Friday, November 4, 2011

Written in stone?


Why is it that when everything is going well, I can still focus on the one thing going not so well? This rings true in all parts of my life, but especially so at Hope House.

Last Tuesday was a good day at Hope House—a very good day. We were busy but had plenty of volunteer staff on hand to help. Things were humming along, I was able to work on some paperwork and files while Judy worked the intake desk—all was good.

Judy and I make a good pair—we think alike and when she came to me with someone who desperately needed gasoline, I was able to write them a voucher even though it was not a Financial Assistance day. That felt good—the ability to reach out and be flexible to assist someone in the moment they needed it. Later in the morning, she sent me a young couple whose electricity had been shut off. They entered the room expecting nothing more than a gas voucher so they could continue to pursue help around town. I looked carefully at the mother, sitting there holding her little boy. She was fighting back tears, and looked worn out and sad. Both of them were polite and grateful for what they thought would be $20 worth of gas for their car. I asked to see the shut-off notice, which surprised them, but the father went out to the car to get it. The mother said that it had been cold in their apartment last night and all the food was spoiling in their refrigerator. When the man returned and I realized that $63.50 would get their electricity turned back on, I called PSE and pledged that amount for them. They both started crying and must have thanked me, Judy and all the staff at least 5 times before they left. A good day.

In the midst of this, I received a call from a volunteer who said he was coming in with a check from BP, where he works. When he arrived, it was a check for $300 for Hope House. Another volunteer called to say that St. Paul’s had been able to help one of our clients with the money he needed to get home to his family. I love it when a plan works so well!

The cherry on the cake, though, was that we had a plumber come out and install a new toilet in our bathroom. Our old toilet had only worked sporadically and we had quit using it for the most part. A wonderful day for all involved!

So, as you can see, this was an amazing day at Hope House—one of those that make it so worthwhile on the not-so-good days. So, why was I left with a sad, nagging guilt?

Somewhere in the midst of the wonderful morning at Hope House, I was approached by a client who wants to volunteer at Hope House. As I spoke with her about this, she also asked me if she was correct that she could only access our food pantry once per month. I replied yes and handed her the resource guide for all the places to eat and get food in Bellingham (a not so small list). She thanked me, and then left. It was only after the busy, crazy and wonderful morning was over, that it occurred to me that she would not have asked me about food unless she was hungry. And I, in the busyness of my day, missed the opportunity to help her. There are few rules written in stone in Hope House and I could have easily given her some food, but I missed the chance, the need, and the opportunity to minister to and serve a child of God in front of me.

Hope House works so well because the staff of devoted volunteers, the parishioners of Assumption, Sacred Heart and St. Paul’s, and the staff at CCS and Assumption all view our mission as one of service to the Body of Christ. We serve in that capacity and with that attitude; love, kindness and compassion are the only rules written in stone at Hope House. We serve those in front of us, so we better pay attention to them.

So, to the woman in front of me who I failed—I hope to get another chance to serve you. Then I will truly have had the best day at Hope House.

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