homeless presence

“Sha’up.”

She says this several times, to other children, to adults to might stop to talk with her.

“Sha’up.”

She is all of two years old. I know this because I have overheard the conversation her mother is having with one of the staff of the homeless shelter. I am at this homeless shelter as a part of my service learning commitment for my degree in pastoral counseling and spiritual care at Loyola University.

Service learning is not just volunteering to “do good” for others so that we feel good about ourselves. Service learning is just that: learning about service to others. These families who are homeless are going to teach me an awful lot over the next 10 to 12 weeks about my limits and boundaries, my capacities and abilities.

Meanwhile, I am listening to this child and realizing that she says “Sha’up” when anyone begins telling her something she does not want to hear or if she wants to be talking.

Shut up.

This is a homeless shelter for families. It is just a temporary place with a strictly ruled game-plan to get these people self-sufficient and into housing of their own. This two-year-old little darling of a girl who has learned to say “shut up” hasn’t a clue that there might be a different way to live. It is the hope of the staff who work at the shelter that she will learn.

It is not for me to question why any of these families became homeless, but I want to hear their stories. How I respond to this environment and the people who live here is going to introduce me to my prejudices, my projections, my illusions, and my realities . . . but only if I pay close attention and am willing to learn.

©2010 by Barbara L. Kass

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10 Responses to “homeless presence”

  1. sandiwhite Says:

    Barbara, this eats at me. This is no way for a little to be raised but I know her mother has no choice but to avail herself and family of the shelter being offered. I thank God every day for the roof over my head and the food on my table. Very easy things to take for granted until you realize that they are out of reach for many. Her mother is probably at her wits end trying to keep her family together, I hope she can do it. Meanwhile, you are a very brave soul to take on this mission, not because of possible physical harm, but because of the risk of having your heart broken by the stories you will hear. God Bless you, my good friend.

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      Sandi — I wish I were as saintly as depicted, but . . . alas and alack . . . I am not. The homeless shelter I am working at is in the middle of a very nice townhouse development. The shelter itself is a huge old renovated farmhouse right in the middle of the neighborhood. The man who owned the farm developed the land around it and deeded the farmhouse itself to the county. Believe me, when I set my intent out there to the universal consciousness, I made sure that my safety and sanity needed to remain intact. They do not take single people and any use of drugs gets you kicked out and your children sent to foster care. No second tries. I am just going to be there one afternoon a week (Tuesdays 4:30 to 6:30) to help with meal preparation. And we will see.

  2. holessence Says:

    “…is going to introduce me to my prejudices, my projections, my illusions, and my realities . . . but only if I pay close attention and am willing to learn.”

    I am oh-so-humbled. Once again, I applaud you Barbara. I’m so glad to be in your sphere of influence.

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      Hi, Laurie — I know that I am the student here and the people who I will be “serving” are the teachers. It is a clear case of “there but for the Grace of God go I.” My presence may be able to help support them through this phase in their lives, but not cure or fix it for them. And when I am finished, I will know so much more about me.

  3. Gil Says:

    Your eternal presence takes you where it needs you to be, this is a beautiful journey.

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      Hi, Gil — you are right. I tend to forget my life’s intent (to become who I truly am and bring my true presence to life each day). I need to accept each moment that arrives, no matter what it looks like to me, as my opportunity to grow and be more of my true self.

  4. ButterfliesGalore-Kimberly Grady Says:

    Thanks for sharing…YEs this is an issue that can and probably might signify chanes in thinking…In the past I have cooked for AIDS patients for the Daughters of Charity, Our family was pretty involved with homeless women and cooked dinners for them and their children. I also learned a lot from the eldery while working in a nursing home for six years….Always a life learning journey.
    I look forward to hearing more.

    Kim

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      Hi, Kim. I can tell that I am already changed just from being there yesterday. I don’t know their stories on how they came to be homeless, and it is not my place to judge them. I know that I can provide this one service for a limited amount of time and this service provides them with something that makes their lives a little easier. Other than that, I have no illusions about making a difference in any of their lives. They will learn from me what they are ready to learn.

  5. jeffstroud Says:

    This blog is a companion piece to your next one, presence of choice!

    I read this the day it was posted but got distracted by shiny things or something.

    Your opportunity to experience your own growth is rich and abundant in a space like this. It is as well for those who seek change from deep within them. But many don’t not wish for complete change or know how to hold it.
    It is about the saying if you give a person some fish they will eat for a day or so, if you teach a person how to fish, they may eat for a life time?

    Conversations with God book 1 discusses this process, the difference of helping to the effectiveness of inspiring a person to help themselves!

    I am Love, Jeff

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      Shiny things! I love it. I need to read the Conversations with God books (putting them on the list). One of the things the staff at the homeless shelter tries to teach the families is how to eat nutritionally balanced meals and that it really does not take too much effort to cook a decent meal. I will just wait and see what opportunities open up for me there to help someone along their life path.

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