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...