ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (ANS) — There’s never a typical day working at Joy Junction Homeless Shelter. While shifts are routinely busy, there’s always an opportunity to encourage someone with the Love of Christ. Heartwarming surprises often follow.
Joy Junction Transportation Manager Lisa Woodward was reminded of that recently as she made her way to the Amtrak station in downtown Albuquerque to pick up a single woman and her child.
Lisa told me whenever she’s asked to pick up a new female resident with children she tries to schedule the short ride back to Joy Junction without a lot of other new and returning residents on board. That’s because, Lisa said, “their situation is (already) overwhelming enough.”
Lisa arrived, introduced herself, made sure the approximately eight-year-old girl was wearing her seatbelt, and set off.
She said, “I had country oldies playing softly and the sun was just beginning to set. The mother began talking to the little girl and caressing her hair, explaining that everything would be fine. The mother encouraged her daughter to remember that ‘we are not like those that live at this place where we’re going.’”
That “explanation” of the difference between “them and us” continued even as Lisa pulled through the gate and up the driveway to Joy Junction.
Lisa said she pulled around to the front of our multi purpose building, but did not jump out and start unloading the woman’s belongings right away as she would usually do.
Lisa said, “I turned around in my seat and (made eye contact) with the young, well-groomed mother. I explained to her I did not want to offend her in any way, and she of course could ignore the advice I was about to give her. (However) she said she would welcome any help or advice from me.”
Lisa said she began by telling the young woman the short version of her recovery from alcoholism and homelessness. She ended by asking her, “What does a homeless person look like, and how do they act differently from ‘us?’”
The young lady stammered a little, Lisa said, and looked at her little girl. Lisa continued, “I told her of me being homeless and many of the staff members here. There is not an ‘us’ and ‘them.’ It is just people trying to make it through.”
Lisa said she wouldn’t pull any punches. She said she told the apprehensive new guest, “In a few minutes you’re going to walk through those doors and homelessness will hit hard. There will be well groomed people like yourself, and there will be those who more than likely did crawl out from under a newspaper at some point today.”
Lisa told her that tomorrow would be better. She said, “The lights will come on in the morning, and the world will seem very different for a few days, but soon you will have conversations with your new neighbors and will start to look at this with different eyes.”
Lisa said she told the now surprised woman that her young daughter would soon be playing happily with some of the many youngsters who call Joy Junction. She would meet children like nine-year-old Dennis, who Lisa described as having Joy Junction “wired.”
Lisa continued by saying that Dennis would tell her daughter about Ms. Anita (Resident Services Manager Anita McCullough) the boss in the multi, who will get Kitchen Mike (Kitchen Manager Mike Sedillo) to put sodas in a big tub with ice. And about “Lees,” (Lisa), who if begged long enough will e-mail Dr. Reynalds requesting their every wish right down a snow ball fight. She will go to Sephie’s (Joy Junction Recovery Program Teacher Joseph Taylor) office where he will ‘magically’ inflate a balloon with her name on it, and she doesn’t even have to tell him her name first.”
Lisa said the young woman looked at her with evident surprise and said, “You make it seem like a magic land.”
Lisa said she smiled and said, “No. It is the Lord’s Land, and He rocks it with a gentle and firm Hand.”
The woman then unbuckled her child and told her to grab her toy, as they were home. Lisa said the child responded, ‘“Mommy, you said our home was lost.’ The mother smiled and said she was taught home had four walls, and in the middle was love to hold them up.”
“‘We are home,’” Lisa said she told her daughter.
As I learned about this small, but very special incident, my first thought was “wow!” I hope you were as blessed by reading this as I was by learning what happened. Will you prayerfully help us ensure that there will be more small miracles like this for many years to come?