It doesn’t take a big heart to serve, just a broken one.

The longer I have been at Maggie’s Place, the more convinced I am of the truth of this statement.  It is our humanness that allows the community at our homes to flourish. Just last week I was downtown helping a new mom gather the last of her things from the local women’s homeless shelter. As I waited for her in the lobby, three homeless women were sitting in there as well, chatting up a storm.

One said to me, “You her case worker? You look like you could be one of us . . . don’t she?”

I laughed, but I knew it was a profound moment. Because, quite frankly, I could be.

Take for example the woman the shelter was named after: Norma Herr was a piano protégée, wife, and mother of two—by all accounts successful. But an onslaught of severe schizophrenia left her homeless and living for 17 years in the shelter that now bears her name. With just a few changes in my life, I could be homeless too.  Fact of the matter remains that I am not, but it was a good reminder to me of my own poverty; the ways in which I struggle or have been hurt.

Sometimes that vulnerability can be hard to let show when working in the homes.  Somehow the moms currently at the Zechariah House, have gotten it into their heads that the staff members here are basically nuns.

We had a visitor the other day who looked at my sparkly painted nails with surprise, and asked me quite seriously, “Are you even allowed to do that?”

A few days later though, we were sitting and chatting at the kitchen table, when one of our moms said that while she knew the MissionCorps members weren’t officially nuns, they were “pretty much nuns.”

The other mom sitting there turned to her and said, “No they’re not. I know nuns, and they are basically two degrees from being saints. They’re not nuns.”

That was the biggest compliment I have received here at Maggie’s Place.

It took me awhile to figure out why it meant so much to me. Then I realized: it’s because she knows that we are no different, we’re just as human as she is. That was, in a sense, permission for her to be just as broken and in need of healing as I am. It was permission to be human; to be part of the community. I am truly grateful, because it is the fact that I am wounded and in need of healing, seeking to love and be loved that makes me a part of this community. It’s what gives me the desire to serve.

-By Mary Notess, MissionCorps Member at The Zechariah House