“Tonight, when we get to our new home,” I overheard a mother say to her young daughter, “You're going to have a bed to sleep in!” I was in Washington, D.C. with six St. Luke's students  for a week of service. Each day we worked with different organizations that help people who are homeless or food insecure. On the first day, my group worked at A Wider Circle, an organization that recycles gently used household goods. We sorted through artwork and linens in its large warehouse and delivered it to the showroom where people moving out of shelters were able to select household items big and small for their new homes. During our few hours there, we saw many clients excitedly envision how the gently used furniture and other items would look in their new st lukes at ysop in washington summer 2017.jpghomes. Volunteers kept busy helping clients select their items and moving them onto trucks for delivery. I had the opportunity to speak with various clients while we were replenishing the artwork on the showroom floor, but one woman's comment to her child that they would have a bed to sleep in that night took my breath away. It was another glimpse into the stark reality of poverty and forced me to think about some of the details of homelessness. Every parent should be able to tuck their child into a bed at night, and this mother reminded me that not everyone can.

This level of poverty is difficult for us to imagine, but this week in Washington was about encountering people who live in exceptionally challenging conditions and learning that the common bond of humanity is a powerful one. All of us who went on this service trip to Washington had conversations that helped us to see how important it is to recognize the dignity in everyone, regardless of appearance or situation. We learned that hunger and homelessness have many faces and we felt fortunate every time someone trusted us enough to talk with us and give us insight into their life. At the end of the week one student noted that “there's always a story behind each person you see on the street or at your worksite.” We learned a lot from the people we met during the week.

I don't know the situation of the woman I overheard that first day at A Wider Circle, but I knew it was going to be similar to that of people we would encounter all week. I was so glad that I overheard a snippet of her story, especially as it introduced a happy chapter: the one when she could put her child into her own bed in their new home.





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