part-time volunteers clean. Sprish sprish goes the noise of the spray bottles. Wiff, the table is wiped. Bang the chairs are stacked. Woff Wiff Woff Wiff, someone is sweaping. Splish Splash, the mop head is wrung and mopping starts. The part-time volunteers leave, thanks are given. Doors close, lights are turned off. Shuffling is heard as we walk up the stairs. Our supervisor congratulates us on a night well done and makes a joke. We stop on the second floor, drop off the dirty kitchen laundry, slam the basket drops on the flop. Click the door is locked. Click the third floor door is unlocked. Sounds of exhaustion and thankfulness stream from our mouths. A hard day's work is done.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Who Am I?

I have been processing quite a few things in the last 8 months. When I first arrived in Chicago I was just trying to orientate myself with the city such as getting around, visiting new places, getting to know new people, learning the trade in the soup kitchen, and learning how to live with 12 other people. Since the beginning of the new year, 2013, I have been trying to stay focused on the here and now but my mind, like most humans, wants to know what I will be doing August 1st (I am finished on July 31st with my year of volunteer service). Even typing that statement made my heart speed up with anticipation and fear.

At the same time I am trying to remember how much I have fallen in love with the job I do on a regular basis. I love talking to the guests and hearing their outrageous comments and stories. For example, I had some time during lunch recently so I decided to play the piano and sing. This is not the first time I have done this but the guests who were there were shocked that I was singing. Some of them were in the lobby and one of the guests came in to say that she thought that the radio was playing a song, not me. Another guests who always has a lot to say about nothing, told me that when American Idol rolled through town that I needed to be there and he would make sure that I was there. Then he went on to say basically that he was the one to really "find" me so he would need some kind of repayment when I was rich. Later I was speaking about where my family lived, in NC and DC and this same guest said, I didn't know Adele lived in DC... as if I were related to her due to my ability to sing. These are the moments I cherish and that keep me motivated when I am cleaning another toilet, taking out trash again, stirring a pan of canned vegetables, or dumping someone's laundry into the washing machine. Recently, I have succumbed to complaining about this or that.. things that never bothered me in the beginning of my volunteer year. I try to put my time now in perspective just like I did when I first moved here. I have so many things to be thankful for on a regular basis such as healthy and delicious food in my refrigerator, a vehicle to use at my discretion to get me to the gym, a great place to live in a youthful neighborhood in Chicago, constant interaction with friends and housemates, service to other people, a piano to play, a leisurely work schedule, and a great church life. I could go on and on about the blessings I have received during my time thus far in Chicago but it would suck up the rest of this blog.

My time has passed, and I have been in Chicago for 8 months; 4 months to go. Recently, I have been filling out job applications, fixing my resume, and writing cover letters. This process has caused me to look at my past and to see who I have become as a 23 year-old female. I can't imagine who I have become because my life is astounding and beautiful. However, some days I get lost in this world and feel that everyone is just like me. Then I meet some one who is on a completely different spectrum then me and I remember again that I am much different then many people I have met in my 23 years of existence. I remember the things I have accomplished, even as a high school student. I remember that just last year somehow, SOMEHOW, I worked over 30 hours a week at the Y, went to school full-time, filled out applications, had a social life, did alllll my homework, and still graduated suma cum laude. That person feels so different and distant from the person I am now. I have no idea how I stayed so focused and awake for that part of my life. Now, 11 o'clock at night rolls around and I get in my bed, read a page in my book and fall asleep.

This year has not been challenging academically like I have been use to since I was 6 years old, rather it has been a test of self. I have always been a student but this year I have had the ability to do things that I have never had time to do or to delve in to things I love or taken time to understand different aspects of life. I have been able to define and understand intentional communities, year-long volunteer programs, learning Spanish, different recipes, different coffee shops, bike riding in a city, putting together a sewing machine, creating my own schedule, challenging my self with no reward system, holding myself accountable, etc. I guess if I had to use adjectives I would say I am a positive person, goal-oriented, self-motivated, happy, outgoing, spunky, talkative, hard-working, hard-headed, friendly, motivated by challenges, creative, and I go above and beyond. These characteristics are difficult to see on a day when I clean some one's shit or when I find myself so introspective that I can't even make myself journal for weeks or when I push away all of my long-distant friends because I don't want to reflect on my difficult day-to-day job that doesn't seem exhausting or hard but is mentally taxing and draining... but there are little gifts that remind me of who I am (I know that was a run-on). For example, my mom was here recently and she was talking to me about watching me grow up and seeing who I have become. Since I was in high school, she said that I have known exactly what I want in life and I accomplish those things. This was a reminder on a day that I felt lost and confused as to what I will do next. Also, the other day my boyfriend told me that if I have a goal, I accomplish it. That was potentially the nicest thing he has ever told me.

