By Bill Hankins
Sure, I had noticed the modest Victorian style house west of the church, but knew nothing much about what went on there. It was just part of the neighborhood.
I hadn’t seen the line stretching out to the sidewalk on weekday mornings waiting for someone to open the door. I didn’t know that there were washers and dryers waiting in the cement floored basement to be used, that the coffee pots would soon be brewing and the sign-up board would be filled with names of guests needing showers. Like many things that go on at Grace Episcopal Church, it was beyond my radar.
It was a cold December night two-and-a half years ago that I signed up to help at Safe Harbor. I didn’t know much about Safe Harbor, either, except that homeless people could come for a dinner and somehow they would be allowed to spend the night out of the cold. I was a bit uneasy about getting into this, but Ken Andrews seemed to know the ropes and that made me less anxious. Things were well organized and the homeless arrived, knowing what to do and how to behave.
Then, two guys came in supporting a third, who was obviously in pretty bad shape. He slumped into a chair and passed out. Ken, without hesitation took care of this guest with such kindness and grace that I knew I needed to take some lessons. Jubilee House was my opportunity. I decided to help out each week on Monday.
Again, there were concerns about interacting with “street people” from 10 am until 2 pm, but Ken’s wife, Glenda, with her wise, easy manner showed me around and gave me a packet of information to read. Again everything was so well organized and rules of behavior so clearly stated that it wasn’t much different from any new experience. Slowly, my opinion of the homeless changed and I came to really understand that we are all God’s children. And that God loves them as much as he loves me.
Encountering the homeless has always presented a moral dilemma for me. What can I do for this person? What can I say that won’t make them embarrassed? If I get involved, how far do I want to go to help out? Volunteering at Jubilee House resolves problem for me.
Through the celebration of Eucharist we are reminded that we are the body of Christ and are sent out in peace as living members to do His work. I have heard this message thousands of times and have accepted it as my core Christian value without fully putting it into practice. My involvement with Jubilee House has given me the sense that I am making some progress in this direction.
If you want to see why I love Grace, just drop by Jubilee House. It is a shining example of what it means to be a Christian. The door is open, Maxie’s soup is in the kitchen, food in the refrigerator, and the house is full of God’s love flowing in all directions.