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.

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