So here I am. This is who I am. What do I want to do next year? I want to either be a Public Ally or become a community organizer. How have I gotten here? Through God's intervention in my life... One night I was waiting on the commuter train to go see my boyfriend. Myself and about 5 other people were waiting but realized that the train is only meant for the summer months. So a group of us went to the bar to wait for the next train. In the mean time I met a lady who was also waiting on the train who is a community organizer here in Chicago. She and I had a one on one at a later date and then she put me in contact with the executive director of the community organizing non-profit where she works and told me about the AmeriCorp Public Ally's program. Then the executive director gave me the information of other community organizers who could possibly be hiring. I feel that God has been blessing, leading, and forming my life, with my own discernment, toward a better me even though some days I don't know who I am and can barely understand who I am.

Friday, January 25, 2013

"What Is Love?"

What Is Love?

I posted above the link to the music video "What Is Love?" by Haddaway because the idea of love has been on my mind lately. This 1990's video is not the image of love that I picture, but this song pops into my head when I think of the word love nonetheless. This song reminds me of The Night At the Roxbury from the 1990's and from the skit that was performed at Catholic Heart WorkCamp (CHWC) this past summer. I guess it is forever drilled into my head because it was performed each week at CHWC and a running joke for the staff because most of the campers were not old enough to know the origins of this song (campers wanted to know where they could get this song..they thought it was a new and upcoming song).

Like I stated above, I do not really believe that this image of love is the reality of love, it is just funny. Through this volunteer year I have really questioned the idea of love because the word love has always been a difficult word to grasp. Society quantifies the word love as a materialistic idea that surrounds sex, kisses, and  infatuation. However, these ideas are empty and eventually fade which is noted in any psychology of close relationships or textbook. Real love has nothing to do with romance because romance fades, friendship remains forever. Studies have shown that romantic relationships last when couples have a basis of friendship. So what is love then if it is not filled with false principles of romance?

I do not have many adjectives to describe love because I have a difficult time thinking about it in terms of a romantic love. Rather love can occur when any two people are interacting or even on a greater societal level. Love is an ever evolving thing that is tested through action and resembles caring. I see love as an ongoing action; love is not an adjective. I read some excerpts by Dorothy Day recently who discussed the idea of love personified in the world. Dorothy saw love in the soup kitchen and in the Catholic Worker house on a daily basis. Below I am going to list some quotes that I noted as I read her book By Little and By Little:

"Love and ever more love is the only solution every problem that comes up. If we love each other  we will bear  with each other's faults and burdens. If we love enough, we are going to light that fire in the hearts of others. And it is love that will burn out the sins and hatreds that sadden us. It is love that will make us want to do great things for each other. No sacrifice and no suffering will then seem too much."-Dorothy Day

"We are saving the seed of love, and we are not living in the harvest time."-Dorothy Day

"We cannot ever see our brothers in need with out first stripping ourselves. It is the only way we have of showing our love."-Dorothy Day

"So an act of love, a voluntary taking on oneself of some of the pain of the world increases the courage and love and hope of all."-Dorothy Day

"We are put on earth for a little space that we may learn to bear the beams of love."-William Blake quoted in Dorothy Day's reading

"Yes, we fail in love, we make judgement's and we fail to see that we are all brothers, we all are seeking love, seeking God, seeking the beatific vision."-Dorothy Day

"When there is no love, put love, and you will find love."-St. John of the Cross quoted in Dorothy Day's reading

"The mystery of poverty is that by sharing in it, making ourselves poor in giving to others, we increase our knowledge of and belief in love."-Dorthy Day

"Love casts out fear, but we have to get over the fear in order to get close enough to love them"-Dorothy Day

"Love is indeed 'harsh and dreadful thing' to ask of us, of each of one of us, but it is the only answer."-Dorothy Day

"We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and love comes with community."-Dorothy Day

As I was reading these excerpts, the theme of love was being expressed in the daily Catholic readings. Here are a couple quotes that caught my attention:

"Whoever does not love remains in death...If someone who has worldly means sees a brother in need and refuses him compassion, how can the love of God remain in him? Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth."-1 John 3:11-21

"Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love. In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent his only-begotten Son into the world so that we might have life through him. In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins."-1 John 4:7-10

"There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love."-1 John 4:11-18

These readings made sense to me through my experience as a full-time volunteer. As some of you know, I struggle with some of the rules and beliefs of the Catholic Church but through Dorothy Day's writings I was able to finally relate to Catholicism in a way I never thought about, through the love of humanity, especially marginalized humanity. This is how I see my faith and love of God through my love for others. I know that some of the guests see my love because they tell me, "Your smile makes me feel comfortable and shows me that you care" or "It seems like you have been here for 5 years because you show such love and care for us here" or "I feel so comfortable around you, like you are really listening". These are all examples of love personified and understood through the eyes of the guests but at the same time I know I struggle to love.

