We recently said farewell to our Year Long Volunteer, Matthew. Since his arrival in October, Matthew has fully dedicated himself to Christ House and its mission. In his role as Activities Coordinator, Matthew planned an array of weekly activities for our patients such as trips to local sports games, walks to the Mt. Pleasant Library, bingo, arts and crafts, and much more. He also provided assistance to our administration and development departments. Read his reflection below.
They say time flies when you’re having fun, and that’s what seems to have happened in these past ten months that I have spent as the Activities Coordinator at Christ House. When I arrived in October of 2022, I wasn’t really sure what to expect; I was told what the role entailed, which was to coordinate and plan activities for the residents of the facility which seemed easy enough. As time progressed my view on the position changed and it became so much more than just running and planning activities. The position is also about companionship and accompaniment—building relationships with the many men that came through our facility, and making sure that they knew if they needed anything that I would try my hardest to help them out.
Throughout my ten months at Christ House, I coordinated a plethora of activities and outings for the residents. In trying to “make the position my own,” I made an effort to cast a wide net on the activities that I was going to plan. We started out going to the Cox Farms Fall Festival, found ourselves at the zoo, college and professional basketball games, concerts and plays in DC, and professional lacrosse games.
There’s one story that comes to mind when I think of companionship and accompaniment, and it happened at a DC Defenders game earlier this year. We had a smaller group of guys for this game. Two of the guys I knew very well, as they had been around for a while. The third gentleman was new, but I hadn’t had much interaction with him so I made it a point to try and sit next to him during the game to see if I could spark up a conversation. It didn’t seem to work at first as I tried a couple of conversation starters that failed to do their job. I tried not to let that deter me too much, so I used a different approach. I simply just asked him how he was enjoying the game.
He told me that it was alright, but it wasn’t his favorite sport and that he enjoyed soccer more. I promptly asked him who his favorite team was, and he answered with the Honduran national team. We were able to make a quick connection because of this. I mentioned that I had spent some time in Honduras and his face lit up. We talked about how beautiful the landscape was and the island that I visited. He then told me the story of how he got to Washington, DC and what he was doing for work before he found himself in the hospital. He was ever so eager to get back to work and was so thankful to have Christ House help him do so. We talked for the rest of the game. Afterwards, we talked almost every day while he was still at the facility during some of the activities that I was running. I could tell that these little daily talks were helping both of us. When it finally came time for him to venture beyond Christ House, he made sure to come and find me before he left. He said, “Mr. Matthew I’m leaving tomorrow. I wanted to thank you before I left for everything but especially for listening to me.”
One major lesson that I have learned through this year of service and through interactions like this is the importance of listening before speaking and the importance of listening to understand and not just to respond. When we listen to respond we are only focusing on certain details while the conversation is going on, trying to form a response and essentially go through the motions of conversation. When we listen to understand it brings more intentionality to the conversations and interactions, which I have found to be ever so true during my time at Christ House.
The official mission statement of Christ House is as follows, “to provide comprehensive and compassionate care for people experiencing homelessness with acute medical needs in the District of Columbia and to offer assistance in addressing critical issues to help break the cycle of homelessness.” It was evident from the first day that I arrived that this mission was being carried out. From the nursing staff to the social workers to the kitchen and everyone in-between, each person is dedicated to the work that they are doing and genuinely cares for the individuals that they serve. It was a blessing to have had the privilege of working at a facility that accomplishes such great things day in and day out.