Saturday, December 31, 2011

Cherish Each Moment

The dark cold consumes the city lights as the earth‘s breath slowly rises to the heavens. Lonely bodies stand patiently waiting for permission to enter the gates of the Phoenix Rescue Mission. I am not sure where to go. But, a man, buried in his hooded winter coat, instructs me the way so that I can get out of the cold. My sleeveless arms cannot bare the cold so I walk briskly to the door where men are coatless.

I enter into a hallway filled with men’s sharing stories and laughter. A man asks me to sign-in and then he kindly escorts me to the kitchen and introduces me to an older woman that possesses a familiar face. I can’t remember where I have seen her face before. I didn’t know her personally, but her face was filled with kindness and is the reason her face seems familiar. She greets me with “Good Morning.” Then she politely asks me to empty cups of cottage cheese into a large bowl of fruit cocktail. This is the only cocktail these men will enjoy this morning. I am not passing judgment, but use the moment of grace that these men are to Recover from drugs, alcohol, and the past that hasn’t been so kind with them.

The smell of potatoes and eggs swim through the air and dive into my nose. I fall hungry, but I know I am not here to eat. I am summoned by a determination to give back to the community I once struggled to survive in.

A smile steals my mouth when a stranger’s smile says, “Hello.” It would not be the only smile that warmed my soul. Each man’s smile has a story, their teeth being a chapter of their lives, some missing whole chapeters and some with stained pages, but I am honored to listen. Their stories remind me that I was it not too long ago that I was in their same shoes. But, when I was homeless I did not have the courage to go to a homeless shelter because of the horror stories that crept through the Phoenix streets. I hand each man a tray and each man had a smile and “thank you,” to exchange.

Time passes quickly and I attempt to remember each timeless face. I am curious to know what their trick is to be so happy on such a cold morning. I see people in stores shopping with frowns and never understand why they seem to be so miserable when they have everything. And these men wake up each morning with only their skin and smile not knowing where their next meal may come and were kind enough to give me a sense of belonging. I left, gracious for what these men had given me; a smile that has been painted on my face and soul since I exited the doors of the Phoenix Rescue Mission.

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