It is difficult to see love some days especially when a guests is being manipulative and needy. The past couple of weeks have been frigid and most of the guests are without outerwear. Over the holiday season the soup kitchen received a huge influx of gloves, hats, scarves and coats to give out to the guests. I readily gave out these items because they are better on someone then sitting in a pile upstairs. However, at the same time the same people were coming in each day and asking for the same items. I became annoyed by the neediness. Where was love in this neediness? Where is love in neediness? Neediness seems selfish. I reflected on my feelings later that day and was frustrated with my judgmental views because these people are LIVING OUTSIDE IN FREEZING WEATHER. The guests are needy because they have nothing else. I was being selfish and close-minded. The reason they do not keep up with their things is because there is no place for them to store them because they do not go home into a house or into a room in a building that they can lock and call it their own. They have grocery bags, grocery buggies, carts, and bikes that carry their belongings. People are always around them because they are outside with zero protection.Others can easily steal their coats, gloves, hats, or scarves. So if I have to give them 10 pairs of gloves in one week, then so be it. This is where I have found love, in understanding the characteristics of poverty. Love does not judge, rather love creates understanding.

As quoted above by Dorothy, "Yes, we fail in love, we make judgement's and we fail to see that we are all brothers, we all are seeking love, seeking God, seeking the beatific vision." We constantly fail in love but when one understands that we are all the same, part of humankind, the power of love overcomes. I think Dorothy Day struggled with love everyday because she experienced the same feelings on a regular basis at the soup kitchen. She often spoke about not being able to respond to the guests remarks about sleeping in the cold because she has a place to sleep and can make no comparable complaints. So on this day let us strive for love, love as human for other humans.

*This blog is a very vulnerable thing for me to write about due to the content of love, so please no harsh judgments.  I only write these words so that we can all try to understand the real meaning of love in our everyday lives.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

"A Change Is Gonna Come"

I believe that there is a song that relates to almost any life circumstance and this blog has supported that idea as well. This time the song I am speaking about is Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come" which I first discovered through a rendition by Ben Sollee who I thought was the original performer of the song. I will share both links below to videos of each artist's version; both are very well done.

Sam Cooke

Ben Sollee

This song refers to the Civil Rights and the changes that were  on the brink of occurring in society. In my own life this song relates to a new year and a new time as a full-time volunteer at Franciscan Outreach Association. I have been a full-time volunteer for almost 6 months now, meaning I have made this place my home and settled in to my surroundings and working environment at the soup kitchen and in the city of Chicago. I am starting to look forward to opportunities that exists after my year of volunteer service is over. I am looking into non-profit jobs here in Chicago and keeping a sense of openness to my future. At the same time I am trying to stay focused on the here and now. When one settles in though, new changes occur that vary from  the onset of my volunteer year such as learning to love the mundane and finding meaning in everyday work.

This has not been a difficult task since the winter has brought about new changes in the behavior of the guests. Some of the guests suffer from mental health problems and the cold has caused an increase in more intense mental health symptoms. There have been more outbursts, more arguments, more delirium, more hallucinations, and confusion of reality. Many of the guests though, will never complain about the circumstances about living on the streets in the dead of a Chicago winter, but I can still see the worn and weathered look on their face when they come to dinner. When I ask how they are, I mostly only receive positive responses. It is difficult to be in this cold weather indoors, but to hear positive responses causes me to maintain a positive attitude in challenging circumstances. Thus, the gloomy weather has been less bothersome then I anticipated. I have remained rather happy and try to find happiness from the experiences with the guests. Moreover I have a bicycle that I ride in the city and carry up and down steps at the soup kitchen and when leaving the train. Sunday evening I was on my way out for the evening because it was my day off and one of the guests saw me pull my bike out of the soup kitchen and mumbled to himself and walked away. I stayed in the lobby for a couple minutes talking to some other guests about my bike and when I walked outside I realized this guest was waiting for me by the steps. I asked if he was waiting to carry my bike up the steps because he had done this for me on a previous occasion  He responded that carrying my bike was the least he could do for me since we have given him so much. The next day I was coming home with my bike off of the train and I ran into another guest who called my name out. He had just left the train as well and asked to take my bike down the steps. These instances remind me of the joy my job gives me everyday that is repaid in kindness from the guests I serve. I guess the saying is true, kindness begets kindness.

