Recently I was vacationing in Flagstaff with a friend, where we decided to stay in a hostel for the night. As we checked in and milled around the common room, people started asking us the normal get-to-know-you questions. Being a MissionCorps member at Maggie’s Place, I dread this very ordinary social interaction, because often right after people ask your name, they ask what you “do”. I usually fumble through an answer, and it often gets the same response of, “Oh, that must be so rewarding,” followed with a slightly uncomfortable conversation about how homelessness is a horrible problem in our country.
The subject is then quickly changed and nobody ventures to dive deeper—which is perfectly understandable. Homelessness, hopelessness and lack of love are always issues within society, and they are abound in our world. In many people’s lives, however, they are not just their own problems, but they might think there is not much they can do to really change things.
It is uncomfortable to be presented with a problem you cannot fix.
To the average person, life at Maggie’s Place might be “fixing” a lot of problems for the women who live in our homes. We are providing shelter, food, showers and diapers for their babies. Their safety and physical needs are met right away within moments of their arrival. These are not their real problems though, and these material fixes—just as their stay at Maggie’s Place is—are temporary.
One of my favorite quotes is from Mother Teresa, in which she says, “Today, if we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” I am reminded of this every single day at Maggie’s Place. The real change, the real fix, is in sharing our lives with each other. It’s amazing to see what people are capable of when they are surrounded with encouragement, worthiness and sense of belonging. Eating together, playing with one another, hugging, crying, celebrating birthdays and welcoming babies are all of the normal, everyday things people and families should be doing anyway. We ask each other how our days were, we paint our nails together and we laugh over stories of our childhoods.
These simple, ordinary, but somehow life-changing interactions are the ones that heal our hearts and open us up. Sometimes it’s forced and sometimes it’s genuine, but all the time it is community. Loving, living and walking with each other are the only things we can do to change any of these problems that seem so insurmountable. No one person can find the “fixes” to abusive relationships, materialism or homelessness. But one person can belong to another person; to share their heart and their love. This is the root of our community at Maggie’s Place—simply being together and belonging to one another. We strive to treat each other as God treats us—with unconditional love and kinship, no matter what. Even on the best days, that might mean just holding someone’s hand.
Life at Maggie’s Place can be very rewarding. It can also be painful, mundane, fun and exhausting. But it is together that we share in all these times—the sorrows and the triumphs, because this is where we all belong.
By Sarah Waggoner, MissionCorps member at The Magdalene House