Years ago when my girls were little I volunteered for a year at a local homeless shelter. There were many times I was moved to tears by the stories of the residents. Most of the men were Veterans. Most of the woman simply made poor choices in life. While I was there I held babies, comforted elderly, completed in-takes and told countless people that the shelter was full and offered alternative shelters to call. That year taught me more than I could ever learn from a book or movie. Like how to truly appreciate the opportunities I had growing up from a mother who devoted her life to her children and a father who worked multiple jobs and countless hours to provide us with what we had. I grew to appreciate what it took for my parents to offer us a stable home, nutritious food, and clothing that fit and kept us warm.
Working at the shelter make me realize that my children have the same opportunities I had as a child and possibly more. We live in Fairfield County, a region of the country that has some of the highest income levels as well as some of the lowest. The economic disparity is apparent every time we drive through the cities that surround ours. I want my girls to appreciate what they have without feeling guilty for the things that they are able to enjoy. This is a fine line with children.
We had the opportunity to share in Jesus’ mission of helping those most in need this weekend by volunteering as a family at Prospect House in Bridgeport. Lilah spent the day baking 2 1/2 dozen cupcakes with LCC to bring for dessert. When we arrived Greg, Grace, Lilah and I set out to prepare 100 grilled cheese sandwiches to be baked in the large industrial ovens. Colleen, a friend from church, has organized monthly dinners at this shelter for over 5 years. She encourages children Grace’s age to do this mission work before making their Confirmation. While we were busy cooking, Colleen was making a huge pot of beef and bean soup to be served with rice.
I estimate we served 75 meals Saturday night. Every single resident thanked us for our time, our meal and our dedication to helping them. We heard so many “God bless yous” that we just could not help but smile throughout the dinner. My girls were happy giving their time, their effort, and a bit of themselves with others. There was one moment when a resident came back into the kitchen upon learning that Lilah baked the dessert with her friends, from scratch. He thanked her personally. He told her how much he enjoyed her cupcake. Colleen whispered to me that it just does not get any better than that. Amen.