The soup kitchen as a unit has been experiencing an influx of guests since the beginning of the new year due to the closure of a nearby soup kitchen. We are used to serving about 80-110 guests each evening with less in the beginning of the month and more at the end of the month because their government checks are depleted from the beginning of the month. However, we have been experiencing numbers of about 110-130 guests each night since this other soup kitchen closed. I am thankful that we are able to serve these new guests but at the same time disorder from the old system has occurred  For instance, we let women, children, couples, and the physical disabled into the dining hall first and then we take the remaining numbers. The new guests do not understand this system and have been bum-rushing the door outside of the building and outside the dining hall. There has been more tension because there is less time to enjoy the company of the guests sitting at the same table because we need for guests who are finished eating to leave so that another person has an opportunity to eat. We are trying to change the system to meet the needs of the guests and allow for more time to fit in all of these people without causing problems or changing the routines that the guests are used to and look forward to.

This sunny brisk cold morning brought about changes that can only be seen as a gift. I saw a guests today for the first time since the end of August. We always say that when a guests disappears it is for good measures and that they are getting back on their feet or that something bad has happened. I was very glad to see this guests who was always jovial and comedic. I remember once he told me, "rats are the rabbits of the city". Another guests shared news with me that he will be entering rehab on Friday to fight his addiction of cocaine and alcoholism. He leaves Friday and hopes to be there for a year. I told him that I hope not to see him after tomorrow and that I am proud of this next step in his life.

A change is gonna come and that is the only stable thing I can expect out of every single day in a world that is unstable and broken.

A New Way of Celebrating the Holiday

Holiday Blog

My last blog entry was posted with my volunteer program!!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

"Hope for the Homeless"

Lately the stories I have been hearing from the guest that I have served are stories of hope in times that many would feel are hopeless. There is a joke in the soup kitchen about the Rihanna song "We Found Love" because of the line "we fell in love in a hopeless place" we sing "we fell in love in a homeless place". I guess it isn't too funny outside of the soup kitchen but it is interesting to look at a word such as hopeless and to turn it inside out and to look at the antonym of that word. There is another song that mentions the word hopeless, "Hope for the Hopeless" by A Fine Frenzy. We could say instead of hopeless, hope for the homeless just as the volunteers in the soup kitchen refer to the word hopeless as homeless in the Rihanna song. This song is much more similar to the stories of the guest that I have heard lately. The lyrics go:

"Cold in a summer breeze, yeah, you're shivering, on your bended knee, still, though your heart is sore and the heavens pour like a willow bending with the storm, you'll make it. Running against the wind, playing the cards you get, something is bound to give."

The line that emphasizes the experience of our guests most perfectly is "playing the cards you get, something is bound to give." Many of our guests try and try again to succeed or push themselves out of the mess they are in but so many circumstances, that are out of their control continue to weigh them down. Divorce, addiction, homelessness, poverty, illness, and lay-offs to name a few of unfortunate circumstances.

For instance yesterday I found out that one of the guest who is a past felon and a recovering alcoholic found a job which is difficult to do with his criminal background. He was excited to start and to not be around the soup kitchen anymore because it means he would be at his job. He however failed his drug test due to an accidental intake of drugs in his roomates food that he was unaware of. He lost that job and is back at the soup kitchen again trying to make his way. He also mentioned an anniversary that was coming up tomorrow, which I did not assume was a wedding anniversary because he was not wearing a ring and sometimes the guests are celebrating addiction-free anniversaries. However, this anniversary that he was referring to was a wedding, a marriage to his wife who was in a very serious car accident when he was in prison. She now lives in a nursing home and he visits her. The part that is most astounding is that there are all of these crushing factors and he still smiles and laughs. He said he was ok because he is still alive. Here is a man with many negative circumstances and he is happy because he has life. How many humans can say the same? Not many, me included some days.

Another man told me of how he became homeless while I was at work yesterday. He got a divorce two years ago and his wife was given full custody of their children who are around my age. He has been in our shelter for 6 months and prior to that he was living with extended family. He said to me that living with that person did not work out because sometimes family does not feel much like a family but resembles more of a stranger. Right before the divorce he was laid off as well. He is dealing with his situation as much as possible and hopes to have a job soon.

A guest who I often speak with about politics and music, always responds to my question of "how are you?" with "as good as God will allow". What if we faced every day with these perspectives... How different would our world really be?

I am motivated to find hope too because I do not have any of these things weighing me down. These guests have the weight of the world on their shoulders and they still have the ability to see hope in hopeless situations. I pray that we all can find hope just as the homeless have...