THIS IS A REPOST FROM JAN 2014. The original post was accidentally erased when my site migrated.
The Christmas break has just come to an end and there is a general feeling of the January blues. Everybody is detoxing, threatening to behave themselves and signing up for the gym. I also have a case of the January blues, but not because I don’t like my job (I love it!) and I am certainly not giving up tasty treats. I have the January blues because Crisis for Christmas is closed until December 2014.
I volunteered at a Crisis day shelter for homeless people this Christmas break and it is the best thing I have ever done. The shifts were eight hours each. They were hard work. I spent one of my shifts in the kitchen, serving breakfast and lunch. Combined, we served around 500 meals, after that I mopped the floors. It was exhausting. However, I got so much more than I put in. Here is why:
I was needed. In a society where it is fashionable to be afraid of commitment and constantly proclaim independence, it was a refreshing feeling to be needed by human beings. Being needed by another person, even if you barely know them, gives you a reason to exist. Knowing that you do something that is needed by another human being justifies your place in the world.
I got the best gift I have ever received. A guest named Zachariah drew a portrait of me. I got a gift from a man who had nothing. This is a poor man, who came to the shelter for food, warmth and company, because these things are lacking in his life. Yet, he still had enough tenderness in his heart to give a gift to another person. Even when you think you have nothing to give, you are wrong. Do something, make something, give your warmth – you will feel richer.
I know the people I helped. I have given money to charities before, but having contact with the people you are helping does not compare. You make connections. You see the gratitude. The odd thing is that the more gratitude you see, the more you think that you are not worthy of it. The warmth you get is totally disproportionate to what you give, which only makes you want to give more. This was an interesting lesson.
All these things came as a total surprise to me. I am not a hemp wearing do gooder, but a red blooded capitalist. However, when it comes to the big issues, these labels are just that – labels. It was a gift to be reminded of our common humanity.
Now that the centre is closed and normal life has resumed, I cannot help feeling a certain emptiness. Being needed and serving others give you the warmest feeling in the world.