The final day of my Volunteer Odyssey sent me to the Dorothy Day House of Hospitality, an organization that provides temporary housing and support for homeless families in the Memphis area. Living just a couple of blocks away, I have driven past this modest two-story Craftsman style home on Poplar many times, and I never knew that it was anything other than a typical midtown home. After speaking with Sr. Maureen, the Executive Director, I learned that it is so much more.
The goal at Dorothy Day House is to keep homeless families together in a safe environment and provide them with the means to re-establish their independence. When families are left homeless, often husbands are separated from their wives and children, and sons over 6 are separated from their mothers. As Sr. Maureen explained, Dorothy Day House helps keep the family in tact so they can focus on getting back on their feet. The house assists with transportation, employment counseling, educational resources and mentoring until the family can find permanent housing. Families living at Dorothy Day House also help each other by cooking and cleaning, and giving each other support. As Sr. Maureen said, “It truly is friends helping friends.”
Each Sunday evening, the Dorothy Day House has a gathering for prayer, thanksgiving and fellowship with dessert supplied by volunteers. This evening, there were two families of volunteers plus me. The family currently staying at the house arrived shortly after 6:00 p.m. and we all met in the living room. We recited the prayers as a group, then had the opportunity to announce what we were thankful for. The mother of the family announced, “I’m thankful for the good times and the bad times, because you have to get through the bad times to appreciate the good times.” I loved hearing that. Despite her current circumstance, she still had a positive attitude. I think that the Dorothy Day House has helped her keep that positive attitude.
We finished our prayer service, and shared our dessert and coffee. The children were familiar with the routine so they all ran to the table to sample the tasty treats. Afterwards, the children played together in the living room. It was much too warm to play outside. I enjoyed watching the children of the volunteers playing with the children staying at the house. After all, we are all equal, and we all deserve respect no matter what our circumstance. I chatted a bit more with Sr. Maureen, and told her if she ever needed help with any office work, I was her man.
As I was driving home, I realized that I am fortunate. I may be unemployed and still looking for a job; however, I have a comfortable place to live and plenty of food to eat. I have transportation, and I am able to take the time to search for the perfect job that meets my desire to give back to the community. To use a phrase I have heard often this week – I am blessed.
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