Mrs. Fish and I went out on Friday night last week to feed the homeless. There is a local Mission in Harrisburg, where young men and women can stay to get back on their feet. They have a van to reach those people who don't want to stay at the Mission and it carries hot food out to the homeless throughout the city. They need volunteers to help man the van so we signed up with another woman from our church.
I honestly didn't know what to expect. The van leaves at about 8pm drives to places where the homeless congregate, with about 10 stops throughout the night, across the city. At each stop, Mrs. Fish and another volunteer passed out blankets and clothes, including gloves, socks, underwear and sweaters. There was sometimes a rush, and sometimes scuffling, but they did well to keep things going smoothly. It was cold out, but not frigid/freezing, but that weather is surely coming and the warm supplies will be more and more important.
When we stopped, I jumped in the back of the van and grabbed the soup crates and set up a mini mobile serving area. I then started passing out toiletries including razors, shaving cream, soap, wash cloths. Then, I got on the soup ladle to pass out hot soup and pour hot coffee. On a night like that, it was very much appreciated. All of this set up and activity also gave me a chance to talk to the people as they came up, to hear their stories. It was humbling.
Carl, the Mobile Mission leader, has a rapport with the people of the city and a knowledge of where they are. It's weird, I have worked in the city for 15 years and never really saw the places he took us to. I mean, I had been past them, but I didn't see them as places where people lived, as homeless communities. I've never been one to turn away from the homeless, but I know I never sought them out, either.
I thought this trip would be depressing, but it wasn't so. I talked with the men and women and heard their stories. There is a camaraderie and community among the people, a sense of looking out for their common welfare. I'm not saying it was easy, just that it wasn't sad, like I think I was expecting it to be. In the end, I came to recognize a quiet, simple dignity that I wasn't expecting, and their kindness and generosity to me and to one another was uplifting.
We got home to our warm house about 1am and I was so grateful for what I have - family,, friends, clothing, a warm house. I definitely think I will do this trip more often.