Sometimes seems like things happen in a series of snapshots, or at least that’s how it all comes together in my head. The last few days went something like this.
A staff discovers things will never be the same again -- some are relieved, some heart-broken, all at least a little shell-shocked with the news of big changes. The boss manages to make it through the day on the steady and sturdy prayers of loved ones and wonderfully supportive colleagues.
A few hours later, it appears as though another winter storm is indeed going to hit. Less than 24 hours later, it does. Friday afternoon ends in the chaos of snow and sleet and staff members who live miles away getting home before getting stuck and clients rushing to get to the evening shelters to get a spot of the floor so the night is at least a dry one. At some point, there is also the realization by this boss that the entire Saturday crew will not be able to get to work. And probably not Sunday’s regular crew either.
Lots of snow, with a top layer of ice. Might not be a coincidence that my car is one that has all-wheel drive. I drove around West Asheville in my Subaru picking up the other two staff members who were close by, both of whom did not hesitate one second when I asked if they would work through the weekend so we could keep the day center open in the bad weather. There is no better group of human beings in the world than the people I work with – and I don’t say that lightly. They are the most selfless, generous and compassionate people I’ve ever known.
The thread through the chaos of the weekend was the Presbyterians. Seriously. Not that it’s a contest, but they won the award for the widest reaching arms this past weekend. Our emergency shelter for women that rotates churches each week for sleeping space was housed at Grace Covenant Presbyterian last week. The inclement weather plan for the shelter is for the women to move to a church in walking distance to A HOPE so the churches can keep to the nights-only schedule they’ve agreed to for housing these 12 women. They called Thursday and said they would keep them all weekend so they wouldn’t have to move and be out in the bad weather. And they did. First Presbyterian Church has been opening all winter on Saturday afternoons to give street folks a place to be inside with hot coffee, snacks, movies, games and lots of friendly faces. My friend M., the Assoc pastor there, called to tell me that their volunteers were going to spend the night Friday to make sure they could open the church Saturday afternoon – they didn’t want to take a chance on not being able to get back into town. And they did.
Saturday morning, a high school senior walked 25 minutes to volunteer because his parents couldn’t get the car out. Sunday morning, a Mars Hill student who volunteers regularly had her dad drive her into Asheville in his 4-wheel drive because she knew we would be really busy and that extra hands would be very helpful. And our women’s shelter director and her husband drove into town to welcome the women back from Grace Covenant, feed them homemade soup and give them some extra time for laundry and showers.
It was a full, difficult few days. And a big lesson in remembering what it means to reach beyond our own needs. A witness to what can happen when people take seriously what it means to follow Jesus’ commands in Matthew 25. A step toward understanding the life changes we all need to make for everyone to have permanent, safe housing available to them.
Balance eludes me, still. Working a 70 hour week was good for the shelter. It wasn’t good for my family. I suspect that struggle will not go away for me, particularly on weeks like this one where events beyond my control necessitate long working days. I like to think I’m working toward a foothold in some kind of foundation, though. Work-related, the new world coming at A HOPE will be more balanced for everyone involved and, I firmly believe, equip us to more adequately assist our clients in making strong and healthy lifestyle changes. My loving wife got into my calendar and scheduled workouts for me. I’ve made inquiries about starting to work with a spiritual director. Only steps, I know. But steps nonetheless. Steps that I hope will move me closer to balance, and closer to learning to reach beyond what I know to where God calls.