Every so often, there are little snapshot moments that almost perfectly encapsulate what street work is like. A couple of weeks back, I was walking up to the day shelter in 10-degree weather, carrying a backpack full of socks, another bag of socks so that I didn’t run out, and a bag of winter hats. I was wearing two coats, a hat and gloves and a scarf to keep the winter chill at bay. I was also limping because of a minor but annoying foot injury.
I took a breath, said a prayer, walked into the day shelter with all of this stuff, and I no sooner walked through the door than my glasses completely fogged up and I couldn’t see anything. I could still hear all the voices and ancillary noise of a chaotic day at the shelter, made all the more jagged by the cold weather, but I was essentially blind.
I took off my gloves and tried to wipe my fogged-over glasses on my shirt, meanwhile dropping various things on the floor as I stood in the middle of the chaos with little idea of what was going on around me, except for the young man who was telling me that the care given to the older man who had ultimately died the night before in the overnight shelter had been poorly managed. I was trying to respond to him, while simultaneously attempting to pick up dropped gloves and still wiping at my recalcitrant glasses.
I finally gave up on the glasses, shoved them in a pocket, dropped the extra socks I was carrying and tried to get my blurry bearings in the middle of it all. The young man continued to talk about the night before, and other folks were coming up to ask for socks. I bent over, picked up the bag of hats I’d dropped, fixed the young man with a blurry gaze and asked him if he’d mind giving out the hats to those who might need them. Hey stopped speaking and his face seemed to light up. “Sure,” he said, and he happily wandered off to distribute the hats.
I was trying to open bags of socks to give them out, when someone said “Hey, Pastor, you dropped your glove,” and he handed me my glove, disappearing before I could thank him.