Our very first volunteer experience came on the streets of Fort Wayne. Erica and I donned backpacks and hit the streets to serve the homeless of our city. The experience catapulted Impact 52 into action and led to a year of giving and life-changing lessons. I remember that night very well. I was anxious and nervous as we traveled downtown. I was entering a realm that I was extremely uncomfortable entering. We, as people, fear the unknown and at that point in my life I was oblivious to homelessness. This week we decided to return to the streets and volunteer with our friends at Saints on the Streets. On this occasion MaKenna had the opportunity to join us. As we drove downtown I was reminded of that first night and how I felt. This would be MaKenna’s first time walking the streets with SOS and I thought that she might have some of the same feelings. This is what she told me as we entered the city:
“Dad, I am excited to help the homeless tonight. They are normal people like you and me who just need some help. They need something positive to happen to them. I do not care why they are homeless, I just want to help. I am looking forward to seeing their living environments. It will help me understand how I can help them in the future.”
These are the words of an 11-year-old girl who has experienced many things in the last year through volunteerism and service. Her feelings, emotions, and beliefs are totally different from how I felt a year ago at the age of 35. She has had a lifetime of observations in a short period of time. She is growing into a caring person who wants to change the world. She is proof that giving is receiving and why I am so passionate about volunteering, giving, and Impact 52.
We met the Saints on the Streets team downtown and filled up our backpacks with hygiene products, snacks, and water. It was a beautiful evening. After a short prayer, we started our walk to help those living on the streets. It was obvious by the evening sky that someone was looking over us. We knew we were in good hands and we were doing the right thing. We spent a couple of hours walking through the city providing just a little help for those that needed it on this particular evening. We interacted with many throughout the night, but there were two people, two stories, that stuck with me.
Kim is a middle-aged woman who has only been on the streets for about a week. She was a welder who had a good job, a boyfriend, and a home. Life was pretty good until one life event started a chain reaction of destruction. The company that she worked for needed to make cuts and decided to let her go. Instantly she was without a steady source of income. She struggled to find another job and stress started to mount. Her boyfriend, who supposedly loved her, kicked her out of the house and told her not to come back. He did this because she didn’t have a job. In an instant, Kim was homeless. She had nowhere to go. She spends her days looking for work while trying to catch up on sleep. She wanders the streets at night instead of sleeping. She does this for her safety. Kim is optimistic and full of hope. Her hope is that she will find work and that her stint on the streets will be short-lived. We hope so too.
Dave is a 56-year-old man who is in our city due to drug arrest. He was arrested for manufacturing and dealing methamphetamines and is now going through the rehab program at the Salvation Army. Dave is father and a grandfather. He told us about his family and his 8 grandchildren. He knows that he has made many bad decisions in his life and that cooking Meth is one of them. He is getting the help that he needs and he wants to be there for his family. He is currently halfway through his rehab treatment and he is starting to understand that he has purpose. He feels and believes that he was meant to teach others about the Meth epidemic. He is one of the oldest men staying at the shelter and he wants to share his story with the young men who are there. He wants to help others. He believes that is his purpose. He also believes that in order to meet that purpose, he must go through his hell first. Time will tell if Dave can get his act together and live a life free of addiction. We hope that he does, for his himself and his family.
People become homeless for a multitude of reasons. Some by choice, others by chance. Regardless of the reasons, we must do our part to help. We had another unbelievable night with Saints on the Streets. The work done by Jim and those who have committed to the mission is important. For more than three years, they have done this every week. They truly are saints. We know that volunteering each week like we do does not make us special. We are not saints, we just like to help.
Visit www.sosfortwayne.com and read more about this great ministry.