“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” ~ Romans 7:15
Jane was always one of our more helpful guests. She was one of the first to take the initiative to clean the table off before Bible study, and would remind us when it was time to start Morning Prayer.
Jane was also a mainstay at the Bible studies. One morning during Bible study, she got up to get a cup of coffee. While she was up, another guest sat in Jane’s seat. When Jane returned, she confronted the other guest, and insisted on getting ‘her’ chair back. This was particularly surprising, as there were several other empty chairs nearby. Chairs that were as good or better than the one Jane was sitting in. Yet she demanded her chair back.
I was surprised at this. Not that two of our guests would have a confrontation over a seat, but that Jane was one of them. I just figured she would have simply sat in a different seat. This is what any of you would have done.
The incident reminded me of how out of control most of our guests’ lives truly are. Daily they struggle with what can often seem like insurmountable issues. Little things that they can control are magnified.
Where am I going to sleep? Do I have time to get to the Lamb Center and get something to eat and maybe take a shower? Do I have a token for the bus? What bus goes to the library and when does it come?
I learned a lesson from a volunteer in the laundry once. A guest asked for a toothbrush, and instead of just handing him one, he asked, “Which one would you like?” It was a subtle difference, but he had honored our guest by giving him a choice. In the end, what do we care whether we gave him the red one or the green one?
I also was reminded that I too am a work in progress. I might not have picked a fight about the chair, but I sin against friends, family, and strangers over things that are just as petty.
Jane has relocated to Carolina, and she is now married to a former Lamb Center guest. They are both employed, and they blessed us with a financial donation when they came back ‘home’ to visit us. Not every guest we serve daily has such a success story, but we are all a work in progress.
One of the things I have learned at the Lamb Center is never to put people in a box, and never to give up on anyone. We see people every day who are facing seemingly insurmountable problems. Problems that even with the assistance of several staff members, a few volunteers, and a professional are without an answer.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” ~ Jeremiah 29:11