A Little Help!!

In Uncategorized on November 18, 2013 at 1:08 pm



I stood close to the dinner tables making some welcoming remarks and announcements about upcoming events. As I looked around at the men seated before me I noticed one Shelter guest gesticulating to me and mouthing the words, “I need to talk to you.” I nodded to him to show that I understood and finished up my remarks with an introduction of the group of volunteers who were spending the night. The evening unfolded in typical fashion. Though it was opening night for the season, it was, after all, our thirty-third season so we were all well aware of what needed to happen. Dinner was served, tables were cleaned, coffee was poured, the shower room opened. It seemed as if a hundred people had questions that needed to be answered.

I finally slowed down enough to notice the man who had indicated that he needed to talk to me waiting patiently. I nodded to him again and he got to his feet and made his way over to where I was standing. He was tall, African-American, fairly young I thought, though it was hard to judge. People age in untold ways living on the streets. He gestured to a somewhat empty patch of floor a few feet away. Over the years I have often taken note of how the men always seek out a bit of privacy for a conversation with me. I think it is not so much that they don’t want to be overheard but rather that they are trying to command my undivided attention. It always reminds me of our son, Ryan, who, as a toddler, used to crawl in our laps and put his small hands on either side of our faces to hold us in place while he said what he had to say.

“People said I could talk to you. I just need a little help.”

“My name is Katie. What can I do for you?”

“I want to thank you for this place. I have been on my feet for twenty hours. I got to Atlanta fifteen days ago and I don’t know anyone. I been stayin’ in the streets but I am afraid to lay down cause I know it’s not safe. I found me a job at a label company but I’m afraid I’m going to lose it if I don’t get some rest. I know the rules say I got to be here every night but I’m afraid they will ask me to work overtime and I won’t be able to get here. Ma’am, I don’t drink. I don’t do drugs. I want to make my own way in this world but I just need a little help.”

His eyes were glassy with fatigue and he swayed a little as he talked. I put my hand on his arm to steady him and he seemed to relax a little. I explained the process for staying out for work and how he could get an excused absence. I told him that we would try to work with him on his situation.

“Why don’t you finish your dinner, take a hot shower, and get some rest? Everything will look better, will seem more possible in the morning when you feel stronger.”

The relief on his face was palpable. I am sure he already knew all the things I told him. The referring agency would have explained all of this to him when doing his intake. I believe he just needed to have another human being hear his story, know his trials, feel his battle. He just needed a little help. I give thanks for all those volunteers who come each night to Central Night Shelter manifesting that help with a hot meal, a night given in service, a spirit willing to listen.

Photo Credit: Andrew McQuade

  1. Not just bed, bath and food, though essential, the beauty of the shelter is the humanity and hope you give.

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