I’ve been thinking about so many things lately that it’s hard to know what to write about. Ramadan is going okay, for those who keep asking. It’s day five, and I’m starting to wonder if I’m ever going to get used to this feeling or if every day is going to be just as challenging as the day before. It has occurred to me that I’m probably facing more temptation than most Muslims do during Ramadan. If I lived in a predominately Muslim country, I would be surrounded by people who were fasting. What’s more, most restaurants and stores would probably be closed during the lunch hour! Instead, I have one housemate that is along for the journey, and it seems as though EVERYONE ELSE is ALWAYS eating. I don’t want to seclude myself, though, so I try to participate in community… food or not. For example, every Thursday at Luther Place, the staff and volunteers (all five or so of us) eat lunch together. I didn’t want to be antisocial, so I sat with them on Thursday, hoping the smells of leftover pizza and salads and sandwiches would be satisfying enough. I’m not gonna lie… it was tough.
But as I expected, what gets me more is the mental aspect – not the physical. Physically, it’s pretty easy to get used to hunger pains. It’s never comfortable, but it really doesn’t bother me too much. Mentally, I can’t stop thinking about satisfaction and equality. Eating is such a blessing, not just because the food is so good, but also because of the communal aspect. Most meals are engulfed with smiles and laughter! I want to be a part of that! It really all comes back to love, in my mind… it almost always does. I’m hungry for love…and aren’t we all?
For two days this past week, I got to participate in a pretty extensive orientation at N Street Village. N Street is a homeless shelter for women that was started by Luther Place Memorial Church (where I work) in 1973. They help around 800 women a year, providing meals, health services, transitional housing opportunities, and much more. During one of our sessions, we were asked what we thought most women coming to N Street wanted the most (I guess some sort of poll was taken). Food! Shelter! Medical care! Education! …and on and on answers were thrown around the room. “Respect and dignity,” the facilitator said. These women don’t care about food or shelter nearly as much as their desire to be loved.
One of the most powerful parts of orientation was the chance to hear many women speak for themselves. A panel of homeless women told us what N Street meant to them and gave us the chance to ask them questions. (In some ways, I was bothered by this separation of “us” and “them”…but that’s another conversation.) Someone asked the women what we can do as new staff to be most accommodating. “Say hello,” one woman said. Agreeing, another woman said, “Smile at us!” “Make eye contact!” They went on and it made me want to cry (as most things do), thinking that such simple ways of showing love are somehow so challenging for most people. Loving is the simplest and most free thing we could do! Why is it so hard?
The six women that we heard speak were from all walks of life. There were old and young, multiple races, those with mental illnesses and those without, addicts, abused, and untouched. I was most shocked at one young woman who was well-dressed and spoke with a much more extensive vocabulary than my own. She must have received a college education, I thought, and I wondered how she became homeless. What she told us was vague. Something about having to make a decision that would have comprised her beliefs, so she walked away from it and as a result, became homeless. Thinking about this has led me to a most disturbing thought. Now, perhaps this is a stretch, but I’m pretty sure that at this point in my life, I could never become homeless. Nothing I could ever do could bring me down that far. Because I have a college education, a loving family, previous job experience, and so many connections, I don’t think I could ever be homeless. Though I am thankful for this, I’m also sickened. It would be a lie to say that my race isn’t a part of it, either. I like to think that we’re all playing the same game, running the same race…but we’re not. We’re so far from being equals, and it’s almost impossible to feel empathy across such strong differences. I’m not even sure how to finish this post! My thoughts are on the run, but in no particular direction. Just thought I’d share parts of them with whoever’s bored on this rainy Saturday. As always, feel free to leave comments! Oh, and check out my photos to see some Labor Day fun with me and my housemates at Great Falls Park!