Little experiences in life add so much to the way you do and see things. One such event is what I want to talk about here.
A few years ago I volunteered at this little charity which runs during Christmas for the homeless people - it was a small unknown place and I loved being a part of it for my time there. I remember it as being enjoyable, also a bit frustrating and very exhausting (I know....I am so bad). I thought a bout it as a nice thing to do and left it there. Though the thought crossed my mind that I could do more of this, I never got my act together.
This Christmas I picked it up again. Having known that I have days off during the time and not much to do I decided to enrol myself with 'Crisis at Christmas' who are perhaps the biggest organization in all of Europe doing work around homelessness.
Not knowing what I really wanted to do, I put my name as a general volunteer. If you are a professional, you can also add yourself for Kitchen duties, IT Support, Medical Services and such others. A general volunteer could be doing anything from serving meals, to sitting at the information desk, to manning the entrances and exits, to keeping a check at the luggage lounge or the art and craft centre, the shower facilities and so on.
A complete volunteer led group that it is, you could see some really amazing organization of tasks, duties, roles - everything just seemed to have run so smooth. Each of us had another volunteer paired with us for every activity, so it never really felt like you were in it alone. It gives you a chance to interact with all the other wonderful people who give up their personal time to do this and understand why they connect with it. It's inspiring to hear the story behind why they choose to do this, also interesting and perhaps a reality check on how we are so engrossed in our lives that this experience is somewhat surreal.
Crisis arranged an induction programme for first time volunteers to give us an idea of what to expect, the do's and don'ts and it was such a well planned presentation that I was already quite sure that the process would be smooth.
It's amazing to see professionals - doctors, dentists, hair dressers, masseurs, advisers provide their services.
The kitchen staff ensuring that the people (our guests as we learn to call) get proper meals - a hot plate of food. The shower rooms are kept ready so they can have a warm shower, the IT room is ready with computers for the people to have a little cyber space, the TV room and cinema is showing movies everyday, the art & craft room is open for the creative lot, sports rooms with table tennis, luggage room to store their belongings, tea & coffee all day long.
It was great to see the happiness when they had their hot shower and came out all fresh, the excitement to know that they can get a haircut or enjoy a full hot meal with a dessert. They were thrilled to know there was a masseur, Relieved to know they can leave their belongings overnight at a place where they don't have to worry about it being stolen.
These were things that are so inconceivable to the normal you and me. How often do we think whether we cannot have that simple hot shower or a meal a day or get a haircut and look presentable ? Perhaps Never?
The worry that you have to carry everything that you possibly own always on you. Can't leave it anywhere....don't have a place to leave it.
It's hard to imagine and live knowing that as the night falls and the crowds recede, the shops close, businesses end there is no place to go, that a new footpath, garden bench, parking lot needs to be searched for a place to retire for the night.
That very thought makes me count my blessings, that I am so lucky to have been born, raised and living a life where everything is kinda normal where my worries seem so small when compared to what some of these people have.