Our Year Long Volunteers are in the home stretch of their service year. Over these past months, they have dedicated their lives to serving the Christ House community. We’ll be sharing their end of year reflections every Thursday for the next few weeks as they look back on a year of learning, laughs, and challenges.
Brian is a Year Long Volunteer serving as a Respite Care Assistant. He hails from Temecula, California and next year will be attending medical school at Rush University in Chicago, Illinois. When asked to reflect on his time at Christ House, Brian recounted the following story, calling it one of his most memorable experiences as a Year Long Volunteer.
“All We Do is Sit Around and Tell Jokes”
By Brian Hizon
“When we first came in here, there ain’t nobody laughing. Now, all we do is sit around and tell jokes!”
Henry and the whole table chuckle. Henry is part of the Kairos Program and has been with the Christ House family for decades. I am sitting in the dining room of Christ House at table fellowship, a special weekly dinner when the Christ House community gathers to share in food and worship. The meal is complete with table service, white table cloths, and candle lights. I look around and see Mr. L with a heaping plate eating like there is no tomorrow. I almost don’t recognize him because it was the first time I had seen a huge grin on his face. Two weeks ago, he had a permanent glare when he first arrived at Christ House. He had been living on the streets, had not showered in a month, and was recovering from a stroke. As he digs into his mashed potatoes, I notice that he is wearing the new sweater I gave him the day he arrived. His other clothes had to be thrown out because someone had thrown bleach on him when he was sleeping on the sidewalk.
My attention swings back to Henry as he begins telling me what life was like when he was homeless years ago.
“I was standing in line for food at one of the shelters when one of the workers looked at me and said, “Why are you even here? You’re nothing but a bum. You’re always gonna be a bum. You’ll never amount to anything.”
I don’t know what to say. Henry continued, “That stuff sticks with you for life. But I found Christ House and was able to turn my life around. Eventually, I began running the shower program. One day, I see the very same guy who called me a bum, standing there in line waiting for a shower. I offered him a towel. He looked up, recognized me, and walked away without saying a word.”
That night, I leave dinner on cloud nine. I’m feeling good about seeing Christ House begin to work its magic on Mr. L. But as I walk out of Christ House, I see another patient who had just come in earlier that day sitting on the porch. He has the same thousand-mile stare Mr. L had when he first arrived. It was as if he could not let go of the streets, or the streets would not let go of him. Concern shatters my elated feelings from dinner. The scene is so opposite from the joyous banter I had just left.
Just then, Henry’s words echo in my ears. The concern vanishes as quickly as it appeared.
“Give him a week,” I say to myself.