Advent at Manna House
The light comes in the darkness. Hope sneaks in without warning. Love shows resilience.
A guest shared with me yesterday that she lost her mother and grandmother on the same day many years ago. She was in jail at the time. “They wouldn’t let me out to go to either funeral.” This guest has been on and off the streets for many years. And like most women on the streets she has been through the hell of abuse and rape and being prostituted and struggling with addictions and mental illness and a multitude of physical ailments. Somehow in her the light shines still, in her smile, her cooing over babies when they come to Manna House, her willingness to share the food she often carries with her. I do not know how she has kept and nurtured that light. I just see that she has.
Another long term guest who I had not seen for quite a while returned last week. I hardly recognized him. He walked with a cane. He was hunched over. It seemed like he had suddenly aged some twenty years. Before he had been strong and even occasionally intimidating in his demeanor. Now he was shrunken and melancholic. He shared that he has been in and out of the hospital.
“Heart failure I’m told. The fluid just builds up in me. I’m back on the streets. I can’t live out here this way.”
I gave him some information about a couple of housing programs, including Outreach, Housing, and Community. I wrote him a referral.
Meanwhile, other volunteers got him some comfortable shoes, a very warm coat, some better pants, a hat and some gloves.
“I feel a little better now. Thanks.”
Maybe we shared a little light with him. I hope so.
Sometimes the light comes in the strange humor of Manna House.
A guest had an interesting linguistic slip yesterday when she asked, “Am I too late for hydraulics?” It took me a second, but then I realized she was asking about the socks and hygiene list, now forever renamed in my mind as “socks and hydraulics.”
The clock on the living room wall stopped working. Dead and corroded batteries. I had not realized how important that clock was for our guests until it was removed. During the rest of the morning at least ten guests asked me for the time and also inquired about what happened to the clock. With the help of a few other guests various answers began to be given to the questions about the clock’s demise.
It ran out of time.
Its time was up.
It had no time left.
It was time to get a new clock.
Sometimes the light comes in an unexpected insight into the challenge of our times.
A guest was explaining to a few folks how he had been lied to many times. He was getting quite worked up about how important truth telling is and how confusing lies can be. He finished with a flourish.
“I don’t know what to believe anymore. After all these lies, now which lie is the truth?” That question might be an important source of light for all of us in the days ahead.
It is Advent at Manna House. There is scripture to be read. Prayers to be said. Light to be sought and anticipated in the practices of hospitality and resistance. It is a time to sing “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” and Leonard Cohen’s “Anthem,”
“There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.”