One Small Act of Kindness, One Giant Leap for Humanity
By Kelly Carreiro, Franciscan Outreach Volunteer
Being here in Chicago for about two months has been absolutely amazing. I've learned so much that I can anticipate what the year ahead might bring. Coming from a rather unknown small city in Massachusetts, Chicago has been full of surprises. Up until this point, my interactions and experiences with the homeless population were limited. In the short time that I have served, my eyes have been opened to a whole new set of problems and issues. Welfare checks, food stamps, and substance abuse are issues that this population faces every day. At the Marquard Center, we serve about 120 guests each night for dinner and already I have noticed that some of them are frequent visitors.
So far, I think that the hardest part of my service has been learning names. Because of the multitude of guests, it took me a while to remember even half of their names! But it is important for us to remember each one of their names because it shows that we do acknowledge them. Very often, our guests are ignored or turned down on the streets and not many people give them a second look; not many stop and ask them for their story. The Marquard Center should feel like a home to them -a sanctuary, where they are away from the streets, feel safe, and relaxed.
We, as humans, need to remember that every person has a story and is struggling with their own battle. Coming from a medical background, I often visualize situations with a different perspective, and I often see the solutions to many of our guests' underlying problems as a quick surgery or simple medication. But then I realize, that it is not that easy for them, there are many issues hindering the possibility for our guests to obtain quality medical care. Many of them do not have proper insurance or even the means to obtain insurance, which automatically limits the quality and access to medical care. Substance abuse and alcoholism is another issue that can impair their health and put them at further risk.
That is what makes the work that we do, here at Franciscan Outreach, so important. Prevention of common health risks is one of the best actions that we can do. Providing services such as proper nutrition, proper hygiene with showers and laundry and a safe place to sleep doesn't alleviate all of our guests' problems, but it helps. Sometimes it is really easy to become so involved with daily tasks that we forget that every act of kindness, no matter how small, goes a long way.
As individuals, we don't need to feel as though we have to feed all the homeless and save the world, but rather stopping someone on the street to ask their name or listening to their story really goes a long way! You wouldn't believe how much it makes their day.
Everyone is special and has the potential to lift your heart in ways that you never thought possible. All you need to do is listen.
Kelly Carreiro is serving as a volunteer at the Franciscan Outreach Association, which provides support for people experiencing homelessness in Chicago, Illinois. You can keep up with Kelly and her community by following their blog: http://www.franciscanoutreachvolunteers.org. If you would like us to feature your volunteer story in an upcoming issue of Shared Visions, please contact Katie Mulembe at [email protected].