So, I had to un-quit my job last week.
That’s because, in a fit of despair, I’d quit it the week before. Then had an incredibly easy week, spoke to some incredibly awesome people, and regretted it. Luckily, I work with really really understanding people.
Mostly, because I realized that I really really loved the mission of what I’m doing….and I’d quit over the distractions.
It might sound trite, but I really do love making good coffee for people. And just generally serving them in a pleasant manner. Talking with them about their classes, their work. their lives…and sometimes about God. I like being a small part of a successful ministry. I like the team I’m working with, and the space itself.
I just have a hard time dealing with some of the more difficult situations that come up. We’ve struggled in the past to have a very clearly defined mission, of who we are trying to reach, who we are serving, and how we can do that….and in the past, some things have happened that we just aren’t equipped to continue.
Because of our location, not only do we get a lot of students come in….but also homeless or underprivileged. The idea that I’ve struggled with is on how we serve both successfully, and I think the answer to that is…..we don’t. We can’t.
The space itself is just not designed, funded, or staffed to serve the homeless population well. That doesn’t mean that we ignore them, or kick them out, or treat them in any way that is unkind or unloving. But it does mean that we can’t be responsible for finding them places to live, or food to eat (or giving away our merchandise), or cashing their checks, or arranging their medical care.
Or….doing socially unacceptable things that make our customers feel uncomfortable or unsafe. Which is where a lot of my awkward conversations come in. Sometimes there are just no nice ways to say certain things, and it makes me feel like a real jerk. Often, I find that we’re just being manipulated anyway, which makes me resentful and jaded. When I find out that the lady who begs for money or food usually has more than most of the students that she plys with guilt….or how many of them admit to just plain not wanting to work because it’s boring. When I discover that the person who is telling me they are always hungry and I’m supposed to buy them food (I’m a Christian, right) saw 3 movies at the theater that weekend….I start to wonder what it is that I really am supposed to be doing. Because as Christians we ARE called to do certain things. Definitely treat people with love. That alone isn’t always easy, when they are bring rude or demanding. But beyond that? I waffle between loving/helping and enabling.
We don’t have a social worker, or a doctor. Anyone that understands the ins and outs of the system, or mental illness. We don’t have any way of tracking who gets what, or who needs what, or who has taken what. But there are lots of organizations within blocks of us that work together to do these things…..and we just need to work with them more. I really think that’s the answer. That we do what we do, and do it well….work to build community with college students….and use our community with other Christians to help the other organizations to do what they do well.
Thankfully, I’m not alone in these. I’ve got a pretty awesome team of people to work with. Some of them have organized and are taking part in a big event this weekend, titled U, not me….based around putting others first. They are spending time volunteering at several area organizations that do serve the homeless and underprivileged. While I won’t be a part of that weekend, I’m really excited to hear how it goes. As for the rest of it…I’m going to just keep working at it. I think once it’s no longer expected that we give out free things, help in those ways, or accept…well….some things that aren’t all that acceptable….that the awkwardness will decrease.