There is a staff member at the outdoor shelter named Annie, who does a fantastic job working with the homeless citizens in the facility . (The shelter employs police officers, staff, and other assistants to help run the campus.) However, it is the civilian dressed staff that handle most of the interaction once inside the gated area. They care for personal needs, listen to concerns, help with first time intake, and organize programs such as the laundry, volunteer hours, and meals.
Some of the staff treat their job just like many people treat their jobs anywhere…they show up, they do just enough work to get by, try not to mess up, and fly under the radar.
Annie is different…she usually works the graveyard shift in the outdoor shelter, which is from dinner to early in the morning. She arrives in time to make people go to bed, worrying about and handling all the things that happen late at night…fights, sickness, rain…you name it…it happens! (Doesn’t seem to be the best time for a work schedule!) Instead of just sitting back and just barely working through the late night hours, Annie goes above and beyond the call of duty.
For example, a few nights ago she took great care in helping an elderly man find a place to stay indoors, giving him a blanket, and locating a mat to sleep on. It seems simple…but this type of personal care is harder to pull off than one would think at a place like this. She could have passed it off to a volunteer or another homeless citizen…but she slowly worked with the man to get him safely situated for the night. It was no easy task. The man walked slow…real slow…seemed confused about the environment…and was difficult to talk with…this did not bother her. She was patient…calm…kind…and willing to serve the least of these. After all her work, the man finally got situated and fell asleep. You could tell by the smile on her face that she was relieved, and that he had chosen to follow her lead. Due to her extra effort, this man’s sleep was better because of the care she gave to a random stranger. I see her do something like this every night. I like it because its hidden in the small things…
She is one of the few staff that personally says hello to many of the homeless citizens every night. She checks on our comfort level, she laughs with us, jokes with us…and lives life along side us. Not above us or below us. But along side us. Never treating us like second rate citizens.
I love watching her work. I hope everyone cares that much about their own job and the people they serve. She challenges me to be a better minister.
A few year ago, I saw a video on ABC News about how many people easily neglect homeless people in need on the street. It was very revealing. Good help is hard to find these days due to our own distractions and personal motivations. The story reminds me of the parable, “The Good Samaritan,” the one Jesus told his followers in Luke 10:25-37. (Watch the video below.)
The Lord’s story reminds me of why I love people like Annie. She loves others before herself.
What would you do?