At Maggie’s Place, we are blessed each and every day with so many gifts. Some of them are tangible and address basic physical needs such as laundry detergent, groceries or printer ink; while others are intangible acts of goodwill—prayers from the community, kind words, or volunteers who tend to the garden so the house can focus on other things.
One of the most important gifts I’ve seen, both by giving and receiving it, is simply presence. I tell volunteers that spending time with the moms makes a big impact; even if it feels pointless at times, because the moms just need to know someone is there for them. Being present with the moms comes in all different forms, from volunteer groups that host barbeques and get everyone out of the house and spending time together, to a volunteer who sits in the living room chatting with a mom or simply sitting in comfortable silence. Or it might be a Corps member who gets a rousing game of Uno going in the kitchen with everyone.
The gift of presence goes both ways. I meet so many volunteers at Maggie’s Place who devote their time both out of kindness and because, perhaps unknowingly, they are seeking community too. I spoke to several different volunteers about this, thanking them for their service, and every single one of them said almost the same thing, “Oh no, thank you. I get so much more out of this than I give back.”
Once, a mom who had recently moved in turned to me and said, “You know, I wouldn’t mind coming back [to Maggie’s Place] to volunteer after I move out. I’ve never seen so many people just volunteering; giving their time and things for people they don’t even know.”
She was amazed at the impact of so many kind deeds, and she hadn’t even been in the house for a full month. Even though she may not have realized it, she was feeling the gift of presence. What’s more, it was inspiring her to give back to her community. All because people took the time to ask about her day, eat together, visit her at the hospital, congratulate her and affirm her—they showed her love.
Maggie’s Place moms come from all walks of life and all different levels of poverty: lack of shelter and basic needs, no family to speak of, an upbringing without structure or discipline. Addiction, abuse, neglect and poor decisions are common. Our volunteers are young and old, rich and poor, men and women, but the overarching theme that unifies all our moms, volunteers, corps members and staff—which brings us together into one Maggie’s Place community—is love.
The simplest way to show a person love is by the giving of yourself; by being present in their lives.
By Lucy Miller, MissionCorps member at The Michael House
The Michael House Corps members with baby Maria-Anna.