Dear friends, my heart is full of gratitude, appreciation, love, and compassion for the opportunity to serve as a member of the EGH team. Prior to my arrival in September 2017, I had limited knowledge and understanding of what it means to be homeless, and, as quiet as its kept, I still have more to learn. I embraced this new calling, I drew upon and was comforted by the Psalms to help with experiences of sorrow and joy, hesitation and confidence, pain and comfort, desperateness and hope, anger and contentment, as well as retaliation and forgiveness. Hence, Psalm 151: Praise for the Simple Things. Wait, hold it! Before an opinion is formed or judgment is made, let me quickly explain my song of praise, my victory through prayer, and the opportunity to humbly share my praise with you.
Psalm 151 will never be included in the sacred text, but it will forever be written in my heart. For the past 15 months, I have been enrolled in an intense continuing education program of pastoral care and counseling with a focus on the question, “How do you mend a broken heart?” I am now able to offer a response. I had to show up and be willing to help someone find their way. Yes, as I discovered, some behaviors and attitudes required a bit quieter, yet a confident set of skills to help one woman at a time come from behind the mask they wear to survive on the lonely, dangerous streets associated with homelessness. This undertaking required me to set aside my ego, realize that showing up on the scene was not about me, but about service unto God. I have never experienced homelessness, (it could happen), but I have experienced rejection, injustice, discrimination and the efforts of some to keep me in my place. Nonetheless, I chose to jump in, partner with staff and volunteers to do the best we could to help at least one of God’s children. There was no room for me to ‘fake the funk’ – I needed to show up for real or not at all, which I did with the help of outstanding volunteers and team members.
Over time, I felt less and less like an outsider, fear of failing decreased, and the self-imposed weight on my shoulders became lighter, my confidence increased as I prayed more and more about everything and took notice of the support surrounding me in the faces of the women, I had the privilege to serve. (Whew! What a long sentence – yet necessary!) Then one day it hit me. I discovered what energized me to keep going! I saw Pride, Determination, and Resilience in the faces of the women. Yes, the women who come to EGH are homeless, and they are filled with Pride, Determination, and Resilience. They battle the elements of life each and every day and they come to EGH for just a little rest, a morsel of food, the opportunity to wash their clothes, enjoy a shower, use the computers to search for a job or an apartment, all in an effort to seek help for a better life, maintain their dignity and their integrity. I’m full. The women of EGH taught me, they took me under their wings and helped me to fly high. They prayed for me. They encouraged me to listen to the cawing of the crows, to respect the earth, to stick my feet in the water! They showed me how to smile when doing so was absolutely the last thing they wanted to do. The women of EGH are the bomb-diggity. They are examples of awesome sauce. For many, the women of EGH appear to be wanderers; however, make no mistake that as they wander, they teach us to be mindful of those less fortunate. My reward for fully showing up was the gift, on many occasions, of hearing a woman speak for herself in her own voice.
My friends, my season is complete and it’s time for me to rest, be still, play, travel and listen as I receive instructions for the new season in my life. It’s someone else’s turn.
Thank you for every act of kindness and leadership. Thank you for the laughter, hugs, dance moves, and spoken words. Today, I am a much stronger, wiser and more aware person because of what you poured into my spirit in your own special way. Nurture “Your Everyday Spirituality (YES).” Remember to say, “Yes, Yes” when you discover something wonderful about the fruit of your spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control) — rise, my friends, rise my sisters and “stay woke.”
Rev. Valerie A. Smith, M. Div. (aka Ms. Valerie/Ms. V)