It’s “ACCESS Week” at my church, Park Street Brethren. It’s one of four weeks out of the year that our church hosts Ashland county people that do not have a place to live. (ACCESS stands for Ashland Church Community Emergency Shelter Services.) Yes, unfortunately there is a homeless population even in little ol’ Ashland, Ohio.
Our team of volunteers cook, serve meals, do overnights at the church, hang out in the evenings, and provide transportation for our ACCESS guests. While these services are all necessary, together our team has been exploring how we can be more impactful in the lives of those living in the trauma of losing their homes. At our last team meeting, one of our volunteers shared she wished she could make a bigger difference. She wants to do more than provide a meal and visit with a guest for an hour over supper.
While I appreciate her willingness to help others beyond what she is doing, I applaud the sacrifice of time she makes to just show up. I think sometimes our churches and other organizations put more emphasis on the doing for others and less emphasis on the being for others.
Let’s be honest. It’s easier to write a check, cook a meal, or give away your old clothes to those in need than listen to his or her story, begin a relationship, and follow-up to see how that person is getting along.
In the realm of doing versus being, I’m a slow learner. Those seven amazing kids and grandkids in the picture above remind me how important it is to just “be.” I’ve learned to tell myself I have a choice to be busy (and miss all the fun) or to be present (and delight in who they are) when they come home.
Did you know that the act of truly being present with someone is healing? That being attentive actually heals parts of the brain that carries hurt, pain, and rejection?* Did you know that when we attend to someone on an interpersonal level, the brain’s neuropathways rewire to expect that people will care about them?
It’s interesting that ACCESS week at our church has coincided with the week of Thanksgiving; a week when Americans are reminding themselves and others the blessings for which they are thankful. Thanksgiving week: a focus on the goodness of God, family, friends, and yes, food.
Being thankful is perhaps the very thing that our homeless population is struggling with.
We blessed people are quite accomplished at giving thanks. In fact, the American evangelical community offers a slew of programs, methods, and books on the ways to thankfulness.
Yes, giving God praise for his provision is central to the life of a Christian. I definitely believe in the act of thanksgiving and praising God for who he and all my blessings. But what rises out of thankfulness? More thankfulness? Satisfaction? Do I dare say complacency?
How do we share our thankful hearts with those who are scraping the bottom of hope with no shelter, no food, and no family?
It’s ACCESS week at my church. We are making up beds for people, serving supper, and driving our guests around town. But more importantly are the moments available to slow down for a moment and be present.
I wonder if the overflow of thankfulness for God’s presence in my life will lead me to be that presence for others.
*For more insight to this topic, check out Daniel Siegel’s work, The Neurobiology of We.