Thursday, April 14, 2011

A prayer to start our day at the Clothing Room

Today is my day at the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Clothing Room. For various reasons, I missed a month of my Thursdays there, and going back last week felt like a homecoming. I forgot how much I love kibbitzing with the homeless guys until we were kibbitzing. And, a new thing: our little group of volunteers started the day with a beautiful prayer. I couldn't see through the tears in my eyes by the time we got to the end of it:

Lord Jesus, You promised that whatever we do for the least of your brothers & sisters, we do it for You. You promised that whenever we reach out to the poor and needy, to the hungry, the imprisoned, the unwanted, the misunderstood, or the lonely, we meet You.
Lord Jesus, Your humility amazes me. Rather than coming to us in great displays of power & might, you choose to show us Your face in the poor, the sick, and the outcast.  Open my eyes to see You. Help me to recognise your presence in every person in need, whether it’s the people coming for help, or the friends I work with. Give me the courage to step out of my comfort zone, and to be the person You need me to be in every situation I may face today.
Lord, today help me to be Your hands & feet, Your compassion & joy. I want to become like You! 

And this morning, the scriptures align -- my morning meditation is the reading from Matthew 25:
Then the King will say to those at his right hand, "Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me."
Amazing how that works, isn't it?

4:30 p.m. It was an interesting day at the Clothing Room. I didn't think we'd have very many people as Edmonton is experiencing an April snowstorm that blew snow into my face as I walked from where I parked two blocks away from the centre. If I couldn't find parking, how many others wouldn't bother to come? But Don and Ryan, a pair of homeless brothers, showed up for the second week in a row, snow thick in their hair. I told Ryan I wanted to brush the wet clods of snow out of his hair, so he stood still and let me do it before picking up a hoodie so he wouldn't have to repeat the process later on.

We had fun with "name that odd object." A black, curved wire stand of some sort was found in the odds and ends box, and I took it around the Distribution Centre to see if anyone could figure it out. No one did, and now I'm wishing I'd brought it home, taken a picture, and played "name that odd object" online. Someone must have a website where you can send pictures of odd objects.

Four young Muslim girls came in, and were delighted to leave with four beautiful stuffed animals as well as some clothing. And just before we closed at noon, two Ethiopian boys came looking for swimming trunks. Their English wasn't great, but their smiles certainly were. They each found one t-shirt, and thanked me politely before they left.

Denis came in, asking in French if it would be alright if he "shopped." I suprised him and myself by responding in French, and he seemed genuinely happy that I did, even though his English is excellent.

And a bit of a mystery was partially solved today. In September I moodled about it:

Then there are the four sisters. They seem to alternate their visits, coming in pairs every two weeks, going through our racks and picking out the high quality ladies wear, mostly. They have each registered with four or more children, and we wonder: are they supplying their families and running their own clothing shop on the side, or are they outfitting friends and neighbours as well? Perhaps they don’t have access to laundry facilities? Their English isn’t good enough for us to know.
Today I decided to approach one of the sisters and ask her why she takes so much clothing so often. Her eyes filled with tears as she haltingly told me about her brother, who lives in the mountains in Cambodia. "No food, no clothes, my brother and his family. I take clothes to send." It doesn't help me to understand why they go for the high end women's clothing, but it makes me less inclined to fret when they take more than I think they should. I really don't know the full situation.

It was an interesting day, a good day. Any day that I understand people a little better might even be rated excellent. I don't think I need to wait until the King decides whether I'm a sheep or a goat. I'm already blessed just to know the people I met today.

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