The alarm beeped at me at 6:27 am. I don’t like setting the alarm for round numbers. Threes and sevens are good. Zeroes and fives are bad.
I’d already set up the coffee pot last night, so I rolled out of bed and turned it on. I took a quick shower, threw on my workout clothes from yesterday, put my hair into a pineapple bun, and poured two cups of coffee. By the time I walked back to the bedroom with the coffee, Nick was dressed. I chugged my coffee and poured another. Nick passed on the second cup because he likes to sip his coffee. And, we were out the door.
“Brr, it’s chilly!” The thermometer in my car read 38 degrees. That number was not lost on me. I turned on the heat and flipped the switch for the heated seats in my car. We drove to the tiny parking lot and headed down the sidewalk to the homeless day shelter. A crowd was outside waiting for the doors to open at 8:00 am.
As we walked toward the building, one of the men said, “Good morning. How you doin’?” Nick said, “I’m good. How are you?”
“I’m good considering the circumstances.”
Considering the circumstances.
I stood at the front desk. Even though I’m only there a few times a month, I consider the front desk my spot. Some volunteers like to sort mail, but not me. I get to talk to people at the front desk.
The front door opened, and everyone outside lined up to sign in. The first few people inside came immediately to the front desk. There are two showers in the men’s bathroom and only one in the women’s. The requests came fast and furious.
“Can I get a towel and soap? And shampoo. A razor also.”
“Can I get some ibuprofen?”
“Do you have vitamins?”
“A ziploc bag.”
“Do you have any deodorant?”
“A rubber band.”
“Do you have a piece of tape?”
We were out of white tube socks by 9:00 am. I wrote “socks” on my list. Every time I volunteer, I make a list of things to bring next time. Today’s list read: socks, washcloths, shaving cream, apples.
I like to stand at the front desk because of the women. If I’m there, they will motion to me specifically and whisper to ask if they can get a pad and a clean pair of underwear.
Dignity is fragile.
I stand at the front desk so that I can have conversations with fellow human beings. Sometimes, those conversations make no sense, and I just nod. Sometimes, I hear about God, or Vietnam, or a dog, or a job interview.
Sometimes, I talk about the weather. It’s spring in Asheville, but April is fickle. It might be 75 degrees, but it might be 38 degrees. Those things matter when you’re sleeping outside.
“Do you know where the nearest check cashing place is?”
“Who’s serving food today?”
“Do you have a clean white t-shirt?”
A man leaned up against the front desk. A smile spread across his face, and in that moment, his presence was huge. He lifted his hands and spoke.
“Its gonna be a great day,” he declared. “Amen!”