Homeless for a Day

It was miserable. I was already tired, fighting off a lingering cold and had taken some paracetamol at the onset of a headache before we off-loaded the car and on-loaded the “mercy mobile”, our festive-coloured (red) trolley. Down on volunteers (to two) but carrying an ever increasing load of food, clothing, toiletries and sundry, we ventured in to the gale with it’s accompanying horizontal rain.

The Mercy mobile

The Mercy mobile

The rain to the wind said,
You push and I’ll pelt.
They so smote the garden bed
That the flowers actually knelt,
And lay lodged – though not dead.
I know how the flowers felt.

Poet Robert frost may have aptly spoken for the flowers but I take Shakespeare for my spokesman:

Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!
You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout
Till you have drench’d our steeples, drown’d the cocks!

Unlike last month when we wheeled our trolley a short distance and our homeless guests came to us, this time we had to go to them. The rain always hampers our apostolate, not so much from the conditions but because the conditions send them for cover.

Ite ad Joseph! In all such needs we call upon St Joseph, the patron of our little apostolate and St Anthony of Padua. Well known for finding lost things, St Anthony is equally efficacious at finding homeless!

But we were to do a little penance first. So we trudged up the inclined high street to the railway station and back.Like last month when we first used the mercy mobile, we received a variety of looks, from the quizzical to the inimical. I then realised why, we looked homeless! (well, we certainly looked miserable!)   Smiling  through my otherwise melancholic mood, I realised it is a great grace to be considered as one of Christ’s “least  brethren” (Matt. 25:40)

I managed to get through to one of our guests on the mobile and arranged to meet in a covered alleyway. We arrived soaked through, with a pool of water forming in the mercy mobile’s canopy. Providentially we met one of our other regular guests. Ali has recently taken up selling the Big Issue and loves the confidence and independence it gives her.  She also told us about a baby pigeon she found and nursed until its recent death. “Curly” would go to sleep next to her on the pillow and wake her up in the morning by lightly pecking her head. Curly would even “manicure” her eye brows and lashes by precision pecking!

Ali Showing the Big Issue to one of our volunteers

Ali Showing the Big Issue to one of our volunteers

Kyla, whom I spoke to on the phone arrived and then St Anthony’s intercession “kicked in”. The homeless started to come to us!

Some people feel the rain. Others just get wet.

Though I was wet, I stopped feeling the rain. My spirits were rising and I was too busy to notice my own inconveniences. While the mulled wine was being poured out, Si turned up. He came out of rehab last month to overcome his drink addiction.  The good news is he is still of the drink and was not tempted at all at the sight of mulled wine. The bad news is he is very unwell (maybe that’s why the wine didn’t appeal). He seems to have a leg infection but is resisting a trip to A&E, despite the insistence of his girlfriend. He had dragged himself out of bed to sell his last copies of the Big Issue. Please pray that he gets his leg treated before it gets worse.

It was well dark when we off-loaded the mercy mobile and headed back to St Michael’s. For me, it was the toughest mercy mission we had under taken to date.

But my misery, for a few hours on one particular wintery Saturday, is the lot of our guests for much of the time. My misery is their norm. So really, my suffering was a mere trifling, a selfish inconvenience.

To put things in perspective, I often think of father Damien, the saintly apostle of the leapers on Molokai:

Fr. Damien on his deathbed

Fr. Damien on his deathbed

I feel no disgust when I hear the confessions of those near their end, whose wounds are full of maggots…This may give you some idea of my daily work.  Picture to yourself a collection of huts with 800 Lepers.  No doctor; in fact, as there is no cure, there seems no place for a doctor’s skill.

Father Damien, thank you for a reality check and pray for us!