The 3,000 miles between my 5 children and 12 grandchildren (who live in Boston) feels extra distant around the holidays. We try our best to connect through Facebook photos of the grandkids dressed up in their holiday best and my wife Carol and I will Skype with our grown, married children. We all know family visits will have to wait until summer and spring time, as there is much work to do here at San Diego Rescue Mission each holiday season.
But although I feel separated from family during this time, I realize how blessed I am to have a loving + supportive family. That is something not to be taken lightly.
I’m especially reminded of this at the beginning of each holiday season when San Diego’s most broken and lost souls wearily walk through our doors. Many of them separated from their families permanently. Others cling to hope that the separation is temporary; as they try to get the help and healing they need.
Each year, we serve three annual congregate meals (Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas). Our annual Thanksgiving meal always draws the largest crowd of homeless San Diegans – and continues to be the biggest wake up call for all of us here at San Diego Rescue Mission. This group of homeless men, women and children truly mirror the depravity of living on the streets. They are alone. They are vulnerable. And no matter the weather, there is always a few with literally nothing but the clothes on their back – not even shoes, or socks! When I ask what happened to their shoes, the answers are always the same. They were either stolen, or they simply can’t remember where they left them.
When these lost San Diegans sit down at our Thanksgiving table, they are greeted by a staff member, volunteer, or most often, a current Rescue Mission client who is in the process of rebuilding his/her life. The contrast is always quite striking when we see a current client speaking with a new visitor. Surrounded by great food, deserts, live music and compassionate company, hope starts to build in these broken souls.
Just when I start missing my own family and wondering why I didn’t make the holiday trip to Boston, I realize this Rescue Mission family also fills a big part my heart. Whether it’s the 130+ staff, amazing volunteers, 400 clients living in the building, or one of the thousands who come by for a warm meal, it just takes one conversation with one of these broken souls, one smile from one of these homeless kids, one look from a weary-eyed abandoned mother, for me to realize I’m exactly where I should be. I am humbled in their presence. This is God’s work.
As we humbly celebrate our 60th year of serving Thanksgiving meals to San Diego’s homeless, I hope you all are able to spend time with people who fill your heart and touch your soul this holiday.
On behalf of the entire San Diego Rescue Mission Family, God Bless.