Usually I open my blog with a pithy meme to illustrate the point I want to make. I don’t think it quite appropriate for this post.
I had dinner in a homeless shelter.
Let me back up. I am a board member, grant writer and volunteer blogger for a local women’s shelter. I really believe in this group’s mission because they only house women who have no dependent children living with them. Many of the women do have kids, but they are living with relatives or in other arrangements. As a single, childless woman, that mission really resonates with me.
Being on the board, we are invited once a year to eat with the women. It’s a pretty informal event, and I found myself at a baked potato bar last Wednesday with about 18 other women. I was actually nervous because I was wearing my work clothes and I had access to things many of these women don’t have—a steady job, my own apartment, reliable transportation and a handle on my mental illness. I didn’t know if I’d have anything to talk about with the ladies or if I’d make a total ass out of myself.
Well, it turns out I worried about a whole lot of nothing.
The ladies could not have been any more gracious to invite me into their home, which is what the shelter really is. They asked me what I did and even though I have an office job, I was interested to hear their stories about struggles with sobriety, good-natured ribbing at the shelter’s rules and college classes they were taking. We talked about fun websites to play on, tattoos and the headaches of cooking for a large herd of people.
Yes, these women and I face different daily challenges. I worry about sticking to my diet and having enough time to go to the grocery store. They struggle with domestic abuse, sobriety and pulling themselves up to the point where they can live on their own. It is a different set of challenges but in the end those differences only run skin-deep.
This dinner reminded me we are women working to improve ourselves and determined to help each other out along the journey. I could see there were some significant friendships that had developed and I was proud I could make it happen, even in my own little way. And next time I am invited to dinner, I will not be such a scared little ninny. Those ladies were so funny and gracious, even given the circumstances I met them in, they make anyone feel right at home!