The most important task I have at my job is “mingling” with the guests. Although seemingly easy, this is one of the harder parts of anyone’s experience at the center. I thought I’d have this role in the bag because I love chatting it up with anyone and almost everyone.
But there are some conversational phrases that frankly suck when you work with the homeless population.
I’m a big fan of the following conversational openers: “How’s your life?”, “How are you doing today?”, “What was for dinner?”, “What did you do last night.”
Welcome to the awkward world of Miss Enlund, the volunteer. I’ve quickly learned that these phrases just can’t be used at work. They warrant some colorful answers occasionally, but often they just make you feel two inches tall and you have to creatively back out of the situation you walked into.
But thank the Lord for those with a sense of humor and the willingness to talk.
During these accidental moments is where I have found the great hope that made me fall in love with New Orleans. The people here are so strong and so hopeful. I learn about the smallest things that impact their new lifestyles. It’s in these conversations that they reflect on the circumstances that lead them to this point in their life and they talk about their change in perspective.
What’s really cool about my job is how these ice breaker conversations grow over time. I think what is so unique about the center that I work at is the level or relationship between staff and guest. There are guests that come around every so many months, there are daily guests, and there are “success-story” guests who come back for a visit or to say thank you. The interactions between these guests and staff include conversations about family and specific memories. It really is so special to each of the guests that they have a connection with, at least, one person to realize that they are still cared about.
There is a group of gentlemen that have found one another and stick together. They watch each others’ backs and have developed a great sense of camaraderie. Although they often arrive at the center in different waves, there is always a point in the day in which they are all together. I have a great connection with each of them, but I love talking to them as a whole. They bounce off one another and share their stories with such lightheartedness. They all genuinely listen to each other as well. I think it’s so beautiful that they’ve found each other because they are all from different states and each has a very different story. Between them, however, is a beautiful understanding, level of trust, and almost a brotherhood. They support each other and encourage the other to stay away from trouble and to do what they have to in order to move forward.
And they keep me in the loop…
I’m forever overwhelmed with the emotion of love for those I work with. I’m so grateful for this experience.
Until next time ;]