Luke has appointed himself as my evening ride lookout. In the mornings, I ride the bus to work at the Campus for Human Development, but Curt, one of my six roommates, works three blocks away and picks me up those evenings he doesn’t teach life skills in the prisons.
As participants crowd around our exit doors waiting to draw tickets for a spot in our Room in the Inn shelter program, sometimes it is difficult to see the parking lot from inside. Of course, I could just wait outside. However, by the end of the day, it’s hard for me to listen to the never-ending litany of questions and statements from the homeless participants. Have you heard the phrase, “A face only a mother could love?” By this time of day, I feel like these questions and statements are those only a mother could love, and I’m no mother.
Certainly, the needs of the homeless begin before and extend beyond my 8 to 5 workday. In fact, these needs overwhelm a 24-hour workday and are always very pressing and immediate. Mine would be too, no matter how small, if the meeting of my needs was always so uncertain.
Anyway, back to Luke. According to my experience, Luke’s reason for homelessness is different than many because he is homeless out of unfortunate circumstance rather than addiction. For most of the day he guards the phone use list from behind the big, teacher-esque desk in our day room, calling out the name of the next person in line, and setting the timer to approximately seven minutes. Sometimes Luke goes to class or reads 2001 Space Odyssey. He patiently waits the departure of the carnival in order to earn a few bucks and adventure away from the hard times in Nashville.
Though I don’t know how Luke thinks, from his face and action, I perceive that he endures his situation of homelessness with a serene, humble dignity, and it catches me off guard every day. Maybe it’s because I seek patience, and he is an accessible and living model.
Somehow, Luke’s evening sendoff to Curt’s bumper sticker-clad, forest green Ford F-150, helps me to process the day’s frustrating events and put them into perspective. And I am able to make the shift from work into that time I spend with my Jesuit Volunteer community.