Today was my final day of the Volunteer Odyssey. This week has afforded opportunities that I never would have had otherwise, and I’m a better person on many levels for it. I reflect on the week as I drive over to the Dorothy Day House of Hospitality (DDHH) and I wonder how I will be serving when I get there. Sister Maureen greets me at the back door and says that she has been anticipating my arrival and invites me in. The very first room to the right, when you walk in through the back, is a large kitchen that has an expansive island-top and multi-eye gas burning range stove. This is where I figure I’ll be working even though I’m not entirely certain what my serving capacity entails. We continue on through this large and beautiful house to the main sitting area and take a seat on the couch to wait for the others to arrive. Sister Maureen has a tranquil and tender countenance and she gives me the history and current progress at the DDHH. The DDHH of Memphis was founded in May of 2006 by a group concerned citizens that wanted to fill in some of the housing gaps for the homeless. The DDHH’s mission is to keep homeless families together during times of hardship until a more solidified financial situation is formed. The DDHH has particular set of guidelines for the families that they accept. For instance, they will not take in people that have a problem with drugs, alcohol, or domestic abuse. As Sister Maureen puts it, “we are not social workers, just caring Memphians.” The type of families living at the DDHH could be anyone of us who have experienced some type of uncontrollable catastrophe rendering us completely vulnerable with nowhere to turn. Sister Maureen also explains to me that on any given day there are approximately 214 homeless families in the Memphis area. That’s a difficult fact to digest, especially when I see so many vacant homes on the market for months and months and even longer still. Sister Maureen regretfully turns away up to 100 families a year. She is working on compiling grant writing resources in hopes that a financial windfall will allow her to purchase the two rather large homes across the street for further family housing.
At this point the sitting area fills with more people, some living there, and some visiting. I meet the families living there and others who are they to just share time and fellowship. A circle is now forming and we are all handed a sheet of paper with hymns and prayers to follow along with and read out loud. I now realize I am not here to serve in the sense that I have served most of this week, but to offer my time in spirit, prayer, and conversation. That is a service with which I am well-versed and grateful to give. At the end of prayer and scripture there is time to reflect and offer thanks for our blessings. One of the single moms offers thanks for her new job at FedEx and we offer thanks with her. She had been on the job hunt for a while and had several promising positions fall through at the last minute. It was clear that this job came at the right time and her smile spoke more than I could write here. We close with the Lord’s Prayer and move on to dessert. I spend the majority of the remainder of the evening in the kitchen talking with two of the single moms that live in the house as the kids play outside in the freezing cold and blustery winds. One of the moms looks soulfully out the window as the kids shoot hoops and throw the football. She explains that this season of life has been difficult because she does not have transportation and her kids are two different schools and the process of getting student bus passes has been tumultuous. The strain wears her out but she is hopeful about the future and excited to finish her continuing education in a few weeks. Even though the transition is difficult for the families, I see they are happy to have each other and that life is heading into a positive future.
Keeping families together is so important. I offer thanks for the DDHH.