I knew the moment I walked into Helping Hands Street Mission that it was something I wanted to be a part of. I can’t explain the feeling, and it is something that I wish everyone could experience. It perplexes me when people say “wow, that’s so great that you are down there, I couldn’t do that.” I don’t think I “do” anything. But, that hasn’t always been the case. I guess when I first started volunteering at HHSM, a short 8 months ago, I was looking for something to “do”. I wanted to give back for all the wonderful blessings God has bestowed upon me, through the generosity of other people – family, friends, and many strangers. Since I started going to HHSM however, my reason for being there has changed, and I am glad to say I have changed.
Getting started at Helping Hands, I didn’t want to be somebody who was just dropping in once in a while to do a good deed. I felt God brought me there to do something more intentional. I wanted to build relationships, showing love and kindness to others that Jesus showed to the destitute, tax collectors, prostitutes, and theives of His day. Well… I very quickly discovered what a tough task that is. There were some people who were easy enough to connect with and chat with, but there were some who didn’t want to even look at me, let alone say hello. They’d walk right past, and grumble “Where’s Helen?”. Helen was great, she warned me that this would happen, and that it would take time for them to trust me, and know that I was genuine. It was hard, and frustrating, and it made me reflect on how Jesus must have felt, when all He wanted to do was help, and love. However, He persisted, and thanks to His example, I knew that’s what He wanted me to do. Then it happened. I will never forget. I was attending a legal clinic at HHSM, and chatting with one of the ladies who comes in regularly… one who has all but refused to talk to me until this particular occasion. We were discussing A Place for Grace, the support group at HHSM for women working in the sex trade. I expressed how I would really like to come out and help out with the group. The woman looked at me – made eye contact even! Then she said, “Yeah, you really should come out, we can use all the support we can get!”. What a feeling. I did it, I won her trust, and she invited me into her world! Thanks be to God, for giving me the patience, the love, and the desire to keep reaching out to this woman. Since then, I have developed, and deepened so many relationships with the people at Helping Hands, I can genuinely call them my friends. Which brings me to my next, and much more recent, and even mroe enlightening, experience.
HHSM is known for the free clothing store, but it really isn’t the reason people came. I have heard it said several times that we could take the clothing away and people would still come. So why would they come then? Well, it must be because they are hungry, so they come for a snack and coffee. After all, these people are all poor and some are even homeless, right? It is correct that they enjoy the coffee and treats while they are there, but that is not the reason either. I believe they come to Helping Hands because that is where Jesus lives. Many of them don’t know Jesus. Some do, some talk about Him but aren’t ready to commit to Him, but everyone, whether they will admit it or not, feels His presence. After all, what does it mean to feel Jesus presence? It is to feel peace, a sense of safety in what may be a far from safe life. This, I have come to feel personally. See, in the last little while I have been dealing with my own life difficulties. Let’s face it – even the most secure christians with faith like a rock struggle in life, and if they don’t struggle that means they are not ruffling the evil one’s feather’s enough. What has struck me recently is that, amidst my own struggles, I myself have felt drawn to spend more time at HHSM. It’s not about spending time around people with problems worse than mine, which I will admit is how I used to get through difficulties – remind myself that there are others worse off. No, not at all. It’s been about surrounding myself with friends. While contemplating writing this blog, and trying to think of what to write about, a song came to my mind…
Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got.
Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot.
Wouldn’t you like to get away?
Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name,
and they’re always glad you came.
You wanna be where you can see,
our troubles are all the same
You wanna be where everybody knows your name.
You wanna go where people know,
people are all the same,
You wanna go where everybody knows your name.
I am so glad, I have a place to go where everybody knows my name, and they are all (well, almost all) glad I came! It is as safe place, where I am not judged. I can go in, get a hug or two, then I can sit and have a coffee and a treat, and chat with some friends.
Thank you God for the friends you have brought to me, I pray that you help me to continue to be a good friend to them, showing love, kindness, no judgement, and that I may glorify you in all that I do!
– Written by Corrine, Volunteer at HHSM