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New Year. Same Mission.

Written by Kathy Juana


Posted on January 31 2018

 It’s been once month since the start of the new year and boy has It been a busy month so far. When the year starts or in December we usually start brainstorming different things we want to make sure we change, continue, or excel at in the following year, a.k.a New Years resolutions.  Don’t worry, I’m not going to share all of mine with you, but one of the things that I wanted to make sure that I prioritized is volunteering. At some point during 2017, probably during all that wedding planning I started to fall off and didn’t volunteer as much as I would’ve loved to. So after figuring out that I wasn’t doing much of anything on New Year’s Eve, I convinced my cousin to volunteer with me at the men’s homeless shelter that my church hosts every year. I’m going to be honest with you, I was so tempted  to cancel the week before so I could sleep in and enjoy the day doing nothing, but I decided I wanted to start the new year right and why not start with helping others.

 So the homeless shelter consists of a few volunteers checking in the men, setting up coffee/tea, and just making sure there are no issues and that everything is running smoothly. I’ve never actually gone to where the men sleep, I stay at the desk and if the men come up and want to chat, I can chat their ears off. This wasn’t my first time volunteering at the men’s shelter, I’ve signed up for different roles in the past, like washing the linens, providing breakfast, I’ve even taken the overnight shift with my sister,  but one thing's for sure I definitely have a different experience every time I volunteer, and this time was no different.  Some of the men who usually stay at the shelter are older, usually are working but can’t afford to pay rent, so they come to the shelter after work for a place to sleep, freshen up in the morning and head to work.  Sad right.  This time I was surprised when I meet a guy, let’s call him Jay, who looked a lot younger.  I was sitting down when he approached me and another volunteer asking for a broom, my first thought was why is the guy looking for a broom and where is he going with it. The volunteer got the broom and off he went. I’m still sitting there lost, like where is he going with this broom.  He came back to  return the broom and asked me how my holiday was, and after I  asked  him how his was he said "he was here?", I said "here where?",  he then said that he's been staying at the shelter for the last few days. I was dumbfounded!  Like I said earlier there are usually older men at the shelter but this was a young man in his 30's.  It took me a while to wrap my head around him being in this situation.  We talked for the few hours that I was there and I got to know Jay a little more and also learned about what some of us could do to help someone in this situation.

One of the many things that Jay said that stuck with me, was the fact that people never talk to him.  He was surprised that I sat and conversed with him as long as I did because he said that doesn’t happen and that when people volunteer, they usually have a perception of them because of their CURRENT situation and kind of disregard the fact that they are still human. WOW, WOW, WOW! Raise your hand if you’ve ever done such a thing (raises hand). That was definitely the case when I first started volunteering but as I got comfortable, I was able to engage more.  I did think about all the homeless people I pass on the way to work that I don’t smile at or acknowledge for absolutely no reason.  I think  because we feel like we can’t physically help them get out of their situation that there’s nothing to offer them, when sometimes time would suffice.

For some people being homeless is temporary, however homelessness is a huge probably in our country; in NYC alone there are over 62,000 men, women, and children sleeping in shelters each night.Think about all those people who we are passing by and not acknowledging or engaging in conversation.  All those people who are probably not feeling the best about themselves and really just need someone to talk to about anything, but what they are dealing with at the time.  Jay taught me a lot about how I could be a better volunteer.

Another lesson learned. 

If striking up convo isn’t really your thing when you volunteer, try it out and leave a comment and let us know how it went.

PS: I apologize for no pictures. It’s really hard and kind of an invasion of privacy taking pictures at some of this volunteering projects. Hopefully you get my sentiment through my words.

Mission Lane




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