Yesterday, I was uncomfortable. Very uncomfortable. In a sad way. In a disturbed way. In a way that hurt.
My faith calls me at times to be uncomfortable. My food issues put me in situations where I am uncomfortable and at other times leave me physically uncomfortable. Being uncomfortable is not something new, but yesterday, it was a new kind of uncomfortable.
Early Saturday morning with coffee cup in hand, I settled into the front seat of my minivan with my family as we followed a small caravan of cars, full of friends from our church. Our destination: the homeless shelter in the downtown in the nearby city. As we toured the building and had our volunteer orientation, I was inspired by the vision of the organization, a Christian organization who runs solely on the generous support of others and no government assistance. Their vision includes plans to revitalize an old school building for their extensive programs. This inspired me. From there, we traveled to the men’s shelter for a tour. It wasn’t the visit to the men’s shelter with empty bunk beds and a pair of boots with two half rolls of toilet paper tucked inside that made me uncomfortable, either.
It was lunch. We joined a room full of homeless individuals, each with a different story, for lunch. I sat at a table with two youth from my church and two ladies who had come in from the cold for a warm meal. One lady was chatty and shared her story. Another lady when I said hello to her, her cold eyes looked straight through me, no sign of hope. She stood up and wandered to another table where she could sit alone. What is her story? I will never know.
I chatted some with the friendly lady at our table who was willing to talk and share her story. I witnessed an almost fight at another table. I looked around the room and saw people socializing with one another. I saw people like the one lady who preferred to sit alone and keep to herself. They allowed us, the guests, to eat first which felt uncomfortable. I walked up and retrieved a tray which held a plate filled with food. Salad. Gray, mystery soup. Angel food cake. I ate the salad. The gray mystery soup had an odor and contained noodles, meat of some sort, and veggies. I felt uncomfortable because I did not eat anything but the salad, but I did not want to feel physically uncomfortable later. The lady at our table said the food is okay, depends on the cook, and lunch is better than dinner.
Then, our group went to thrift store ran by the organization where individuals can shop at designated times. Shopping day had been that morning, so we were put to work cleaning up and re-organizing and restocking. Our group donated over 500 pounds of clothes that day adding to bags and boxes of clothes and shoes needing sorted. I helped with the baby and children’s items. I was uncomfortable. Uncomfortable that we who have so much donate our children’s used clothes that are ripped and stained. Just because someone has limited monetary resources does not mean their children should have to wear someone’s chocolate stained sweatshirt or yellowed, formula stained bib.
Uncomfortable. I have food issues and intolerances. I can choose to eat foods that make me feel better. I don’t have to eat gray mystery soup. I can eat fresh fruits and vegetables. I have a bed at night. I can sleep in warmth and not in a room with fifty other people. I have a closet full of clothes and a ton of shoes I don’t even wear. I have a job.
I don’t know anyone’s story. I don’t judge. I don’t assume. Yet, I am uncomfortable. I am sad. I know the organization is bringing hope and changing lives. I know my faith will stretch me and make me uncomfortable at times.
As I drink my coffee this morning in my freshly painted dining room in the warmth of my home with my family upstairs that love me and I love, I know I have a lot to be thankful for. I don’t have the perfect job, the perfect body, the perfect home, but I have a sense of security and safety.
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
Uncomfortable so I can grow. Uncomfortable so I can help others. Uncomfortable so I can have compassion and love. Uncomfortable so I can have understanding. Uncomfortable so I can have gratitude.