Homelessness, community service and humility

We received a letter and the essay below from recent Bishop Moore Catholic High School grad, Regina Timmes, along with a generous donation.  The contribution is much appreciated; and the heartwarming sentiments expressed by this exceptional young lady touched us to the core.

Regina writes that 100 hours of community service were required for graduation.  Awards are given for those who exceed the requirement, and she received the award for the highest number of service hours during her high school years.  This honor included a plaque as well as a donation in her name to any organization she chose.

Regina has served food at Coalition for the Homeless on many occasions and selected us to receive this special donation. “Because of the impact this organization has had on my life, I would like the money to go to those who have changed me,” she writes.  “I may have been handing out food, but the people I encountered served me far more than I served them.  For that I will always be grateful.” 

She noted that she keeps us in her heart as a “reminder of humility and gratefulness.”  We, on the other hand, are humbled by Regina and want to share her poignant essay.

By Regina Timmes:

This is amazing.  Just perfect.  I have been wearing these same socks for eight days.”

He said that to me without a bit of self-pity, but instead with the excitement of a small child on Christmas morning–and all because I told him we would be handing out socks with dinner.

“And what do we get to drink tonight?” He then asked.

“Lemonade.” I answered, grinning. I couldn’t help but smile when I talked to this man.

“Yes!” He said with a pump of his fist. “That’s what I have been wanting! Thank you so much!” He ran off to get in line while I stood there with a heartbroken simper across my lips.

I love Coalition for the Homeless.  Ever since I went for the first time in fourth grade, I hold a special spot in my heart for this kind of service.  A unique affection formed for the people I serve that grew with time and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  It’s hard to imagine wanting to spend an hour or so in a sweat-soaked, garbage-perfumed building that lacked the Florida-necessity of A/C.  It’s love though. Once it’s felt, there’s no escaping it.  It’s a love and burning desire to help someone who can’t seem to get back on his feet.  It’s quite humbling

The people start to come through the line while I wait at the end, a pair of socks in hand, silently observing them scuffing toward me, balancing their drink, food, and anything else in only two hands.  We’ve always been warned not to judge them as they walk through the line–we don’t know their stories; we don’t know why they are here.  All we know is that we have been called to serve them with love.

As I hand them each a pair of socks, I look at the person carefully–some older, some younger, some half-shaven, others with full beards.  Some with dirty fingernails and others with jewelry.  Some barely look at me; others gaze sadly into my eyes as if I am somehow superior to them, though I’m not.  Just because I can afford to eat dinner every night and own more than a garbage bag of possessions does not make me better or worth more.  It’s something that goes unrealized until one is faced with the opportunity to hand socks out to people who own next to nothing.

I try to touch their hands as I pass out the socks. I receive at least one hug a day from the people around me, but I wonder how often these people receive any sort of touch, let alone a hug.  I can’t imagine never receiving any sort of physical contact. It seems like something incredibly small, but imagine life without a simple touch of finger to our skin. Maybe they don’t notice my hand brushing against their fingertips, but maybe some did.  Perhaps, I am slowly helping to prevent a developing immunity to touch.  Every person deserves the gift of love–through service, of course, but through physical contact, as well.

I see the man who approached me earlier–a huge grin still plastered on his face. He has sort of a bent-over shuffle to his walk.

“I just wanted to tell you how much these cards that the students make mean to me.”  He holds up a little piece of paper with a drawing from one of the school children.  “It really touches me and I don’t think they realize it.  Will you tell them?”

I just look at the man.  These simple and sincere words snap every one of my heartstrings, and I want to embrace him.  Instead, I feel that warm beginning of tears forming in the corners of my eyes, I say, “Yes, sir.  I will be sure to pass that on to them.”