It is Thursday. It is afternoon. I am working on my book when my phone beeps the reminder for an outreach to people living in homelessness. I shut it off and keep working. The volunteer I usually partner with is off tonight. I feel no need to rush. Thinking about the most recent time I drove into the city without him, I remember arriving too early. Being the first volunteer to arrive was awkward—and a little scary—given the recent verdict in the shooting death of Michael Brown and heightened tensions in Ferguson and across Saint Louis.
The clothing truck, a well-worn vehicle with a quirky fuel pump, stalls out twice on the trip into the city from the suburban parking lot where it is stored, once forcing me to exit. I have trouble finding a place to turn around—ending up in a residential neighborhood—making a 3-point turn on a corner where a wide driveway meets the street. I do not yet know my new city and the not knowing leaves me tense.
As I pull up on the north side of Loretta Hall Park, two seasoned volunteers wave greetings and one of them motions me into position. As I park the truck containing clothing, volunteers in the food truck arrive and pull into position 30 feet behind me. I get out of the driver’s seat and hand the truck keys to the outreach leader before grabbing two boxes of donated bakery treats from the passenger seat and making my way toward the food truck.
Homeless men are gathering near the trucks. One man in the group—a thin man about my height and close to me in age—asks for a donut, seeking special attention. I shake my head no, saying, “No. I can’t do that.”
He replies with, “Come on baby…”
“I’m not your baby,” I snarl, suddenly angry and hurting, reminded somehow by his plea that the man with the intimacy to call me baby is dead.
In the moment I feel disrespected and incredibly lonely, then saddened by the venom in my own words—I am not very Christ-like. I deliver the donuts to the food volunteers, then escape to the front of the clothing truck and try to pray.
Later I sit on the tailgate of the food truck and cry widow’s tears into the darkening night.
It’s been 16 months—498 days—since my husband’s unexpected death. My soul cries out, “Where do I belong?”
Dusk darkens into night. Two women from the neighborhood come around the back of the truck, seeking to cross the street, heading toward the place they will sleep tonight. Seeing me sitting there, they stop and ask what is wrong. My soul senses genuine concern and my pain tumbles out in jumbled words. I am hugged—and hugged again. Comforted.
Then the women turn away and walk into the cool darkness of the night.
I walk away too, returning to the group of men and women gathered tonight in this park.
Founder of Whispered Hopes ministry, Renee Wurzer describes herself as a flawed, human and fragile encourager, a woman seeking to inspire others with courage and hope in Christ. A recent widow, her joy here on earth is her legacy family, especially grandchildren. She finds hope in walking with her faith community, editing for others and writing her own blog. Learn more about Whispered Hopes here.