Beyond the Backpack
Wednesdays and Sundays are special days at Haywood Street as people gather to enjoy a delicious meal and fellowship at the Welcome Table. Some folks like to wait for the next seating outside at the picnic tables while others fill the Hospitality Room enjoying a cup of coffee or glass of lemonade.
It’s a bustling, busy time that may seem chaotic and noisy, but for me, it’s what community is all about. It’s where young and old can meet and visit, where friends reconnect, and where the atmosphere is filled with chatter, laughter, tears and sometimes turmoil.
At first glance it might seem like a sea of backpacks, bedrolls, and bags filled with belongings, but it’s more than that. It’s about people, not just the possessions they hold onto dearly.
Each and every one is an individual—with a personal history, with dreams and hope for the future. That’s what I love about Haywood Street—a place that truly looks beyond the backpack.
I especially enjoy greeting folks at the Welcome Table, being in the moment with friends in the Hospitality Room. It’s especially nice when I bring Annie, my blind rescue dog with me. She has a way of opening up conversation and giving joy to those reaching down to pat her head. Many a time we will chat about their pets and reminisce and beloved animals of days gone by.
Small talk is always pleasant, but it’s also interesting to learn more about an individual’s life and background. This opens up more conversation and great opportunities to include others at the table. Recently, I’ve been asking about work, volunteer experiences and hobbies. Oh my, what amazing things our friends have done and continue to do. One young woman shared her experiences working as an Army nurse in Afghanistan. Her words were riveting as we listened intently about treating the physical and emotional wounds that soldiers endure. I’ve always enjoyed her company, but now knowing more about her amazing life, I’m in awe of her talents and dedication. I can’t wait to learn more!
Beyond the backpacks are individuals with an array of knowledge and interests. How fascinating hearing about working as a chef, dental hygienist, geologist, glass artist and software programmer. What fun chatting about quilting, gardening, baking bread and playing the piano.
Everyone has a story. All we have to do is start the conversation and listen. Soon those stories will unfold. Each one adds so much to the moment.
“Conversation is food for the soul.”