Posted by: Asha Davé | July 6, 2009

Day Thirty-six (A little out-of-date, but still blog-worthy.)

Merriam and Webster define “good” as “of a favorable character or tendency.”

I looked it up because I have been using that word A LOT this summer, and I want to know what I’m saying. When I’m asked how my summer is going, I always respond, it’s good! It’s true. Every day at Jeff Street has been good, awesome, stupendous, fabulous. I am learning to see things through God’s eyes, to give and receive love the way God intended, to see Him in everything. I’m in awe of the world, of people, of nature, of ordinary conversations, of the day shelter guests, of life. I’m even seeing challenges as good because I’m learning from them. I would describe myself as a glass-half-full kind of girl pre-HOPE, but I think I really am now.

However…day thirty-six was a different story. I woke up in a not-so-good mood. I was not in the mood to be intentional. I was not in the mood to be loving. I was not in the mood to be kind to people who aren’t. I drove to Jeff Street in silence. I ate my cereal in silence. I went up to the boys’ apartment for morning prayer, and I was distracted because of my awful mood. I went back downstairs and there were already too many people at every station, which I took as God’s way of telling me to go into the day shelter and talk. Well, He sure knows what He’s doing because I just can’t stay in a bad mood around our guests. I have always said that my name means hope because I’m supposed to bring hope to those who have none, and what better place to live that out than here? It’s so funny that I came here thinking I was going to be the one cheering people up, but God showed me that we’re all in this together. I have just as much to learn from our guests as they do from me.

The next hour and a half made that very clear. A man who I see every day approached me, and in all honesty, I wasn’t thrilled. He’s a flirt, and I wasn’t in the mood to be hit on. The conversation turned out to be the opposite of what I’d expected. I gained so much insight about homelessness, their struggles, and the ways in which we enable it.

We talked about how giving up addictions and changing must be a personal choice. He said there had been a time when he had gotten his life together, got a job, had a car, and was finally “normal.” But he wasn’t strong enough to fight the addiction forever. He said he lost focus and fell back into his old ways.

This made me think of my brother, Hemal. For the past 13 years, he’s struggled with alcoholism and drug abuse. He’s 29 now, and he’s been homeless and in and out of rehab programs since he was about 20. I have never fully understood his situation, and I always just wanted so badly to “fix” him. But talking to the man in the day shelter made me realize that my brother has never finished a program and has never stopped drinking because it’s never been his idea. Out of love, my parents have unsuccessfully put him in program after program. I don’t know what to do anymore but pray; pray that he will get to a place where he finally makes the decision to stop on his own. I will never lose hope.

We also talked about how people want to help the homeless but what they’re really doing is enabling. He said, it’s really nice that everyone wants to feed us, but it just enables us. When we have 75 dollars in our pocket and we don’t have to spend it on food or clothes, we’re going to spend it on drugs and booze. So many emotions ran through my mind when he said that. I was defensive, angry, hurt, and confused…but most of all, I just wanted to know what he thought would be most helpful. He said he didn’t know, but that people who want to help should stop feeding the homeless. I’m not sure how I feel about this, but it’s definitely something to think about…

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