For the past couple of years I’ve had the pleasure of cooking for and attending the Night Shelter project. This year I was able to bring along my foster son with me so that he could see how important it is to serve others and help the homeless. There is a real sense of communal gathering and belonging at the shelter, which many of the guests don’t feel on the streets where they are often ignored.
Some of the men I already know from Olive Branch, which is held on Saturdays at Holy Trinity Church in Hounslow, others are new faces this year. Meal time is a lovely opportunity to sit together and find out more about the guests as individuals as many of them have led fascinating lives and can share a wealth of knowledge about food and customs in their own countries or cultures. They begin to see us as safe faces they can approach to say hello to on the street and to me this is a big part of what being a Christian is about.
It’s also a reminder that in the blink of an eye our circumstances can change and that we all need others to help us sometimes. I see it as a real chance for us as volunteers to ‘love our neighbour’ whoever they might be and it reminds me of what Jesus said in Matthew 25:40 :
‘Truly I tell you,
whatever you did for one of the least of these
brothers of mine, you did for me.’
As the night shelter ends for us this winter it is easy to forget that the guests are still outside physically and metaphorically. I have decided this Lent, therefore, not to give up something as I usually do but to make it more of a priority to befriend the homeless and take them food sometimes. I hope that my foster son also sees now that they are not to be feared and or to shy away from but to reach out and extend the hand of Jesus.