Well, I just got home from my first shift working at Union Gospel Mission. It's 8:52 a.m. and I haven't slept since 6 a.m. yesterday so I may not be completely coherent. It was definitely a learning experience, though some of what I read to get ready generally gave me a good idea of what to expect. Some of the things that I didn't expect: 1) It seemed like more than half the people that I saw looked like regular people just like myself. They didn't look dirty, and they didn't act spaced out. They looked like normal everyday people that I would have worked with or known in other jobs that I've worked before. 2) Distinctions were made. They didn't just open the door for anyone to eat, and they did turn some away. I've learned from reading a book by Marvin Olasky that it is important to make these distinctions. Help will only be successful when those who you are helping want to help themselves. They have to prove that they will make an effort and not abuse the charity. Nothing was as radically extreme as what Olasky describes in the 18th and 19th centuries, but I was surprised just to see that there were some tests of worthiness being utilized at all. 3) I was not prepared for the directions that I received from every direction. I assumed that my trainer would explain all that I needed to do, but much was left to me just to pick up as I went along. I also got directions from some of the residents at the mission, as well as some stern suggestions from those who just came in off the street for the food. I learned this morning that one of the first things that will be essential for me to learn is who I can trust.
It was a very different kind of night than I've ever had before, and I'm looking forward to going back tonight to learn more. I'm pretty certain that people who saw me could tell I was pretty green--a rookie--gullible--and easy to take advantage of. They were probably right. This is the kind of thing that I need to help me to learn to be as Jesus commands us--wise as serpents and innocent as doves.
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