Early last Saturday morning, just as the sun was like “Do I have to get up?”, I got up from my pillow to embark on something I had never done before. I’d heard of people doing these kinds of things, but I didn’t really think to do anything myself. On Saturday, April 23, I walked into a homeless shelter to volunteer.
My dad and a couple of people from a ministry he’s on the board of headed up a morning of washing cots at a homeless shelter in downtown Dallas. My dad asked me if I’d like to join him that morning, with about 20 other individuals, in their project. I told him yes and started feeling good about myself. “Cool. I’m gonna help out at a homeless shelter. I’ll get to see what it’s like.”
But then comes the motivation to actually getting up. I was *sooooo* close to telling my dad I wasn’t going to go that morning. In fact, I told him no once, but I as I laid down and thought about it, I knew I couldn’t skimp on the opportunity. And man, I’m glad I didn’t.
We drove into Deep Ellum: the grudgy, artsy side of Dallas that I loved. But slowly as we drove more and more into the little nook of my favorite city, we drove past Tent City (which is getting closed down due to violence, among other things). Tent City is a community of tents under an overpass about 30 minutes (by foot) from the Shelter. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. There were hundreds and hundreds of tents, a couple of cars even that were jam packed full of belongings.
I washed the plastic cots of the 411 homeless people that come to the shelter every evening to find refuge from the storm (literally and figuratively). As I sprayed water and solution and scrubbed these mats inside the gated area of the shelter, I noticed the people sitting on the corners and sidewalks, waiting all day to get inside.
Some just sit. Some walk from one corner to the other. But then they sit (then I thought about how some of us are just sitting and waiting too.) Time is racing laps around them. Sometimes I think about how crazy it is that I’m already creeping up on my 16th birthday and how time flies. Imagine how slowly time seems to crawl, but how, in reality, it is slipping away when you’re sitting on a corner of a sidewalk.
Every minute that is getting lost in space and time, you have the chance to say “I’m sorry”, “I love you”, “Good job”, “You’re beautiful”. Unfortunately, because of the concept of not being able to go back in time and only forward, you can’t scratch out mistakes. But every day you are given is like a new page in a new book. It’s exciting; you’re not sure what’s going to come up, but you won’t know until your read the words before. Then, you don’t go back.
Every day is a new chance to live the way YOU want to live. Whether you’re homeless or not, without all the material objects, the things at the core are what we each have in common. One day, your net worth, how many cars you owned, or how big your engagement ring was isn’t going to matter. Every person, with or without a place to call his home, only has one opportunity, no do overs.
Forgive that jerk that cut you off in traffic. Love that kid that cussed you out at school. Don’t give up on your calling. Keep trekking on. Give your grandma a hug. Pet a dog. Play with a kid. Tithe your money. Make each deep conversation meaningful, like it’ll be your last.
One swing at it is all we have. Love, serve, give, get, and live in joy.
Verse: “Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” James 4:13-15
Song: “We Live” by Superchick from the album Beauty from Pain 1.1 (2006)