I’ve been a volunteer coordinator now for about seven months. As a coordinator in the kitchen, it is my job to serve as a liaison between the chefs that make the food and the volunteers that prep and serve it. I greet each person that comes through the door each day I work with a smile and a welcome (or welcome back).
In my time at Open Door Mission, I’ve met literally hundreds of people. I’ve met guests that are just here for a meal and volunteers who have been faithful to the Mission for longer than I’ve been alive. Each person is a unique individual and has a story to tell.
While I truly enjoy getting to know the guests, the New Life Recovery Program (NLRP) men and women, and the volunteers I meet each day, that’s not my favorite part of my position. The best part of my job is watching volunteers form bonds with the guests that utilize the services we offer at the Mission.
It is so easy in our every day lives to dehumanize the social pandemic of homelessness. I think too often, we have a tendency to talk about the homeless like they are one giant blob that moves as one instead of the reality that there are hundreds of thousands of individuals. Individuals that all have complex problems. Individuals that are each a child of God.
Volunteers in the kitchen have the opportunity to really get to know the guests we serve. To see them as not just the homeless of the Omaha metro, but as individual human beings.
When consistent volunteers are on the serving line, they get to see familiar faces; and even though it might just be a smile and a “Have a blessed day,” being remembered can make a person feel seen. It can radically change their day.
While doing prep work for meals, I’ve seen volunteers have deep and meaningful conversations with New Life Recovery Programmers. This informal mentor-ship shows how to love someone like Jesus in a real and practical way. They show healthy relationships take time and intention.
Even if volunteers are just refilling water glasses, the conversations that are sparked leave our guests and volunteers here changed. Often volunteers will remark, with tears in their eyes, that by volunteering they were given so much more than they ever could have given.
I truly believe that the commodity being traded here isn’t just time and gifts, but rather, is connection. The act of seeing and being seen that is a reflection of how a close relationship with the Lord can and should look like. Connection is the thing we all seek: in our lives, through our jobs, in our families and friends. Connection is what is waiting for us if we just show up and ask the Lord to be there.
If you’re seeking something today, as a person in need or a person with something to give, I encourage you to pray about what role the Open Door Mission might play in your seeking. Who knows? Maybe here at the Mission, you can find the connection you’ve been looking for.