I was struggling with a heavy container of silverware, preparing for another Wednesday meal at Haywood Street, when the hand-made sign caught my eye. HOMELESS PLEASE HELP. My first thoughts were of sympathy for the person who must have accidentally left the one thing that might get them noticed on the side of the road. I decided to leave it hanging on the wall beneath the collection of crosses, in hopes that the owner would reclaim it at the next meal.
The next week, waiting in the dining room for a meeting, I noticed the sign still hanging in the same place. Not knowing to whom it belonged, I began speculating about the story attached to that piece of cardboard. Is the owner still looking for it, disappointed that his chance of buying a meal or a cup of coffee is lost? Is it easy enough to find a marker and an old box to make another sign? Was the sign left behind for another person to use? Or, was it simply forgotten? I clung to this last thought as I stared at the nearly camouflaged sign tucked into a corner of the wall…a wall covered in crosses and art. That wall is a symbol of hope at Haywood Street. The crosses are obvious symbols of forgiveness and unconditional love. The paintings (created by Haywood Street friends during Art Day) represent the gifts and talents that lie just below the surface of stained, tattered clothes and the dark circles of exhaustion. They represent moments of peace, refuge, and fellowship where the struggles of the day and the looming night are temporarily forgotten.
Did someone simply forget their troubles as they gathered around the table, filling their stomachs and their souls with nourishment? Is it possible that the moments spent sharing a meal and connecting with friends (old or new) relieve folks of their burdens, even if only for an hour? I’d like to think that whoever walked into our dining room with that plea for help found what he was looking for and no longer needed to cry out. Someone reached out to him, perhaps, and allowed him to leave the church with a sense of hope.
Haywood Street Volunteer