Last week my family volunteered at a men’s homeless shelter, serving soup and sandwiches on a gray and rainy Sunday afternoon. I thought it would be a good experience for my teenage daughter who is enamored with $100 Nikes, Beats and iPhones. What I wasn’t expecting, was how that lunch would affect me.
As the men worked their way across the line, picking up soup and choosing a ham or PB & J sandwich- I noticed they were from all walks of life. There were young men, men in wheel chairs, older men- well dressed with slicked back hair. Some were dressed in their work clothes, coming over for lunch before their shift started. As I handed them a sandwich and chatted briefly with each one, I knew that every one of them had a story…and I wanted to hear it.
One by one, the men filed by, picking up their lunch and warmly greeting us. Some of them didn’t even choose what kind of sandwich they wanted- they were just overjoyed to have a meal. Every man thanked us, and many said, “God bless you,” as they reached the end of the line with their warm soup and saran-wrapped sandwich. One man said a long blessing over his lunch, visibly thankful for his food. I couldn’t get over how grateful they were for this simple lunch. It was humbling. I suddenly felt guilty and ungrateful for my complaints about the little inconveniences of life. These men didn’t know where their next meal was coming from and I grumble when the cappuccino machine at work is out of service.
I looked out over the men as they ate and wondered what circumstances had brought them there. These people were no different than my family and me. So why were they in line at a homeless shelter and why were we on the other side of the glass, serving them?
When lunch was over, I couldn’t stop thinking about the men at the shelter. As I laid down that night to go to sleep, I’m not sure why, but I started to cry. I thought serving lunch to a group of homeless men would be a nice thing to do- I had no idea what it would do for me. It was a vivid reminder that we should truly appreciate everything we have, everyone we love and everyone who loves us. Deciding if we will focus on what we have, or fixate on what we don’t have is a choice. Choose to be grateful today.
Facing a major loss usually causes us to confront or even reconsider our basic beliefs about God, religion, death, and the afterlife. Some may turn to God for strength and comfort, while others find themselves questioning the religious beliefs they have known all of their lives.
Even those who have no religious upbringing may feel angry with God, or abandoned. Everyone responds to loss differently, but it almost always forces us to confront questions we may have been avoiding…about death…about God…about ourselves.